Annual State of the Shoulds
It all started a few years ago when I decided that 2018 was going to be MY YEAR. I Googled “things I should do every day,” compiled a list of everything that was mentioned in the articles that showed up on the first page of the search results, and made a plan to randomly try a different, new activity every week.
The intention was to find out what would stick and help me become a better me. I even started a side project - a blog called Fluff the Cushions - to track and share my progress. It was named for what I believed to be the most inane of all the suggested "shoulds" - I should fluff my couch cushions every day.
But instead of feeling fulfilled, I quickly found myself thoroughly depressed because almost none of it - from pulling oil through my teeth to repeating affirmations in the mirror to establishing a “simple” morning routine of reading, journaling, prayer, meditation and exercise - had gotten me any closer to who I wanted to be.
Being vs Doing
I scrapped the plan and went back to the drawing board. I started by defining how I wanted to BE - joyful (2019), disciplined (2020) or comfortable (2021) - and then defined the critical, few activities that could help me feel more of that. Once I mastered those critical few activities, I’d add on another.
Ironically, fluffing the couch cushions makes the list every year. Turns out a well-coiffed couch makes me feel joyful, disciplined and comfortable.
I like this way of goal setting much better than throwing a flurry of activity at the wall and seeing what sticks. It works for me.
Enter the Annual List
Still, for shits and giggles, I Google “things I should do every day” every December just to see how the tides are changing. In 2018 the list returned 72 results. In 2019, it jumped to 234 and in 2020 there were a whopping 338 things we should be doing every day (thanks to a man named Frank)! This year, luckily, the experts are only suggesting we do 269 daily.
I’ve started to call this side project the Annual State of the Shoulds.
There’s a lot of shit out there that other people think you and I should be doing every day. This year there’s also a lot of ways others think we should behave. I also noticed a trend that, if the list was written my a man, the dictums often made me feel like I was preparing to go to war:
And, because there’s obviously a bunch of Type A personalities out there authoring lists of 10 or 25 or 90 (yes, 90!) things we should do every day, there was a myriad of tracking mechanisms declared necessary this year. (For the record, our brains are only designed to remember two - three things at a time.)
The 2021 List
According to the “experts”, annually you should:
And daily you should:
Planning / Tracking
And, while you are at it, you should buy (with that extra $4,000 you have lying around):
And, don’t forget, while you are doing all this, to:
The Point Is...
Now of course, making goals, establishing a routine and documenting your progress are all good things. The Annual State of the Shoulds only serves to showcase in a silly and extreme way just how many expectations we carry on our collective backs.
Let go of the load, lovely. Please know that only you can decide where to expend your precious, precious energy.
How do you want to BE this year? I’d love to hear from you! Shoot me an email or drop a comment below.
With much love and gratitude,
Ursula Adams, MSPOD