Life · Mindful

“want” vs. “should”


I was so ambitious at the beginning of the year! But news flash, grad school + working part time + other volunteer things + making time for a relationship = not a lot of time to do anything else. Luckily, I started my LAST term of school EVER in April, and I’m only taking 3 credits. I’m also working full time back at the same hospital that I’ve been at since 2014. Finally, things are starting to settle a little bit and I feel like I have time to do the things that I want to do instead of having to dedicate every waking hour of the day to something school related.

During the last few months I kept writing down “blog” as a goal in my bullet journal and would feel a lot of guilt every time that I pushed it off. I made a goal to blog more this year and have realized that I need it as an outlet in my life. When I wanted to blog there wasn’t time and when I had time I wanted to do other things. It took me about a month of feeling really guilty about it to realize how silly I was acting. Blogging is something I “want” to do, but not necessarily something I “should” be doing.

I had the “want” vs. “should” conversation with so many of my clients when I was working as one of the dietitians at the university health center. Almost every single time I would meet with someone the phrase “well I know I should [fill in the blank]” would come out of their mouths. The more and more I became aware of it, the more I realized how this mindset impacts individuals. I’ve also realize that I hear people “should” ALL THE TIME!!! The more I hear it, the more I become aware of the tone of the conversation surrounding it. When you feel that you “should” do something and then don’t it, often brings up a large amount of guilt and a feeling of failure.


Now obviously, there are a lot of responsibilities that we all have and that we “should” do, like going to work and paying our taxes, but I’m not talking about those things. I’m talking about the things that I hear more often, like “I should work out more” or “I should meal prep on the weekends.” The problem with that mindset is that if we don’t follow though on our “shoulds” then it automatically turns into a failure. It’s “I should have worked out, but I didn’t, so I failed.” Or it’s, “I know I should have worked out, but I was just so tired, so I didn’t. I need to start just going!” Maybe that isn’t the case for everyone, but I literally hear it ALL THE TIME.

Now think how it would sound if we just turned “should” into “want.” It feels way different to say “I want to work out more” or “I want to meal prep on the weekends.” When we “want” things instead of “should” them there is less guilt when life gets in the way and doesn’t let us follow through on all of our plans. To me it’s more like goal setting. It’s identifying something as important, prioritizing it, and then expressing your desire to do it. Plus, if for some reason your “want” doesn’t happen, it’s easier to say “I really wanted to do this, but it didn’t happen” and not feel guilty about it.

I used to be one of those people who would “should” on everything. I created rigid structure and expectations for myself and looking back I realize that made me so unhappy. I was unhappy because every single time one of those “shoulds” didn’t happen, I felt like the biggest failure. I would get really down and sometimes even felt like I wasn’t worthy of being a dietitian if I couldn’t even follow through on the behaviors that I counseled patients on. Those kind of thoughts are unhealthy and make me realize how obsessive we can become when we make so many things a “should.” There’s nothing fun about an overly rigid life and feeling bad for choosing a dinner with friends over working out. Life is too short for that!

IMG_8448Grad school has been one of the biggest blessings in disguise because it completely flipped my routine life upside down. A lot of my crazy “shoulds” turned to “wants” as I realized that there was not enough time in the day for everything that I thought I should be doing. It’s taught me a lot about grace and being more compassionate towards myself. It’s made it ok for me to say no to a workout when I’m tired or yes to eating out when I have school taking priority over cooking. It doesn’t mean I’ve let life go out the window and be a free for all, I’ve just got more wiggle room. And guess what, the wiggle room make me happier!

So try it. The next time you “should” something, think of it as a “want.” That doesn’t mean you’re making it less of a priority or giving yourself an excuse not to do it, it just means that if life gets in the way there’s no guilt, no hard feelings, no beating yourself up over it. It just means that “want” will wait until a better time.