From a young age, we are taught that it is best to have answers to all of life’s problems.
We are exposed to all kinds of formulas, theories, and processes that provide step-by-step guides for solving head-scratching hurdles. When we enter employment, we take that knowledge with us and are then trained on assembly lines, workflows, spreadsheets, and more. We are conditioned to believe there is a right way and wrong way to do our work. We are taught and trained on what we should do. After all, who doesn’t want to have all of the answers (or at least know how to get them)?
So what happens when the problem is messy? When it involves people’s lives, emotions, and everyday living? All too often, we are asked—what should I do?
Instead of thinking about what you should do, consider what you could do.
Many problems that exist today are not solvable through formulas and theories. When these challenges seem overwhelming, we are often paralyzed by the idea that we have to know the exact answer or next step to make a difference. Rather than approaching it with such rigidity, perhaps the best way to tackle the challenge is be asking “What could I do?” Approacht the problem from an “ideas” perspective, staying open and generative. As long as your ideas are rooted in compassion and empathy, try them out. By shifting your mindset from should to could, you’ll relieve the pressure that goes along with having to know all of the answers, and will instead feel free to explore new ideas and learn along the way.
The belief that we should do something bleeds into our personal lives as well. How many times have you said something like “I really should fix the fence this weekend,” or applied the word “should” to trying a new hobby? Using the word “should” in our personal lives can sometimes create a sense of obligation and guilt. Next time you’re planning your weekend, I challenge you to think not about what you should do, but rather, what you could do.