I can’t, but I should.

Last Christmas Break I eliminated a phrase from my vocabulary: “I can’t.” I had gotten to a point where I was making myself needlessly upset for having overly negative thoughts. I consider myself to be a pretty positive person, but my inner voice can be extremely negative, add stress and tough circumstances and my inner negative Nancy has a field day. So, my deal was just between me and Nancy. No more thinking or saying “I can’t.” It wasn’t until I started focusing on what I was saying to myself, or to others that I realized how negative I was being. And how much my intervention was truly needed. For example, I’d be writing a paper and the whole time be my thought process would look like this:  “I can’t do this. I’m not going to be able to finish it in time. Even if I do finish, It’s going to suck.” One paper was enough to spiral me into deep pit of self-pity. My agreement was to stop saying “I can’t.” I wasn’t going to be super cheesy and replace with anything like “I can do it!” I just needed to stop spiraling every time life got hard. Without the negative thoughts, I actually focused on writing the paper, or studying for the test, or presenting in class and things were just fine! I really benefited from doing this and I challenge you to do the same. You’ll be amazed at how much emotional energy you save when you aren’t predicting your own imminent demise every time something big (or small) comes up. 

Now, this morning I realized a whole other phrase I  need to eliminate because it literally means nothing.

“I should.” 

College students like me use this phrase so much. 

“I should really study for that test.”

“I should start eating healthier.” 

“I should really get going and work on my homework.”

“I should go to bed, it’s late.” 

“I should stop spending money on fast food.” 

9 times out of 10 when I say those things it’s me just vocalizing the slight remorse inside for not being productive or doing the right thing. Dictionary.com says the word should is used to define condition. It’s a verb, but it sucks as a verb because there is no action involved. There’s potential for action but action is not guaranteed. Also, when I use “I should” it is almost always followed by a “but” phrase. “I should study for that test, but I don’t feel like it right now.” 

‘I should” is dangerous, too, because there’s no expiration date on should. “I should read my bible.” i could say that now, tomorrow and or 5 years from now and it means the same thing. There’s no time crunch or guarantee in I should.  You could tell me: “I should be home around 9pm”  If you’re home at 9pm that’s great, but  if you’re home at 9:30pm,I can’t get mad because you said “i should” which is a loose term these days, especially compared to saying , “I will be home at 9pm.” Or “I am going to read my bible. “I am going to study for that test.”  These sentences all have action verbs! Action! You actually doing something that you said you were going to do. 

Point being, it’s time to eliminate another phrase from my daily vocabulary: “I should…” 

I am going to eliminate phrases that start with I should and replace it with “I am” 


I am going to keep up with this blog this summer. 

See? Better, already. 

1 Comment

  1. As a linguist, I can reassure you that ‘should’ IS a conditional, and you’re right, it has no time frame. It has no finiteness element to it, to be technical. Finiteness was the theme of my Masters dissertation. It is often used to denote just simply condition, so your adjoining ‘but’ is the condition imposed on it, whether negative or positive. Its finite equivalent is ‘shall’, just as the equivalent of ‘would’ is ‘will’ – I like ‘shall’ as it implies much more force than ‘will’. Chances are other English speakers would disagree, and meanings can change, but when I say “I shall get my exercise machine out and start the training for that marathon next year!” it just sounds so much more determined!

    Say “I shall…” – I say.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s