There Is No “Should” in Life


The word should would do well to be considered an off limits word in our vocabulary. “Should” connotes that life, or at least certain parts of life, “should” be different. The problem with thinking that is that it causes a person much internal distress, and it is completely untrue that life should be different than it is. 


“Should” Thoughts and Beliefs 


Our thoughts tell us all kinds of things such as: 

My children should listen right away.  

My spouse should act a certain way towards my children. 

My parents should be more emotionally available to me. 

My parents should be more involved grandparents. 

My neighbor should be more respectful, etc. etc. 


So what’s the big harm in this faulty thinking? 

Let’s take a look at what happens after the “should” thought. 


If we believe that our children should listen right away, then the challenge that they are presenting us with becomes intolerable in our mind, which can lead to yelling or saying hurtful things we regret later. 


If we believe that our spouses should act towards our children according to things we learned in parenting courses, then our thoughts tell us that our children are doomed if our spouses act differently than our parenting courses taught they should. This can make us behave disrespectfully towards our spouses. Interestingly, this can cause the opposite effect of our original intent, which was to teach our children to be very respectful people. 


Adopting “My Life Is Exactly How It Should Be” 


How would our lives be different if we adopted the truth that whatever is happening in my life is exactly how it should be? That challenges do not appear by mistake or happenstance, but rather come out of Hashem’s deep love for us and His perfect knowledge of what is good for us. Did you know that before we were born, our souls agreed to every challenge we have, with the knowledge that each challenge’s unique design can lead to our greatest growth? 


This understanding would allow us to follow what I like to call the “Zero-One Hundred Rule. It means that whenever we have any challenge in life, we make a list of all the things we can’t control, and a list of all the things we can control. Then we put zero energy into what we can’t control and 100 percent of our energy into what we can control.  


In the above example, we can’t control the past (that our child misbehaved), we can’t control the child’s personality, mood, choices, etc. 

We can control how we think about these things. 

We can control what choices we make. 

And ironically, if we only focus on what we can control, OUR OWN CHOICES IN THE PRESENT MOMENT, we have a much better influence (not control) over the child’s moods and choices, which usually leads to a much better outcome. 


Let’s see how it would play out in real life. If instead of believing that our children should listen right away, we believe the truth that we as parents need this exact challenge right now, our inner lives might look as follows: 


First, I would be kind to myself and acknowledge that my child’s misbehavior is indeed a challenge that causes me frustration, hurt, or any other feeling. I remind myself that all feelings are normal.  


Then I become curious about how I can become a greater person via this challenge. I ask myself, “What is the next right thing to do or say?” I pay attention to how the Real Me wants to behave, and make a decision. It might be to set a limit, it might be to acknowledge the child’s pain, and it might be to go to my room to get a little space. Whatever I decide, I remind myself that both I and my child are very valuable people.  


So, as scary as it sounds, the time has come for you and your children to lead a more wholesome, truthful life, without the word “should” hanging out in your brain. Once you let go of ”should,” and attach yourself to the truth about life’s challenges, you might be surprised at the new doors you open up for happiness and success in your family.