“I should have, could have, would have..” I feel these words sit like rocks on the back of many working mothers weighting on us, exhausting us with perceived missed opportunities and generally wearing us down with unrealistic expectations.
I am an expert on ‘shoulding’ (should having) myself and have spent many wasted hours ruminating on what I should have done. This week alone I should have have reminded my daughter to pack her PE kit, I should have contributed more during a meeting with senior management and my personal current favourite ‘shoulding’ guilt.. I should have prioritized my career progression in my 30’s over meeting my family’s needs.
The hours I have wasted over thinking about what I have not achieved and done right is staggering. Realising that I spend a considerable portion of my time focused on ‘shoulding’ myself I have missed the opportunity to celebrate the good in my life. So dear readers I’ve set myself a challenge to take control of this should have shaming and be more mindful of the good happening in the present and learn from what I genuinely could have done better.
The first part of my mindset change involved ensuring that I give myself dedicated time to celebrate the good in my life; my happy stable household, my two well-adjusted and generally healthy children, my second chance at love, my significant contribution to workplace culture both in my own organisation and further afield, an entire adventure playground that would not exist without me… the list is in fact endless. I have set myself the challenge to celebrate at least one good thing each night before I go to sleep. They don’t have to be obvious wins but they do need to be things that have brought me pure and simple joy.
The second part of my mindset change is going to involve setting aside ‘shoulding’ time. I realised simply creating time to celebrate the things that are bringing me joy is not going to stop the endless hours I waste thinking about the things I should have done. I’ve decided to give myself a dedicated time twice a week slot to have a good old ‘shoulding’ session. I'm also going to use this time slot to help me work through my worries about future actions that are likely to lead to me 'shouding' myself.
During these half-hour slots I give myself permission to think the worst on all the things I should have, could have, would have done. Using a WHY, WHAT and THEN structure I hope I can learn which of my 'shoudings' are real and which I just need to acknowledge and then let go of. Please read below how I'm taking control of my worries - I hope it helps you deal with your should have, could have, would have and ensure you have more time to do the things that bring you joy.
Real world example
Last week I had a really big presentation to senior management and it went well, so well that the issue has been pushed up the management ladder and I need to present to even more senior decision makers in a few weeks time. Of course after the meeting I've been thinking about all the things I could have done better during the meeting and also starting my worry process about the future presentation. So this morning I decided to take control;
1. I first wrote down all the reasons WHY I felt the presentation wasn't perfect. Of course nothing is going to be perfect but I gave myself time and permission to write down all the crazy and not so crazy thoughts going around my head. There was no judgement at this stage.
2. I then looked at each and every concern and considered WHAT I could do about it. If there was something I could learn for the future I wrote that down. If it was simply an unrealistic pressure I gave permission to let it go.
3. For those issues where I could learn for the future I thought about THEN what. What actions could I undertaken to ensure that my future presentation was to a higher standard.
If you enjoyed this post please check out the rest of my blog here, including my post on the three cogs needed to ensure female progress and how to support your mental health by accepting you can't do more with less.