The SHOULDS That Matter | Reclaiming Zen

The SHOULDS That Matter

The SHOULD's That Matter

Differentiating Shoulds and Identifying True Soul Yeses


There is a lot of talk in the personal growth world about throwing out the “shoulds” and only going for something if it’s a “soul yes!”


Without various interfering factors, I agree with this philosophy. But, with all of our mental chatter and ingrained habitual patterns, I think it’s crucially important to make a distinction and clarify what those shoulds and soul yeses actually look and feel like. First, there are external shoulds and internal shoulds. And, each of these can be masked and mistaken for the other. Also, certain soul yeses are obvious while other soul yeses ARE, in fact, completely soul yeses, but they are clouded by fear or subconscious judgements. 


When people talk about not following the shoulds, they are talking about external forces – societal conditioning, others’ expectations, social norms and demands, situational factors, political correctness, etc. All too often these things that are external input – that don’t come from within our internal compass – can feel quite internal because we have grown up with their messages seeping into every corner of our brain and body. For many, when we are born, we begin unlearning how to be our true selves and learn how to fit in, succeed, and generally become a well-integrated member of society. So these external shoulds get so ingrained that they end up feeling like a part of us. They get merged into our existence as human beings.


For me, external shoulds are messages like constantly working hard above all else and making sure other people are pleased and happy with me. But, what about play and rest and relaxation? And, what about pleasing myself and living in my soul’s integrity and truth regardless of pleasing others?


Those external shoulds that we learn but never feel quite aligned with our soul are the shoulds we should dump. 


We can express gratitude for the ways these shoulds have helped us get to the point we are in our lives, and then commit to a new way. I believe this new and more authentic way of making choices and moving through the world is letting our heart and our gut intuition guide the way.


We may be conditioned to feel guilty or selfish or indulgent if we follow what our heart desires. But when we do what social norms suggest, we are often left feeling overwhelmed, depleted, repressed, and inauthentic. On the other hand, when we take initiative on things that our gut says yes to, we are usually rewarded and feel in flow, in sync, and in clarity.


The latter are the internal shoulds that energize us and simply feel right and aligned with our heart and gut. Sometimes choosing the internal shoulds feels like the harder and more uncomfortable choice because it’s a stepping away from societal shoulds and long-standing patterns. However, the internal shoulds are the messages guiding our soul and are meant to be followed.

When we begin to try to decipher between external and internal shoulds and live a life guided by the internal shoulds, sometimes it can feel confusing. The things that already feel true in our gut feel that way because the timing is right. We have worked out the blockages or other factors that allow us to feel aligned.


We can feel hesitant or doubtful about some internal shoulds – that are critically important for our personal growth – because of fear or false subconscious belief systems. Emotional blockages and especially ingrained external shoulds stop these internal shoulds from feeling true and resonating with our hearts in the same dead-on way.


These true internal shoulds might initially feel like whisper in our heart or a little thump in our gut. The whisper is there for a reason and always trying to grow louder and get our attention. Greater self-awareness, inquiry, and trust will allow our intuition to come through more clearly over time. These internal shoulds also often oppose external shoulds, and are what will catapult us forward in our evolution.


For me, internal shoulds have been decisions like quitting my office job, walking away from relationships that weren’t supportive, and taking out of the comfort zone risks. They are choices that often feel like the more challenging, painful, or distressing option in the moment, but do feel right deep inside and always turn out to be most rewarding, healthy, and authentic in the long run.


These whispering internal shoulds are our soul’s yeses. We can feel hesitant or not quite aligned with a lot of things because they would push us way out of our comfort zone. Sometimes our soul sends the soul yes signal for our evolution and fulfillment, but when we are scared, it doesn’t always feel like a total yes.

And, depending on how much we like to live in our comfort zone or go through life without much self-awareness and contemplation, these soul yeses can get defaulted to nos. We are too busy, we are too stressed, and we are simply disconnected from our soul’s burning desires and intention to grow.


So when thinking over a decision or thinking through a new path, our instantaneous gut instinct is powerfully important to note. If we feel hesitant about something, but are also drawn to it in some way, it needs more exploration into whether or not there is a fear, external should, or something else blocking that total soul yes feeling. Acknowledging and working through blocks and fears of all kinds can be monumental to moving forward and not getting stuck in our comfort zone full of nos to things that would otherwise fulfill our soul.


This needs to be a constant check in – by the hour, day, week, etc. What external shoulds can we drop? Which externals factors add positively to our lives and which don’t actually serve us? What internal shoulds keep whispering to us, trying to guide us on our path, and which need to be identified as such and given more time and attention to manifest? And, which previous nos should be re-categorized as soul yeses – even if they are scary – because our heart deeply desires them?


It’s so valuable to get quiet and have the courage to ask ourselves these questions. Only through introspection, reflection, and intention to live a bold, authentic, and purposeful life guided by our true internal shoulds and soul yeses, can we truly honor ourselves and live freely and peacefully.


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Alison Kate

Alison Kate

Alison Kate is a NYC based Holistic Personal Transformation Guide. As a Yoga and Meditation Teacher, Hypnotherapist, Healthy Lifestyle & Personal Transformation Coach, and Theta Healer, she offers physical, mental, and spiritual practices customized for each client’s unique circumstances, needs, and desires. This holistic approach results in clients quickly feeling better in their bodies, caring for themselves more deeply, and approaching the external world in new ways that improve relationships, work, and overall lifestyle satisfaction. See more at: and schedule your FREE 20-minute consult to discover what your unique holistic personal transformation journey would be like!


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