What are your “shoulds?” Throughout the day, without even noticing it, many may run through your head:
I should call my mom.
I shouldn’t eat that brownie.
I should pay the bills.
Yeah. Lots of “shoulds.” They invade our artistic process too. We have a great discussion going on in the comments on yesterday’s post, and inevitably the “shoulds” have popped up there too. They do in almost any conversation about photographic process…
I should get it right in camera. I shouldn’t need to post-process.
I should use a tripod.
I should take a photograph every day.
What are your “shoulds?” I bet that you have some immediately that come to mind. We all have them. We carry them around, a lot of time without noticing them. And you know what? They drain us. They are an insidious way of saying, “I’m not good enough as I am. I need to change.” They are the voice of doubt. Fear in a subtle form. “Shoulds” are a nagging weight that pulls us away from our creativity and purpose, because instead of moving ahead with confidence they keep us chained to indecision, always questioning ourselves.
We need to address the “shoulds” and make a conscious decision on what to do with them. Make them to a “do” or “do not” and then move ahead. How?
- First, you have to acknowledge the “should.” Write it down. Give it voice. You can’t address something if you don’t first consciously recognize it. Acknowledging there is a “should” does not make it truth. It just brings it to a place you can work with it.
- Ask yourself, “Where did this ‘should’ come from?” Did it come from someone else? Who? Try and be specific. The statement, “I should call my mom” could come from internal means, you just miss your mom, or as a result of your mom repeatedly saying you don’t call her enough. The feeling “I should take a photograph every day” could come from your photography teacher or it could come from your own internal desires. Do your best to identify the source.
- Next ask yourself, “Is this ‘should’ of value to me? Does it help me in some way?” The feeling we “should” do something can indicate that we want to learn something or grow in a certain direction. Look at it as objectively as possible. What is the outcome if you follow this “should?” It may mean you learn something new about yourself. Maybe more information is needed to answer the question, and that will define your direction. Ask yourself, “Do I want to follow this ‘should’?” If the answer is “no” or “not right now” then you will know your direction. The “should” may mean nothing to you, add no value, once you examine it in the light of day.
- Make a decision. Ask yourself, “What is my choice around this ‘should’?” Move it to a “Do” or a “Do Not” and then set the “should” aside. If your “should” is, “I should be using a tripod,” decide if you will or you won’t. Maybe you need to practice with it and see what it brings you. Maybe you already have tried it and you know. Either way, make a choice and then move ahead. Write down your choice. Consciously say goodbye to the “should.”
- Finally, give yourself permission to change your mind later. Nothing mires us in indecision more than the fear of making the wrong choice. But here’s the truth: You can always change your mind. Very few decisions are truly final. Thank goodness, or we would be living with choices we made in our teens or twenties that no longer fit our lives. If you struggle with the idea of changing your mind, thinking “I should stick to my decisions,” then maybe take a look at that “should” sometime.
None of these steps are easy, especially if it’s a “should” you’ve been carrying around a long time. It can be so ingrained you barely notice it. It can be difficult to tease out the source and what value it has to you.
It can be scary as hell to make our own choices, but we are always going to be the better off if we consciously choose our direction than if we live under the nagging doubts of the “shoulds.” Think of the parallel to our art. When we create photographs, we get to choose what is in or out of the frame. Our images will always be better when created with a conscious choice rather than a “should” picked up somewhere along the way. It seems so clear when put that way, doesn’t it? It’s the same with life.
So I ask you again… What are your “shoulds?” Start a list today. See how much these little things are hanging over your head. Pick one and work through the process. Let me know how it goes.