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Language: The Words We Choose



I practiced meditation based on an email I received from the Center for Action and Contemplation. The title was "Receiving Images." The idea was that we always say we are taking pictures, but what if we changed taking to receiving. That certainly gives it a different meaning and different energy. In many ways, taking implies force, whereas receiving is a gesture that often comes with a feeling of appreciation. I know how special I feel when someone gives me a gift; I welcome it rather than the guilt I sometimes experience when "taking" something. It got me thinking about other words/phrases we use and how a rephrase or reframe might shift the energy around what we are saying.


Should vs. could, need to/have to vs. want to/choose to/get to, or in control vs. in charge. I know these changes seem small and unimportant but let's break it down. In each of these cases, it's about how we view the situation. Should, need to, and control all imply it will or must happen, not based on choice. While could, want to, and in charge suggest choice and the ability to create our reality.


Here are some definitions I found when working on this article.

  • Should: used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone's actions.

  • Could: past tense of can (used to indicate possibility)

  • Need: a situation in which someone or something must do or have something

  • Have: to feel obligation in regard to—usually used with an infinitive with to

  • Want: to desire or wish for (something)

  • Choose: to desire or wish for (something)

  • Control: to have power over (something)

  • Charge: having responsibility for (something)

When I look at these definitions, the biggest thing that stands out to me is the idea of obligation vs. desire and possibility. An obligation is something that we must do, however there are very few things that we must to in order to survive. We must breath, eat, drink and sleep to keep our body working and most of the rest of how we spend our time is up to us. When we see things as an obligation we may feel resentment for that thing.


Recently I started going to the gym at 6:00 most mornings. For a long time I avoided the gym and felt like it was something I should do, and not something I wanted. I would think to myself when I'd drive by the gym or see others sharing their workouts on social media that I needed to workout like they do. I began to get really down on myself, thinking I just didn't have the motivation or discipline that others had. In reality, it wasn't something I wanted to do and it wasn't a priority. I sat with this guilt and shame of not being enough because I wasn't at the gym. I had no idea what to do and worried that others would stare at me and judge me. I ended up talking to my friend Kate who had been weight training for several months and had incredible results and things began to shift.


As we were talking I realized a few things. I discovered that I was beating myself up over not lifting weights; talking down to myself and telling myself that I must not be good enough because if I was strong enough, dedicated enough, whatever enough I'd be at the gym. That should of going to the gym turned into shame and fear turning up the volume on that voice saying I'm not good enough. When Kate and I were talking I started to see beneath the shame and the should to the why. Why I was afraid, why I felt it to be a requirement and then to the why I WANTED to. I had been so stuck in the have to I didn't see the want to.


While Kate and I were talking I joined a gym online and set up an appointment with a trainer for a few days later. I walk in absolutely terrified, mostly because I didn't want to embarrass myself. I sat with the trainer and discussed where I was at on my fitness/weightloss journey and my goals. She and I worked together to create a plan for me. It began to feel less overwhelming. I went back to the gym and then back again and it is now part of my life. That time is scheduled on my calendar and my alarm is set. I am choosing to go to the gym because I want to be stronger. I also choose not to go to the gym somedays because I don't want to. In the end the choice to go is mine and the why I go or don't is mine. If there is any obligation there it is to myself, and that obligation is not to go but to be kind to myself however that looks in the moment.


After only 2 months I am enjoying the gym. I am seeing changes in my body, how much weight I can lift, how strong I feel and I love how I feel when I leave. It is also very clear to me that no one is paying much attention or judging anyone (including me), they are there focused on themselves. The gym is no longer a place of fear or shame but a place I see incredible possibilities. I find myself wanting to go and knowing that the choice is mine, no one else's.


When my mindset changed from should to want and I looked under the surface for the why I felt I must go the energy shifted. It became about what I wanted not what I felt was expected of me. I saw that I feared being judged by others, that I felt as though I wasn't enough to be there. I also saw that my feeling of should go was based in a want that was overshadowed by fear and shame. That talk with Kate helped me see the possibilities that awaited me and the why I had avoided it for so long. Moving my thoughts from obligation to desire changed everything; it was my choice and what I wanted finally overshadowed the fear and shame I had felt for so long.


What would change for you if you removed the shoulds, have tos, need tos replacing them with want to, get to or choose to? I didn't make this shift alone needing someone to walk with me. If you're ready to take charge of your life reach out and see what incredible opportunities the future holds for you.

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