Should vs Could: Why it Matters

Updated Feb 2022

Now, I’m not usually given to being quite so frank in my language (in my blogs anyhow) but I think you’ll understand when I say this…and I know this is an understatement but…the last two years, bloody hell, what a shit show!!!!

Or not maybe.

What? I hear you say, wtaf? It’s been awful! And you’re right, in many ways it has been. Well, in lots of ways it has been, I’m not even going to try and deny that. 

But, for me, I’ve realised something over these last 2 years. Or rather,  I’ve consolidated some thinking and come to the conclusion that how we manage change, achieving our goals or responding to traumatic events, can very much be based on whether we take a ‘should’ approach or a ‘could’ approach. 

Could vs should; basically the difference between having choice and being in control, or feeling controlled and having no choice. This can, in my personal and professional experience, often be the difference between myself, or my clients, feeling motivated and focused, or feeling demotivated and anxious. In short, succeeding in a growth mindset, making changes and moving forward vs having a fixed mindset and staying put. 

Someone once said to me, ‘if you always do what you’ve ways done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’. Therefore, in order to make a change and have a different outcome, you’ve got to take a different path or action.

In his book, ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, Sean Covey talks about See Do Get, in other words, Perspective Action Results. In short, he says that if we change our perspective, our action changes, and so we get different results. 

In many scenarios of change or managing trauma, situations and sometimes life in general, we approach things with a should (or should not) mindset. Should is restrictive. It says, ‘you have do that’, ‘you can’t say that’, ‘you are not allowed to eat that’. Should is prohibitive; it’s controlling and tells us what we must do. It takes away choice. 

Could on the other hand is liberating. It says, ‘I don’t have to do that but I want to’, ‘I can have that but I choose not to’, ‘I am allowed to say that but I won’t’. Could is empowering; it gives us a choice and leaves us to make up our own minds. 

If we follow See Do Get, our change in perspective from should to could can open up a whole raft of positive thoughts, actions and therefore, achievement of goals.

I will give you an example of how I use could to my advantage but sabotage myself with should, and it’s a food example. Although, as you’ll read later, there are lots of diffent situations to which this question  of should be could applies. 

If you’ve read my previous blogs or are a member of one of my groups, you’ll know that I’ve previously struggled with my mental and physical health and, as part of and as a result of getting myself in a better place, I’ve lost 9 stone. Well, losing the weight is only half the battle; I’ve got to maintain.  

This morning I came downstairs and there was bread on the counter. A lovely, fresh , squishy loaf. Now, me and bread aren’t friends. Which is a shame because it’s one of my favourite things to eat. But, bread doesn’t like me; I might as well stick 3 pieces to each thigh and my belly, cos that where it goes anyway! 

My old approach would be to say to myself, ‘I can’t have that’, ‘I should stay away from that’, ‘I’m not allowed to eat bread’. My old approach is a should one.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m really rubbish at being told what to do. I turn in to a little child and have a good old internal pout, feel controlled and in an act of rebellion usually end up slathering thick slices of bread with butter and shoving it my mouth. Then the regret follows. Then the anxiety. Then the annoyance at myself. Then usually about a hundred pound weight gain! 

So what I now say instead is, ‘I can have that if I choose to’. ‘Nothing is stopping me earing that’, ‘I am allowed to have that’. But, I then say, ‘I choose not to because it’s not good for me’, ‘I choose not to because in choosing not to I will achieve  my goal’. Today I did that, four times in fact. And not one slice of bread has passed my lips, and I feel great for it; I’m not admonishing myself, and I’m not dreading my next weigh in.

Of course, food is just one example where choosing could over should can create a positive outcome. Where giving yourself choice empowers you to take the path that is right for you and your goals. 

Other scenarios can be around parenting and choosing to do what’s right for you and yours; in business and choosing the right path for you; in exercising and choosing to do it rather than feeling forced to do it; in choosing to ignore other people’s drama; in choosing to abide by Covid 19 rules instead of feeling controlled and rebelling; in saying no to things you don’t want to do; in choosing to prioritise your own self care…..and so the list goes on. 

I’ve also discovered over the years I’ve been a parent that giving my children choices in the consequences they have, or the requests we make of them, instead of telling them what to do all the time, often garners a much more positive outcome for everyone concerned. They feel they have choice and therefore some control, and we have control because we get to choose the choices, and that makes for far more peaceful and less stressful resolutions and life in general.

In fact, in any situation where you are trying to achieve a goal or make a change, it is my opinion that you will be more successful in doing that if you give yourself choice and some control in the matter (could), rather than feeling prohibited, obligated and compelled (should). And in giving yourself this choice, and achieving those goals, you are empowering yourself, which in turn decreases feelings of anxiety, stress and worry. What’s not to love about could?!

In what scenarios and situations could you change your perspective from should to could? What obstacles do you put in your way in having a should rather than could mindset and in what way does this sabotage or prevent you from getting where you want to be? What would change for you if you moved from a should to a could mindset, on a daily basis and for the long term? 

If you’d value some support and guidance in helping yourself to make positive choices and moved from a fixed should mindset to a growth could mindset, please feel free to contact me on 07523830377 or email You can also check out my website at one

Take care. Keep safe.

2 thoughts on “Should vs Could: Why it Matters

  1. What a superb explanation. Digital marketing could not be explained any better!
    What Is Digital Direct marketing


    1. This is not a big about digital marketing. But thank you


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