Word games: SHOULD / by Chelsea Snow

The word SHOULD sounds like the word SHIT, when you say it in this sentence: "Don't should on yourself." I sometimes feed people that line when they are overly apologetic, guilty or ashamed about something they feel they ought to have done differently (or at all). Should is a word that immediately buries its utterer in a shroud of "what if" and begins to cover them with shovelfuls of "it's too late" and "you're doing it wrong." Should also suggests indecision (should I stay or should I go?) and demands permission and validation from an outside source.

Etymologically, the word SHOULD is the past tense of the word SHALL. Shall implies no guilt or obligation, but rather an effortless predetermined outcome, a breathy whisper of intention, a divine intervention:

You shall be released. (Don't worry, everything is fine.)

Who seeks shall find. (Guaranteed.)

Shall we dance? (I sure would like that.)

This too shall pass. (Everything does.)

Imagine those little nuggets in the past tense: 

You should be released. (But you probably won't be because you're a bad person.)

Who seeks should find. (And if you don't, it's because you didn't seek hard enough.)

Should we dance? (I mean, I don't really want to, but if you do, that's fine with me I guess.)

This too should pass. (But it might not, in which case we are in big trouble.)

When it comes to self-helpery--and really any kind of advice-giving scenario--should is everywhere, and can so easily become a word that drives our belief systems, often appearing in alarmingly contradicting dualities:

Writing should be difficult. // Writing should be easy.

Artists should be messy. // Artists should be organized. 

Working should hurt. // Working should feel good.

You should work alone. // You should collaborate.

Does it really just come down to making a choice about who to listen to? Who to believe about what you should or should not do? What if we replaced shoulds with shalls? Things just got choicier:

Writing shall be difficult. // Writing shall be easy.

Artists shall be messy. // Artists shall be organized. 

Working shall hurt. // Working shall feel good.

You shall work alone. // You shall collaborate.

I don't know. Can a simple shift in the tense of a verb change the way we feel about what we do, how we work, who we are, what's in store for us? It sure feels that way. Step 9 in Instructions for Making Better Choices is

USE YOUR WORDS: Choose your words first, then use them. Some are better for you than others. For example: 

 Prints  here .

Prints here.

Speaking of that little book, I have a few left, and I'd love to send you one (or two)! Use code WORDGAMES to get a special bonus discount off your entire order at checkout! Happy labor day or whatever.