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Until Your SHOULDS Become MUSTS, You’re Doomed to Walk the Road of Average


If you want to know the difference in people’s lives, it all comes down to: what are the things in your life that are “MUSTS” versus “SHOULDS”?
— Anthony Robbins


Recently, I listened to an interview with Anthony Robbins where he talks about the difference between Must and Should. He said, “If you want to Succeed, turn your Shoulds into Musts.” Take a look at some of the following “Shoulds” and see how many you can relate with.

  1. I should really try to lose some weight.
  2. I should spend more time with my family, my children, my spouse.
  3. I should eat more healthfully.
  4. I should exercise, join a gym, go on a diet.
  5. I should go to bed earlier, wake up earlier, arrive at work earlier, leave work earlier.
  6. I should really try to study Korean, success, leadership.
  7. I should learn how to play the guitar.
  8. I should read more.

These are all examples from my own personal life about things I think I “Should” do. And in fact, many of these “Shoulds” pop up again and again by way of New Year’s Resolutions for me. Honestly, if I SHOULD do them, why haven’t I? If I should do these things, shouldn’t I be crossing them off my list as I do them?

And in contrast, for all the Shoulds in our lives, we also carry around with us a long list of Should-Nots in our heads:

  1. I shouldn’t watch so much TV.
  2. I shouldn’t check Facebook every 5 minutes.
  3. I really shouldn’t slack off at work.
  4. I shouldn’t buy a Starbucks coffee everyday.
  5. I shouldn’t eat so much chocolate, junk food, snacks.
  6. I shouldn’t let my temper get out of control.
  7. I shouldn’t be late for work and appointments.
  8. I shouldn’t ignore my responsibilities, priorities, goals, purpose, nor postpone them.

Should-Nots = Bad Habits

Our Should-Nots are a result of Bad Habits. Most of these things have found their ways into our lives for some good, underlying purpose (for example, stress relief, social connection, sustenance and energy boosts, etc) but have become far too BIG and deeply engrained to continue providing us positive results.

Most of our Should-Nots in fact sprout from our Comfort Zones – our seeking to be comfortable in life – and over time become UN-Comfort Zones. Over time, what we brought into our lives for a good reason, to give us positive results can actually begin to have the opposite effect. We think, “Ugh, you used to be good to me, but now you’re making me lazy. I really shouldn’t allow this to continue.” Then why do we?

Shoulds = Unrealized, Uncreated Good Habits

Our Shoulds are encapsulated potential energy. The things we tell ourselves we “Should” do have the potential to be huge life-changers if only we developed them into Habits and quit telling ourselves we “Should” do them. The problem is, most people don’t know how, or don’t put forth enough effort to actually make them Habits.

On this blog, I’ve talked about Habit formation a number of times, but I’ll break down the Habit loop here again:

  1. Craving – most Habits are driven by an underlying craving. This craving is what drives most of our Bad Habits and Should-Nots. Things like stress relief, sweet things, and relaxation are included.
  2. Cue (Trigger) – this is what begins the Habit loop. It can be an alarm, an emotion, a situation, response to someone else, or many other things.
  3. Routine (Action) – this is our behavior. How can we turn our routines away from Should-Nots and toward our Shoulds?
  4. Reward (Payoff) – this is what reinforces our good and bad Habits. Whatever Reward we receive from our behavior drives us to either continue or change our Routines. If we receive a positive Reward (like a high, stress relief, or fun) we will default to continue that Habit. But if we receive a negative Reward (like criticism, body pains, or added stress) we will seek to adjust that Habit to something more positively rewarding.

And when discussing NEW Habit formation, there is one additional element that must be considered:


Creating NEW Habits is never easy. It takes the hard work of:

  1. Sitting down and consciously figuring out what Craving you are trying to fulfill with your Bad behavior so that you can adjust it – this may take some experimentation to discover your true underlying Craving (see the video below)
  2. Determining what Cue sets the Habit loop in motion – if you are trying to change a Bad Habit, keep the Cue and Reward the SAME, but only modify the Behavior.
  3. Writing down an Action Plan for what you WILL do when that Cue comes – because you know that it will come.
  4. Figuring out a way to Reward yourself and fulfill your initial Craving so that your Bad Habit loop doesn’t just immediately pick up where the NEW Habit left off.

All of this takes dedicated, conscious effort and it can be hard and time-consuming, but it is merely the first step in Remaking your Habits. Perseverance is Step Two.

You know, creating NEW Habits is both incredibly easy and incredibly difficult:

  1. It’s as easy as getting (and adjusting to) a new schedule at work.
  2. It’s as difficult as consciously deciding to do (or not do) a certain action every day and stick with it – persevere.

Most of us know the Difficulty of creating NEW Habits. We’ve been there many times before. But how many of us know the Ease of creating NEW Habits?

Let’s go back to the Tony Robbins quote at the beginning of this article.

If you want to Succeed, turn your Shoulds into Musts.
If you want to [know the Ease of creating NEW Habits], turn your Shoulds into Musts.
If you want [a powerful boost to your Perseverance], turn your Shoulds into Musts.


The real reason that adjusting to a new work schedule is easier than creating a NEW Habit is because work is a MUST and our desired Habits often remain SHOULDS. In fact, if we don’t work, if we don’t adjust ourselves to a new work schedule, we won’t be paid. That’s a pretty strong MUST. “I MUST work, so that I’ll get paid.”

On the other hand, the reason your NEW Habits fail – the reason you don’t have the Perseverance to push through the long days, the hard days, the boring days, the tired days – is because you keep telling yourself you SHOULD do something. “I SHOULD exercise, so that I’ll be healthy.”

Change your mindset! Make it a MUST! The truth is, you won’t firmly establish a NEW Habit until your SHOULD becomes a MUST (or your SHOULD-NOT a MUST-NOT). This is why some very sick or overweight people can (at times) create NEW Habits to Persevere through extreme difficulties to recreate their bodies to be healthier and live longer. They see their new Habits as a matter of life and death. “I MUST do this, or I will die sooner.” Or ” I MUST do this, so that I can see my grandkids.”

Unfortunately for most of us, we’re completely AVERAGE. We don’t think of Bad Habits in terms of Death, nor Good Habits in Terms of Life. We just think, “Eh, I’m OK, it’s OK, no big deal.” So until you start changing your SHOULDS into MUSTS, you’ll continue to walk the Road of Average. Never too great, never too terrible, and never too successful.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I MUST go get ready for work – after which I MUST study Korean.

Want to know more about Perseverance? Join me again next week as I discuss another something I learned from Tony Robbins this morning: RPMs.

  1. Results: Define them
  2. Purpose: Pursue it
  3. Massive Action: Just do it
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