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Blake Beattie
Free Articles > Power of Beliefs



Tyranny of the Shoulds  29.03.2007

The concept of the ‘Tyranny of the Shoulds’ was first introduced by Karen Horney in 1939. The beliefs we have around the ‘shoulds’ in our lives have a major bearing on how content and happy we are in life. By ‘shoulds’, I mean the rules and regulations about the way things must be in our lives. We have rules regarding the way we should live, and the way we believe others should live. This is completely normal, but some ‘shoulds’ can greatly interfere with us fulfilling our potential and can prevent us from being happy. Too many rules can create a great deal of anger, frustration and disappointment.


Below is a list of some of the ‘shoulds’ which can get us into trouble (and I’ll explain why later). See if you can identify with any of the following beliefs:

  • I should be liked by everyone
  • I should be earning a lot more money
  • I should be doing more with my life
  • I should be spending more time with my family
  • I should not fail at anything
  • I should always be productive with my time
  • I should be promoted to a much higher level
  • I should have many friends
  • I should be giving more to the community
  • I should watch less television
  • I should forward ‘Momentum’ on to friends
  • I should be a better person
  • I should be the best parent there is
  • I should be better organised
  • I should be more in touch with my creator
  • I should eat healthier foods and do more exercise
  • I should be producing much better results at work


Do any of these sound familiar? Now I am not saying that striving to be the best person you can be is a bad thing – absolutely not. What I am saying, however, is that having too many ‘should beliefs’ circulating your brain can cause a great deal of distress, frustration and can make us very unhappy. It is often not so much the content of the ‘should’ beliefs that causes us the most distress – it is more a lack of flexibility. The more we believe something is an absolute must, the more chance we have of becoming upset.


What are your ‘should beliefs’ and do they get in the way of you being truly happy? No-one is perfect, and mistakes are a natural part of life – it is a part of being human. Strive to be the best you can be, avoiding the word ‘should’ where possible. Instead, focus on empowering words such as: “I am happy that I am becoming more organised each day” or “I have always done the best with what I have known in the past and will keep improving”.


To get better results, it is important to think differently. If you use positive words, you are more likely to have positive outcomes.

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