Should I or Could I?

by Leslie Sann

There is no what should be. There is only what is, just the way it is, right now.
Byron Katie

Do you ‘should’ on yourself? Do you ‘should’ on others? Of course you do. You’re human. That’s what humans do. We shouldon ourselves and we shouldon each other.

But what is a ‘should’? According to Webster it’s an “obligation, duty, expectation”. When we look closely we seeshoulds’ are directives, externally sourced, that we have incorporated into our consciousness and now use as rules of behavior and attitude that we impose upon ourselves and on others.

Yet in truth, there is no such thing as a ‘should’. It is merely a thought that’s become a belief, imposed on reality.

‘Shoulds’ are not sourced from who we really are, from our heart, from our essence. ‘Shoulds ‘ are sourced externally. And ‘shoulds’ limit us because they argue with what is and confine us to being false and inauthentic. They stop us from being a creative force in our life, because they insist we follow ‘The Rules.’ 

When we turn a ‘should’ into a ‘could’, our world shifts. In that moment, we take our power back and our lives are now sourced from our own values and standards. ‘Could’ is also just a thought, yet, rather than confining us, it opens us to wonder. When we shift from ‘should’ to ‘could’ , positive change can take place with ease.

Right now, ‘should’ on yourself, “I should  _____ .” Fill in the blank. “I should call my mother, I should  take the dog for a long walk, I should  do that filing in my office.” Now substitute ‘could’ for ‘should’. “I could call my mother, I could take the dog for a long walk, etc.” Notice how that feels inside. It’s different. Do you have a greater sense of power and personal authority?

For me ‘could’ opens me up and quiets me down. And instead of feeling imposed upon from without, I feel connected to myself as source.

Yes, I could, and I could take other actions as well. ‘Could’ guides me to an awareness of possibilities. I can now ask myself, what outcome am I looking for, and which actions will serve me based on what I want?

‘Shoulding’ is a way NOT to take responsibility, because it sets us up to be a good girl/boy (or not) and when things don’t work out, we get to blame the result, our own unhappiness, on the rules we were obeying. It sets us up for dissatisfaction because even if we produce the results we want, we cannot own that we are the source of the creativity, because we were only following the rules, doing what was expected.

When I take responsibility for my actions by ‘coulding’, I empower myself and my choices and I can own the results I produce. I created this because I made the choice rather than obediently following some imposed or assumed doctrine.

You may be wondering if ‘shoulding’ is ever appropriate? Sure it is … when you say to yourself, “I should use ‘could’ more often!” Then do it!


  • start noticing how you subtly ‘should‘ on yourself and on others
  • begin to substitute the word ‘should‘ with ‘could’.
  • breath into the space created when you begin to give yourself a choice
  • notice how it feels to take your power back by ‘couldinginstead of ‘shoulding’
  • begin making choices using the criteria of your goals and desires rather than other peoples (or your own) expectations of you
  • observe the results you produce
  • notice you COULD choose again
  • enjoy the process of living your life with You as your guiding Light