I’m one of those people who keeps a running list of tasks to get done. Usually this is a good practice for me. The upside is that it allows me to dump my thoughts in one place for easy reference, which frees up brain space. The downside is that, regardless of how much I accomplish in the day-to-day, sometimes I look at the lineup and feel burdened by the “shoulds,” as in “I should do X,Y, and Z.”
Over time some items on the checklist will drop off naturally, and surely there are things I do daily that don’t get catalogued. (Side note: I have a friend who will write down a task he’s just done and then mark it as complete for the mere satisfaction it brings — a great feeling!) Still much of my inventory will require attention one day, and it seems to grow faster than the rate at which I can cross things off. I suppose that points to the intersection of our eternal nature and our productivity-obsessed culture; there will always be more in the “in-box” of life. Yet in order to gently meet the anxiety that rises when viewing all that looms ahead, I call to mind a great lesson I learned at a workshop years ago.
A wise woman leading the class gave us a wonderful gift. She encouraged us to take our “shoulds” and turn them into “coulds.” In doing so one can relieve the pressure enough to see options instead of demands. The mindset shifts from “I should do X,Y, and Z today,” to “I could do X… or Y… or Z… or perhaps something else altogether.” It’s amazing what a difference this simple tool can make. Rather than anticipating the work of a thousand days, it allows for discernment specific to the moment at hand, with a freedom to respond to the guidance of one's energy, one's soul, in real time.
Of course there are certain responsibilities that we have to answer to in a timely fashion, but I think a large portion of our self-induced stress can be alleviated by turning our shoulds into coulds.
May you be inspired!