“I should go to the gym.“
“I should save more money.“
“At my age I should be more successful.“
“People should respect my feelings more.“
“The government should do more to help people.”
“Should, should, should“… Enough already! In his new book “Absolutely Should-less”, New York-based family therapist and health activist Damon L. Jacobs invites everyone to throw the word “should” out of their vocabulary for a day… and eventually, to throw all the “shoulds” out of our lives for good. At their least harmful, the dozens of “shoulds” we impose upon ourselves every day– often hiding under the guise of tradition, personal responsibility, or self-discipline– can cause lots of unnecessary angst. At worst, they can seriously impede our happiness and health. All of these assorted “shoulds” have many origins, including but not limited to: parents, siblings, other relatives, peers, teachers, co-workers, and my all-time favorite: the media. It may be Jacobs’ “favorite” too. On page 37, he observes about the media, “This is perhaps the most pervasive and dangerous of all the sources we have listed so far. It is so insidious and so present, most of us don’t realize how controlled we are by media standards every day.” Just what is so bad about “shoulds”? Aren’t they necessary for society to function properly, and for individuals to be “better“ people? Not really. For starts, Jacobs points out that just the word “should” alone implies that you are doing something wrong because you are afraid of the consequences– a motivation fundamentally based in fear of future events. As we know in this post-9/11 world, fear can be a motivation, but it’s not a healthy one. That’s just the beginning of Jacobs’ deconstruction of the tyranny of “shoulds“.
The good news is, all of us can take steps to live a “should-free” life– and subsequently, a less stressful and happier one at that. Where do we start? First, as Jacobs will teach you, we can change our perceptions about what happens in our lives. (My good friend, songwriter Julie Clark, stated in the lyrics to one of her songs, “If you want to change your life, change your mind!“) In some ways, it’s a simple matter of semantics– but those words alone can make a big difference. Example:
(A) “I should go to the gym today.” versus
(B) “I want to go to the gym today because I want the benefits to my health and my appearance that going to the gym will bring.”, or “I may not want to go to the gym, but I am choosing to go because I know I will feel better afterward.”
Notice how the second wordings put the power and control back in your decision-making. “Absolutely Should-less” is a hybrid of common sense and professional insight, peppered with such thought-provoking tidbits as “If you counted your ‘shoulds’ as much as you counted your carbs, you would feel a lot healthier.” At 134 pages, the book packs a wallop. It may be tempting to label “Absolutely Should-less” as a “self help” book, but it’s more than that. Behind the motivational aspects of the book, Jacobs makes a lot of shrewd observations about both the society we live in, as well as why even the strongest of us can succumb to pressures by that society. But, the author teaches us that with motivation, we can overcome those pressures.
For more info about Damon L. Jacobs‘ “Absolutely Should-less”, visit Don’t read it because I’m telling you that you “should” read it. Read it because I know you’ll benefit from it!


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