In reality, as a friend observed, when we say, "I need to do X" we are really saying, "X is something I know I SHOULD do, but I am not going to do it. Like with my glasses. I keep saying I need to get new glasses. I would have gotten them if I were going to do it." In fact, we have already made the choice NOT to do it. So, is it really a need? If we break it down further we are not being fully honest with ourselves. We are denying that we are choosing not to do something and we are not looking at the conflict in us that surrounds this choice. Examining and being curious about the conflict can help us understand what is in the way of doing or getting what we want. And then there are the shoulds. Not doing all of these "shoulds" leads to us feeling shameful and unhappy in life. We feel unsatisfied that we aren't doing everything we "should do" and feel pressure because there isn't enough time in the day to get all these "shoulds" done. So we are left feeling empty and exhausted, as though life is passing us by without any sense of agency in what is happening to us.
Instead, I invite you to start thinking in terms of what you want and what you choose to do. Often, there really is not time in the day to do everything, therefore, it is helpful to discern what we will and will not do. First, remember your goal. "Keeping the goal in mind" is one of the key factors in willpower and motivation, as motivation researcher Kelly McGonigal states. Then you can make an informed choice. A choice that is towards your goal or towards a different objective given the circumstance. It is not bad to choose opposite of your goal, as there may be something more pressing in any given situation.
For example, perhaps you want to live a healthier lifestyle by eating more nutritiously and exercising. It is the end of the day and you are tired. You really want to get home and relax rather than go to the gym, but you had planned to exercise after work. Instead of telling yourself, "I really need to go to the gym" which is not at all motivating and just adds to the pressure, realize that you now have a choice. You can either choose to go home or choose to go to the gym. Tell yourself, "I am choosing to go to the gym because I want to be healthier. I'll feel more energy after too!" How do you feel when you say that versus the "I need to" statement? It may be subtle as you read this.
Stating what you choose to do leads to a feeling of empowerment and even courage. It motivates us to do more because we become an active agent in our life rather than being a passive spectator while life just happen to us. It may take some time to feel this way, but it can happen. As your start to reach your goal, it becomes easier because you experience the benefits of your choices more directly.
That is it, this should is a choice. It is YOUR choice. As I have written about before, we may not want to do something but we can choose to do it anyway. As we start moving towards what we want, it can be difficult and challenging because often results are not immediate. Notice how you feel as you make the more difficult choice. That feeling you get when you do something challenging is a big motivator, and it stays with you as you realize you can do what at first seems difficult. It is empowering. Looking at the hero's journey, it is never easy. But by facing our challenges we learn our real strength. If we avoid because of a fear failure (that is another post) we will not learn who we really are and we won't achieve our goals. As Joseph Campbell writes in The Hero's Journey, "The self is the whole range of possibilities that you've never even thought of.... The self is a whole field of potentialities to come through."