Shoulda, Oughta, Hafta

People often say “I should do this” or “I hafta do that”.

Shouldas, oughtas, and haftas — they take up a lot of our time.

I am not going to get anywhere by telling you that you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. We both know you have to take care of your family and you have to go to work.

We might note that you take care of your family, not because you have to, but because you love them. I have a suspicion that you go to work because it’s preferable to living on the streets. There is a difference between a hafta and a choice.

How about those shouldas and oughtas? I should save more money. I oughta loose weight, get in shape, paint the kitchen, weed the back forty.


How many times did you hafta, shoulda, oughta do something and you didn’t?
More important, how many times did you hafta, shoulda, oughta do something and your didn’t and then you went all grim on yourself, telling yourself you’re lazy, procrastinating, wasting time.

After all, look at Susan (or Bob). She has a full time career, raises a family, teaches Zumba, writes novels, leaps tall buildings, her hair is always perfect.  And, damn-it, she smiles all the time — course that could be the Prozac — but who’s asking?

Did you ever just take a breath and ask yourself — What do I WANT to do?
It’s a tough question because, if you are like most people, you have been ignoring what you want and doing what you shoulda, ought, hafta, for so long, you don’t recall what it’s like to just want something.

And then you say, “I just have no energy left to do the things I want to do.”

Your energy is in your wants and needs. That does not mean you can always do exactly what you want at this moment. Life doesn’t work like that.

Life doesn’t work the other way either — ignoring your wants and needs.

How many reps of this cycle will it take for the truth to dawn on you?

There is no energy in a hafta, a shoulda, or an oughta. These words are powerless to motivate us. It matters not how many times we repeat them, they have no mojo.

Plain and Simple Advice

Can you spare five minutes a day? Sit quietly — ask yourself — what do I really want? No shouldas, haftas or oughtas allowed in the conversation.

Or you could read my book Are You Wishing Your Life Away – I’m not sayin’ ya hafta.

About almondhead

I am a mental health counselor in private practice. One of the focuses of my practice is helping people with fear, anxiety and their ugly stepsister, depression. I became a counselor after a long career in the technology world, so naturally, I think of the brain as an engineering problem. It can help to understand something about how the brain works. I decided to start this blog as a way to help other people learn about fear, anxiety and relationship. (All our problems are really about relationships.) You can also find me at:
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