Looking Under the Hood of Shoulds

I’ve been paying closer attention to my health lately. I’m eating more whole foods, especially more leafy greens, berries, and protein, and consuming less alcohol. I’m stretching and walking daily and strength training 3-4 times a week. I’m monitoring and getting better sleep by shutting off electronics and getting to bed earlier. I’m drinking more water and green tea.

Besides feeling better overall, I’ve noticed a distinct reduction in the number of colds, flu, and even seasonal allergies I’ve been experiencing. No doubt, I’ve strengthened my immune system, and it’s paying off in spades.

Given the amount of travel and public exposure my career demands, I’m only asking for trouble if I walk around with a weak immune system because it makes me susceptible to everything.  But, with a strong immune system, I’ve equipped my body to do what it does best—naturally fight off bacteria and viruses so I don’t miss a beat.

The same dynamic is true for our emotional health as well. As leaders in our work, life, industries, and communities, we operate better from a place of strength. The successful people and strong leaders that I know have high expectations of themselves and others. These expectations can be good because they drive us to do our best and make the most out of our life and work. Sometimes the expectations that others, like managers and coaches, place on us can also be good because they push us to new heights we never thought attainable.

Expectations can be powerful things. The trouble is, sometimes we don’t meet our or others’ expectations. And when we fail to meet them, it can paralyze us. In the bright light of unmet expectations, we often focus on what we should have done, what we should do, the way things should have gone, or how we should be better, and then we freeze.

A “should” is nothing more than a big gap between our expectation and our current reality.  When we focus on “shoulds,” we lose confidence. And when we lack confidence, we are vulnerable and weak. When we live under the “hood of shoulds,” we live from a place of weakness. Just like with our physical immune system, our emotional immune system then becomes susceptible to everything—drama, gossip, negativity, depression, jealousy, a sense of lack, and self-pity.

But when we live from a place of confidence and strength, it’s like walking around with a strong immune system where we can automatically fight off the viruses that make us sick. Confidence (not arrogance) helps us focus on and spot positivity, non-judgement, optimism, resilience, and creativity. We can learn from unmet expectations, but if you hear yourself repeating too many “shoulds” to yourself or others, they are likely doing damage to your emotional immune system.

This week, work on noticing and silencing those “shoulds.” Just like keeping your car running well, you have to occasionally listen for and pay attention to the unhealthy clicks and clanks and look under the “hood of shoulds” to tweak the wires, replace the broken valves, check the gauges, change the oil, and refill the fluids. You must build and cultivate your sense of confidence because this is a key component in eliminating drama and angst from your work and life.

Trade your expectations for appreciation and the world changes instantly.

~ Tony Robbins


  1. Katherine, you are helping me do this! I appreciate you sharing how you work on yourself, while helping us all do the same.

    1. Thank you, Tiffany, for this comment. We are just getting started on our work together and I admire the leader you’re becoming. Have an awesome week ahead!

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