Monitor your language: Should and Want | Travel Research Online


Monitor your language: Should and Want

This week we are looking at the way language affects our psychology and perhaps hinders or helps our progress. The difference between the word “should” (or “need”) and the word “want” is one of my absolute favorites because of the very real impact it has on my motivations. I have been aware of this difference for many years now, but still find myself lapsing into misuse with a need to re-mind myself. Let’s take a look and see if you agree with me.

How often do you say something like the following?

  • I should be better organized.
  • I should write a business plan.
  • I need to [lose some weight] [stop smoking] [drink less] [work out more]

Inside each of our heads we have a misguided instructor with a mission of guilt tripping us along our merry way. The intention is basically sound but the methodology is poor. What if we converted the statements above into something resembling the following:

  • I want to be better organized.
  • I want to write a business plan.
  • I want to [lose some weight] [stop smoking] [drink less] [work out more]

Speak two of the sentence pairs above aloud, one with “should” and one with “want.” Do you hear the psychological difference? Writer and author Dave Ellis calls “should” the language of obligation.  Your actions in such case are being commanded by something other than authentic desires, perhaps by a more or less conscious complex of moral sentiment. Inherently we rebel against such demands.  Instead, we are most effective when we operate from desire rather than from a sense of “have to do.”

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For the rest of this week, catch yourself when you use the phrase “I should really ….” and substitute the word “want”. If the sentence then means something to you, work on a plan that fulfills your desire.  If it doesn’t, figure out what you really want. It’s a challenging exercise, but one that can pay off in a big way.


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