The Dreaded Shoulds: Overcoming Pressure Not to Travel
We should do this, should do that; should be this, should be that, should say this, should say that.
Whatever it might be, shoulds represent implicit expectations that we all create for ourselves. Throw someone else’s expectations of us into the mix and you have a sure fire recipe for internal conflict and uncertainty at the correct course of action.
Whatever the source, shoulds create pressure that restrict and stress and stifle us. In conflict with a should we often choose to sacrifice the alternative in order to appease it.
We settle for the ordinary, the safe, the expected and dreams get sidelined. There can feel like a lot of pressure not to travel.
How do we counter such an obstacle to travel?
Let’s begin with our own internalised shoulds.
Often, shoulds operate at such an innate level that they hover insidiously out of sight, just beneath the surface. They impact our daily experience without us even realising.
Self-awareness is key. Recognising the shoulds that you abide by is a great starting point to moving forwards positively.
When it comes to travel, your internal dialogue might sound something like:
These shoulds probably run deeper.
For example, the real issue may be an unrecognised expectation to be a ‘success’, or a need to be safe and secure, or an unwillingness to give up control- to take risks.
Recognised or not, there are often imagined negative outcomes of not listening to a should.
We tell ourselves that the alternative choice, even if it is something we desperately want to do, is silly, unrealistic, too difficult and not conducive to long term goals.
What’s the anti-venom for the bite of the deadly should-snake?
Well, to begin, there’s good news: when something is a thought, it is not a fact. These tricky little things are mere mental constructs, formed and nested in our heads.
Identify your shoulds, then realise there is choice available.
First, identify explicit and implicit shoulds, then recognise them as mere constructs that can be challenged, and then explore alternatives.
As uncomfortable as it might seem, a sure fire way of dismantling your shoulds is to challenge them.
Tim Ferris asks this question in his book, 'The 4-Hour Work Week':
Good question- try to answer it.
Not only might this highlight some of the shoulds you’re currently unaware of, but reminding yourself what you’ve missed out on is a sure fire way of motivating yourself not to let it happen again.
Bye bye shoulds, hello travel.
Moving on to the shoulds of others.
These can be just as debilitating and come in two forms.
First, there are openly stated expectations such as “I want you to take on the family business”, “you need to have a good income”, “you should be career focused” or “you need to go to university”.
Secondly, there are internalised shoulds of others, cleverly disguised as our own.
When it comes to the first variety, remember that your loved ones care for you and want what they think is best for you.
Unfortunately, this can be manifested in the imposition of rules and regulations that restrict your freedom. Take their advice into consideration, but recognise that the choice lies with you.
People are great at giving advice that projects their shoulds onto others.
If your idea flies in the face of their should (of which they may be unaware), then the same type of internal conflict that’s elicited by a challenge to your own shoulds is evoked in them, which is then projected onto you in the form of advice/instruction that falls in line with their ideas.
This links to the second variety.
The inner voice I mentioned earlier, is it yours or someone else’s? Try to disentangle one from the other. For instance, it would be common to recognise the voice of your Mum or Dad in there somewhere.
Remember, when it comes to parents we are literally raised in their paradigm of shoulds and so it is natural to ingratiate them into ourselves.
Indeed, a big part of growing up is working out our own way of doing things.
Separate your shoulds from those of your loved ones.
To live life at the instruction of an internalised other prevents self-discovery.
What we do is representative of this other, not of us. Simply, we lose control of our life. Separating out our own shoulds from others’ will lead to greater self-knowledge, increased self-confidence to make your own decisions, and a heightened recognition of what you truly want from life.
If your loved ones are somehow discouraging you from your travel plans, consider what they’re trying to accomplish. Are they looking out for your wellbeing, or are they forcing you to live within their shoulds, or both?
From here, listen to your own internal dialogue and consider who it is that’s doing the talking.
If the voice saying that travel isn’t a good idea is not your own, hopefully it becomes simpler to defy it. If the voice is yours, recognise the alternative to the should.
If you want to travel, but something says you should do something else, ask “why should I?” Remember, think Tim Ferriss- what are you potentially missing out on?
The opposite of what we think we should do is often what we actually want to do. If you’re telling yourself you should do something instead of travel, perhaps deep down you know what you really want.
Challenge your shoulds. Ignore the pressure. Explore the world.
You will not regret it.