Forget Supposed To...

Resilience is a state of thriving in the unexpected and loving the challenge.  When you have too much "supposed to" in your life, you threaten your happiness, your cognitive capacity to thrive in the unknown, and perhaps even your health.   

I had a conversation with my friend the other morning and he expressed some concern about his son who was "supposed to" go to college and chose not to.  This was causing some stress since the father's expectations did not align with his son's expectations.  Have you ever experienced this situation?

Having too much "supposed to" in your life creates unnecessary stress.  

When you say that you are supposed to do something, you generally don't agree with the decision or process that you are describing.  An underlying desire exists that creates a sense of cognitive dissonance.  This cognitive dissonance creates stress (you may not even feel it) that degrades your happiness, diminishes your capacity to adapt to navigate unknown situations, and even may suppress your immune system.  

Are you following your true passion when you are "supposed to" do anything?  

Probably not.  If you were following your true passion, you would use a different phrase then "supposed to."  20 plus years ago when I went through SEAL training, I did not tell people, "I am supposed to go through SEAL training, so I am going to go do it."  That terminology never crossed my mind because I was super motivated and excited about going through the training.  I said "I am going to go to SEAL training" or "I want to go to SEAL training."  Using supposed to implies that you do not want to do the event or that somehow you are being "forced" to do it.  

Nobody can force you into doing anything.  

Using too much "supposed to" is dangerous because you go down the path of self defeatism or worse, blaming others for a decision that you truly don't want to execute.  You are in ultimate control of everything that goes on in your life, even the things that you cannot control.  You may not be able to control everything, but what you can control is how you react to the things that are beyond your control.  You can start with what you say to yourself and work from there.  For example, even if you know you have to go to work tomorrow, you can change your language from "supposed to" to want to.  You will feel better about going to work and have a better attitude.  If, however, you continue to modify your language in this way for too long, it may be time to look for a different job.  Either way, you gain control of the situation; you are always in control.

Changing your Perspective

How should we deal with the things that we must do?  Do them with enthusiasm and motivation.  Change your language from "supposed to" to "want to."  

"I am supposed to be more successful."    "I want to be more successful; how do you do it?"
"My son was supposed to go to college."  "My son did not want to go to college."
"I was supposed to be more successful by now."  "I want to be more successful; how do I do it?"
I am supposed to go to work."  "I want to go to work; if I don't, then I should change careers."

Words are powerful tools that we use.  When you use to much "supposed to" and not enough "want to," you lose control of your life.  You are relinquishing your control and giving it to your actions.  By changing your language to more want to, then you gain control of your actions and reduce your stress.  

This week, gain control of you life by forgetting your "supposed to" events.  Write down a tick mark every time you use "supposed to" or "have to" to describe something that you will accomplish or have accomplished.  

Take a mental note on how you feel at the end of the week.  Forgetting "supposed to" is the first step in gaining control of you life and increasing your resilience.

Dr. N

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