What The Therapist Told Me That Changed My Life

I went to therapy for five years in the mid 1990’s. The issues were complex- deep insecurities, lack of self love, low self-esteem. It was a terrible burden that was ruining my life. Then, one day, my therapist gave me the clue to shedding the darkness. It’s a great insight for business too. Here is what she said.

I recently read a blog post on ‘The Top Five Regrets’ people on their death beds have expressed, as reported by a nurse who helped care for thousands of people as they approached their final moments.

It was when reading the Number One Regret that I was reminded of the insight my therapist had given me almost 20 years ago- an insight that helped me regain my life and my future. Here’s what the therapist told me, here’s also that death bed Number One Regret, and here’s what the lesson is for business and for life

“Should” Is Shit

“Every time you hear yourself saying the word ‘should’, stop yourself and think again. Every time someone uses that word about what you ‘should’ be doing or ‘should not’ be doing , stop and think again. Because, quite simply, ‘should is shit.’” So said Fleur, my therapist all those years ago.

Death Bed Number One Regret

As reported by the nurse, the Number One regret of people on their death bed is this: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

The Lesson For Me

All my life, until Fleur gave me the clue that ‘should’ is shit’, I made my decisions and underpinned my motivations by what others wanted of me- what they felt I should do, or be, or how I should behave, or think about myself, or feel. I should be more successful, I should be thinner, I should speak differently,  I should not take too much risk, I should not think that I was good enough, I should not think of myself as attractive, I should not think I could get that girl to like me, or if she did, that she’d stay with me. I should be fearful of this or that or the other. I am not explaining this well. The bottom line is that SHOULD, often followed by NOT, ruled my life, and was ruining my life.

And clearly I was not alone. By the intent of that Number One Death Bed Regret, it seems like the majority of people are in the same boat.

The Lesson For Businesses

Do not be handcuffed by the expectations of others, often based on “the way we have always done things around here,” or “The way I did it so you need to do it that way too.” Don’t be restricted by the ‘should’ and ‘should not’ brigade. Have courage. Take risk. Trust your instincts. Back yourself.

At the Cannes Creativity Festival in 2011, award winning agency Taxi talked about its mantra: “Fuck The Past.” Be respectful of the achievements of the older tribe and those who came before, they said, but don’t be a prisoner to what Steve Jobs called the ‘dogma’ of business.

After all, sacred cows make the best hamburgers. And  remember- ‘should’ is shit.

The Lesson For Each Of Us

Seriously- I have no idea whether this little story connects with you in any way or is just too weird. But understanding that ‘SHOULD’ is shit, and catching myself whenever I said to myself: “Chris- you should do this..” Or…“Chris- you really should not do that….” really did lift the darkness off me. More often than not, the ‘should’ or ‘should not’ was not really how I felt, but what I felt others would want me to feel and do.

Perhaps….in a small away… double checking the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ will help us not join those with death bed Number One Regrets of: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

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16 Responses to What The Therapist Told Me That Changed My Life

  1. Carl Sherriff March 14, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    Thanks for sharing your story Chris. Reinforcing. Cheers, Carl.

  2. Greg Flynn March 14, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    I think you should ask for your money back from the therapist.

    À votre santé.

    Grégoire xx

    • Chris Savage March 14, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

      I was fine till I started to work with you!

  3. Geoff Ingall March 14, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    I should have read this years ago.

    • Chris Savage March 14, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

      Thanks Geoff!

  4. Joan Smith March 14, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda… very enlightening.. enjoyed the read

    • Chris Savage March 14, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

      Good to hear!

  5. Kamal March 15, 2012 at 8:45 am #

    Hi Chris
    Very authentic and very powerful

    It is amazing how many people go through life masks on

    Thanks for taking yours off as it allow others

    Be well

    • Chris Savage March 15, 2012 at 10:37 am #

      Thanks Kamal!

  6. David Angell March 15, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    Very interesting and clearly from the heart, thanks for sharing Chris.

    You’ve also saved me the money I might have spent on a therapist at some point…always an upside!

  7. Cameron Wall March 15, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    It is all based around this amazing median called Time. Time has always moved at the same speed however it can be our best friend and also our worst enemy. The “should” is directly related to it. Time is the basis of all businesses and is one of the 3 key ingredients in managing any project. Get you timing right and there should be no “should”.

    • Chris Savage March 15, 2012 at 10:54 am #

      Thanks Cameron. I liked that idea. Chris

  8. Melinda March 15, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    Just like Joan said above, three words I try to eliminate from my thinking have been ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ and gee life has been so much kinder.

    Thanks Chris for sharing, if only more people were as open as you are. I look forward to reading your posts everyday.

    • Chris Savage March 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

      Thanks Melinda- appreciate it. Chris

  9. Lizzy March 15, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    Thanks Chris – always inspiring and honest. cheers LH

    • Chris Savage March 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

      Pleasure Lizzy!

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