Of all the pressures that we have to put up with there’s one that we really can do without – guilt. Now there’s nothing I can do about taking away memories of bad parenting incidents or the dumping of an ex-lover or stealing your sister’s shoes or saying bad things about a colleague in the hope of being promoted but, thanks to my cousin Sarah, I can offer some advice on the kind of guilt that plagues many people, much of the time.

The guilt I am writing about is the inability to fully relax and enjoy yourself because of feeling guilty about the fact that you really should be doing something else. You know the kind? The ten minutes of relaxing in the sunshine or reading a favorite magazine or newspaper, or possibly enjoying a TV program in the middle of the day on a day off; or even reading an interesting and ‘useful’ book? The secret here lies in the word ‘should’: “I really should be doing the ironing” or “I really should decorate the top bedroom” or “I really should complete the excel spreadsheet I promised my boss.”

How often do you use the word ‘should’ each day, referring to yourself?  According to Cousin Sarah, the secret is to ban the word ‘should’ completely. Instead you replace it with ‘Must’ or ‘Need’, this immediately removes any underlying guilt and allows you to make priority decisions in a more balanced way.  I am told the Japanese do not have the word ‘no’ in their vocabulary, so if they can manage without the word ‘no’, then I can see no reason why we cannot live without the word ‘should’, especially when applying it to ourselves?

Sarah says it’s changed her life, and if Sarah says it has then I believe her.  Now, I am not a ‘should’ man and usually I do not feel guilty when I am having a little relaxing time; I guess that it might be because I tend to keep myself busy most of the time and any moments I have to myself are quite rare (and therefore felt ‘earned’). But I know plenty of people who do not fully enjoy the time they have to themselves because they tend to feel guilty about not doing something they consider more important or useful.  I guess it is more a bloke thing not to feel guilty about dossing about (whoops, I can hear the ping of my email system ringing already) but perhaps at least you could consider if ‘should’ would be a good word to banish into room 101.

Have a good week,