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How to create concrete actions and achieve your goals

Shoulda, woulda, coulda.

“EVALUATION: Never Say Should” —

More than ever I catch myself saying “I should…” while in quarantine. I have more time to myself, more time to think, and let’s face it, more time to waste. Human nature I guess, even for the over achievers!

. . .

The danger of “should”

I should eat healthier. I should do more exercise. I should work a few more hours. I should get outside for some air. I should, I should, I should…

Instead of enjoying myself and what I am doing in the present moment, I have the ability to create incredible guilt for the fact I am not doing more, being more!

We all have the capacity to create this dialogue in our heads, and be our own worst bullies. “Should” is a dangerous word. “Should” makes us feel weaker, and less in control of our lives. It accomplishes nothing at all. It does not lead to action, change or improvement. And ultimately this is what we need — action.

The deception of “should”

Managers can sometimes say silly things like — “Someone should take care of that.” Should they? Who should? When should they? How should they? In what capacity?

There is no action in “should”, it has no planning or concrete action. Per my colleague, Steven Mc Auley, for a team or colleague to take action, a manager need to answer three questions:

  1. Why does that task need to be done?

  2. Who needs to do it?

  3. When does it need to be done by?

If you can’t answer these three questions then that task will never be completed!

If it matters, make a plan

“Should” creates frustration and guilt, it distracts us from the here and now, and it makes us look to an unattainable future.

For example we may have “some day” goals. Some day we should hike in Peru, some day we should rock climb with lead rope, some day we should learn German (speaking for a friend…ahem), and so on. All admirable tasks but “some day” goals often stay that way — some day — if we attach a “should” to them instead of a goal or action plan.

We need to find a way to make them tangible and real, so we can achieve them in the here and now. There are many methods to do this but try these two in tandem and you can turn that “I should” into a “I will”. First, set a SMART goal and then figure out what the One Thing you can do today is.


  • Specificexactly what do we want to achieve?

  • Measurable what is the measure by which we know we have accomplished the goal?

  • Achievableis it something we have control over and is it really achievable?

  • Relevant is it relevant to us personally?

  • Timely / Time bound do we have deadlines that are trackable?

Now that we have set a SMART goal we need to achieve it. Each day we have to do one thing that brings us closer to our goal. For example, I want to write (relevant to me personally) a book (specific and measurable) by the end of 2021 (achievable and timely).

Now how can I achieve this by doing one thing, one day at a time. Break it down.

  • One book in 18 months

  • That’s approximately 60,000 words

  • In 12 months I need to have the first draft ready for edit

  • So every month I need to write 5,000 words

  • Every week that’s 1,250 words

  • Every weekday that’s 250 words

Well this article is about 750 words and written in one evening, so that means if I stick to the plan, it’s no longer a some day goal, no longer a “should”, it’s really a tangible idea and achievable goal. (Though I feel I need a bit more practice in the writing department so stick to articles for now!)

However the important thing is to be honest with ourselves. We either need to remove the “should” goals that we haven’t made happen to this point in our lives, and recognise they may never happen, OR we build a concrete plan to actually achieve the “should”.

Remove “should” from our vocabulary

If something really matters then we find a way to do it. Having “should” goals just takes energy and time away from new ideas and innovations. If we delete the “should” statements, we suddenly open our lives up for new goals, spontaneous goals, and new adventures.

“The space you create by removing the “should” is where your new ideas will grow.” — Steven Mc Auley

Remove the term “should” from our lives, replace the term with “will” or “will not” and actually create space, time and energy to make things happen.

. . .

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