My on-going battle with should – Part One

If there is one word I’d like to remove from my vocabulary, it’s “should.”

The definition from Webster’s Dictionary includes this: “used in auxiliary function to express obligation, propriety, or expediency.”

For most of us, the words should and shouldn’t do little more than incite guilt and self-loathing.

My battle with should has revolved around my professional career. Coming out of high school I thought I was going to be a writer. Novels, short stories, poetry; I didn’t know what I would write, but I was confident that I would write.


I went in to college as a Communications/English major with an emphasis in creative writing. By my senior year, the doubt was creeping in. I’d seen other writers and the war with my confidence was on. I was better than some writers (see also the post on comparing), but not as good as others. I thought writing was going to come easier, because it came natural to me.

To a point.

I pressed on, working for a newspaper and enrolling in a graduate writing program at the University of New Mexico. All my professors were published, and one had written a very successful memoir and was only in his early thirties. I left after one semester, and went back to Pennsylvania crumbling heavy under the weight of shoulds.

I was entering my late twenties by then, and thought I’d already failed. Seems impossible to be a failure before the age of 30, and yet I thought I was. While much about my life remained fuzzy, one thing was clear; I should have already written a book at that point.

I spent every day berating myself for what I wasn’t doing and who I wasn’t becoming. When I sat down to write, I thought it should come more easily than it did, and when I did write, I thought it should be better.

Who can be creative under than kind of pressure?

For me it was writing, but I was also haunted by a lack of success. My journey to the fitness industry hasn’t been like climbing a mountain. In my professional career, I’ve started a dozen different trails in plenty of different parks, chastising myself every time I got half-way up a trail before deciding it wasn’t for me and starting over again, on a new trail.

So what does this have to do with fitness and nutrition? Plenty, but you'll have to move on to Part Two