Musings

Should vs Could?

Should vs Could

Yesterday I had the good fortune of attending a workshop about reacting to the actions of those around us. As humans, we tend to assess situations in order to make sense of them. We are hard-wired to do so, and even as children are taught these “critical thinking” skills.

So let’s put it to the test and see what we come up with, shall we? Critical thinking is a good thing. Question everything, absolutely. Hands down. Now that I’ve been clear on my position of critical thinking, let me point out the difference between critical thinking and judgment.

Critical thinking is a process of breaking down facts – as we perceive them, that is – and assessing and assigning meaning to them. That is an essential part of our human experience. When, however, we find ourselves judge and jury of the actions of others, is when we get ourselves into trouble. Does this help us grow or does it simply grow our ego?

The ego loves to be right. When our beliefs are substantiated by our critical thinking process, we feel euphoric. When others challenge our beliefs, we often times become defensive and look to pick apart their credibility. It becomes the mission of the ego to dismantle the beliefs of others, in an effort to substantiate our own. We see this everywhere from our daily life to entire cultures that differ from ours. Let me tell you, my friends, this can be dangerous.

Now that we have a watchful eye on the ego, let’s shift the should and could, shall we? Be a sport and play along. Let’s say Sally should XYZ. That’s judgment. We judge what others should or should not do, based on our own personal beliefs and values. This is where the waters can get a bit murky. What happens when Sally’s core values and beliefs differ from our own? Does that change anything? I think so. It isn’t a matter of who is wrong or right, it’s a matter of what is wrong or right for the person, at the time. This key difference can shift one’s perspective away from judgment (ego) and towards understanding (enlightenment). This is not to suggest that one must align themselves with Sally’s core values. It is simply to suggest that we all have different ways of how we choose our human experience to be. The beauty of diversity is that is what makes life so interesting. It wouldn’t be very much fun to have everyone do, say, and think all of the same things.

How to shift?
Take the above example and cross out the word should. Remove it from your vocabulary. Replace it with the word “could”. Sally could do XYZ is a much less charged statement. It suggests that there is no right or wrong. At the end of the day, it’s up to Sally to decide what is best for her. It is up to each of us to decide what is right for us. I invite you to ponder on the reality of judgment for a time. Each of us has a human basic right to make our own path in life. Whenever you find yourself assessing what someone else should or shouldn’t do, I invite you to gaze within. Take that energy and apply it to your own hopes and dreams.