Tuesday, June 25, 2024


 When I write about organizing, I emphasize the importance of being true to your defaults -- who you are and how you do things. This philosophy was a game-changer for me, first in terms of organization and, lately, more broadly.

So often, we do things because we think we should do them. Psychologist Karen Horney called this "the tyranny of the shoulds," which is a perfect description because the "shoulds" can hold us hostage. And when we let them lead the way, we are in danger of going against who we are, how we do things, and even what we need, which is clearly not a good long-term plan.

Sure, there are shoulds that are worth adhering to, but they very rarely have to do with using file cabinets or wearing white shoes after Labor Day. And, when we stop to think about it, many other "shoulds" are just as arbitrary. 

I've learned that when my intuition says one thing, but the shoulds say another, I have to at least give my intuition a fighting chance by questioning the shoulds. Why should I do this? What will happen if I don't? If I do? Can I live with those consequences? How does this fit with what I need right now?

I used to tell my elementary school students that they needed to trust the "uh-oh" feeling. "Do you know what that is?" I asked them. "That feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you something's just not right?"

Even eight-year-olds knew what I was talking about but, somewhere between 8 and 80, we learn to squash that feeling rather than listening to it. Sometimes we push it down for a good reason, but whether we have a good reason or not, if we squash our feelings long enough, squelching the "uh oh" becomes a habit.

Going with your gut isn't always popular. Sometimes what you need disappoints someone else. Other times, we realize only after the fact that going with our gut was the wrong choice. And, the fact that our intuition isn't always more accurate than the "shoulds" further complicates matters. But, with practice, we learn which way to go, most of the time.

I've come to think of the "shoulds"/intution conundrum as a T-intersection. Each direction is a viable choice, but only one will be the path you want to travel at that moment. 

And sometimes, you'll only know you made the right choice by the lightness of being that permeates your body as you continue on your journey.

No comments:

Post a Comment