Shedding the shoulds: Make your yes count

executive coach shares tips on shedding the shoulds in life

I read something recently that I think holds so much value when it comes to shedding the shoulds.

If you can’t say no, then your yes doesn’t mean anything.

Think about that: Your commitment to something means much less when you’re committed to everything.

I once worked with an executive in the insurance industry who, outside of her 9-to-5, was on four different boards and in a handful of industry-specific associations. She was quite literally running herself ragged, being pulled in a million different directions and feeling physically ill at the idea of attending so many meetings. All because she thought she should.

Should is a dangerous place to live. It weighs us down and causes us to over commit and under perform. (That goes for you too, companies.) We gather data from our friends, family and society and make decisions based on the perception we want to project to them. But often times, we just end up with shoulds.

When I talk with clients about this topic, I like to focus on that sense of inner knowing. What is your body telling you about this particular opportunity, this particular should? Do you feel drained? Frustrated? If you’re a company, are your employees feeling this way? Then it’s probably worth shedding.

For my executive client, this meant narrowing her focus to the organizations and boards that energized her and walking away from the ones that depleted her.

For other clients struggling with shoulds, I ask these three questions:

  1. What signals are you trying to send out to the world by acting on this should?
  2. What are you subconsciously telling yourself about this opportunity?
  3. And finally, how do you physically feel?

We need to learn to discriminate against anything that distracts us from our growth and goals. Our time is limited, so why waste it on something that doesn’t have meaning? Why dilute our yeses by giving out too many?

That client made the necessary changes, and it’s amazing to see her now. She’s weightless, joyful, alive. She has more time for her family and health, and she’s fully present for the commitments that excite her.

Shed your shoulds. Make your yeses count.

If you or your company needs help shedding the shoulds, a coach could be a great resource. I’m an executive coach who works with clients nationwide. You can reach me at



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