The Soul-Sucking Force of Should and Shouldn’t

I spent a week at the beach with my mom. It was glorious, and I am so deeply grateful for that quality time and for the sunshine and the beauty of the turquoise gulf coast.

I enjoyed time away from my phone and my computer and leaned into conversations with my mom as we walked the beach and later fell into our towels and turned the music up.

But I had my moments. Many of them. Moments that were lost because my monkey mind was bouncing around worrying about all sorts of silly, little things. I spent a lot of time floating into should and should not thinking.

I should “do this” when I get back. I shouldn’t “eat that.” They “shouldn’t” put their beach chairs right in front of ours; they are blocking the ocean view. I “should” move our chairs, so we can see the ocean better.

I “should” check my email. I “shoudn’t” respond to that email right now.

I “shouldn’t” be worrying about all of these things. I “should” be enjoying these special moments.

The more aware I became of shoulds and shouldn’ts the more frustrated I became with myself.

I even sat there thinking that deep, meaningful thoughts about the world, my life, my goals SHOULD be coming to me while I sat on the beach and that if they didn’t, the time wasn’t well-spent.


I’m an ennegram 3. As “achievers” we often think that if we aren’t producing and making progress, then we aren’t valuable. We have a fear of being unlovable, so we are out there trying to prove to ourselves and to others that we are worth of love.

The great irony in all of this is that I was doing all of this nonsensical thinking while sitting by the big, vast expanse of the ocean. And it wasn’t until the last day or so on the trip that I found myself able to take a deep breath, look out into the sea and find peace knowing that I am small. I am small in a good way.

The ocean was here before us, and it will be here when we leave. And there is beauty in the knowing. There are no amount of goals that I can crush that are going to make me or my life any more valuable. The value is in the living. The value is in basking in the joy of moments big and small.

It turns out peace doesn’t come from checking off our to-do lists. It doesn’t come from getting to the “next level” – whatever that means to each of us.

Peace comes from simply noticing. It comes from finding beauty and humor in present moments.

When I close my eyes, I find peace in remembering the sounds of the ocean…moreso than in the sounds of other people’s affirmations. The ocean was here before. It will be here when we are long gone.

I have a feeling that this will be a lesson that I will have to learn and over again.

But it’s the right lesson.

How might you lean into the present moment and let go of something that is keeping you locked up in your mind?

How might you give yourself permission to be a bit more wild and free? How might you unleash yourself from some shoulds and shouldn’ts?

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