Replacing Should with Could 

As you go about your day, do you ever find yourself thinking you should do this or you should do that? And likely feeling a sense of disappointment if you’re not doing what you should, like you’re not measuring up in some way?
Should expresses expectations, often coming from outside influences or people. A should is almost always someone else’s value or belief that you have adopted somewhere along the way. Things like societal norms, what your parents expected of you, the expectations of other individuals you have admired, and so on … these form the basis of the shoulds.
When you tell yourself you should do something, have you ever stopped to ask yourself who exactly is this inner critic telling you that you should do this or that, pressuring you by making comparisons to the “way things are supposed to be?”
Reflect only briefly here, as it’s easy to get bogged down in the past. Stay focused on the future, on personal action, and acknowledge that the should doesn’t necessarily belong to you … that even though you adopted it as your own for so long, you can now let it go and make different choices for the future.
Think about replacing should with could.
Replacing should with could expresses possibility. Could implies there is a choice to be made, with many different options to choose from, resulting in varied consequences and outcomes depending on how you choose. Only through your own self-reflection can you feel and know what is the best choice for yourself at any given moment.
Here’s an example: “I should go to the gym tomorrow.” If you replace should with could, you could go to the gym tomorrow. You also could take a jog around the neighborhood, or you coulddo an exercise video with your neighbor, or you could take a bike ride, or you could do a personal yoga practice at home. A plethora of options just opened up to you, by shifting your language and your mindset.
Sometimes, further inward reflection helps you realize that that thing you thought was a shouldreally is a want. For example, a while back I was feeling resentful that I should make healthy lunches for the kids, even though it’s so time consuming. Then I thought about the alternative: quick, easy, unhealthy lunches, which doesn’t make me feel good at all. With further self-reflection, I realized that I actually want to make the healthy lunches for the kids, that I want to take the extra time, not should. The desire to feed them well comes from deep within me, not from societal pressure, and so my feelings around it are more positive.
Set an intention today to eliminate should from your personal vocabulary. Catch yourself thinking it and speaking it, and use could instead, from here on in. Use your language and your thoughts to open up vast possibilities for yourself, speaking your personal truth through personal choice.
Jen Larsen, CPC, RYT, is a certified professional life coach, registered yoga teacher, and health coach. For over a decade, she has been helping people light their inner glow and achieve their fullest potential. Jen can be reached by email at