Think About This…

Shoulda Coulda Woulda…

I was reminded the other day of the negative power of certain words.
A friend of mine was blogging about how she felt as if she was missing something out of life. This something could be broken down into several social conventions that have become unspoken rules.

This can be a problem to those that may not necessarily adhere to these conventions. Who is to say that a person must fall in love in a certain time? Is it unacceptable for a girl to ask a guy to marry her, instead of the other way around? Is it a crime to be single?

Social rules are one thing, but some of the conventions that go along with them are not really applicable to everyone. People toss around the word should a lot. And this is the actual crime.

Should I not be happily married by the time I am 30? Do you think I should ask her to marry me? What do you think I should do?

A lot of people have told me about the negative power of this word. I have also read and heard similar dialogue from various intelligent people in the media.

We give too much power to the thought of doing what everyone expects us to do that we forget what will make us happy. Certainly it is no crime to buck the conventions that we grew up with. That’s called progress. Without people deviating from the norm, we wouldn’t be fighting for racial and sexual equality or for marriages for all orientations (to name a few). We would all be the same. We would all be dwelling in mediocrity.

Even social rules can be changed over time. So why plan your life according to convention?

If you are always wondering what you should do, you’ll never actually do anything.

5 Responses

  1. Just to make you happy Jorge:
    I don’t think the word “should” is inherently positive or negative, but you got your message across. Yes, a lot of people worry too much about what others think. Your friend seems to be a good example.
    Even I used to wory about what (social convention says) I should do, but in the end, you’re not living much of a life that way….not YOUR life anyway.
    Maybe it’s our perception that assigns positive or negative value to things that affect our lives….maybe it’s just up to us to decide which is more dominant in our lives.
    I know someone who has a tendency to get bogged down in what is “negative” and what he “can’t” do….STOP IT!

  2. Hey Tien.

    Yeah, I agree that ‘should’ is just an alignment-neutral word.
    I guess it’s the fact that it can run some people’s lives. Social convention is a powerful force.

  3. Here’s one for you Jorge….not that we’re not both on our way there.

    Where should my life be?
    Married with two point three kids?
    Who says so?….not me.

  4. Maybe you should be married to two point three women?

  5. […] From a Scale of One to Ten… Humans are funny creatures. I think that human beings are the only species on earth that honestly believes that the planet owes them something. Now, I’m not speaking from a cloud on this issue. Once in a while I, too believe that the world owes me something. I’m not really sure why that is. You hear people all the time complaining about how they should have this and that. That they are due for some sort of compensation for deeds well done. I find this terribly amusing. I think that part of the problem is that everyone believes that they should be happy. I suspect a few of you who are reading this are scratching your heads. Happy? Of course we should all be happy! What the hell is Jorge talking about? I think he’s seriously disturbed. Believe what you like, but I am wondering whether or not this is our biggest flaw. Recently, I have had several conversations on this very subject with various people and have noticed that my chat partners spoke about not being happy. These people are all from different walks of life. They are of different races. They are both men and women (Smartypantses like Dave and Jamie can leave the hermaphrodite comments at home). These folks are feeling down because they wish to be happier. I suppose that there really is nothing wrong with trying to be happy. However, obsessing about attaining euphoric joy may be something of a let-down. If you keep chasing your dreams without looking where you are going, the likelihood of you running into a wall or off of a cliff are quite high, I’m afraid. So what to do? I wondered about this myself. I always tried to strive for happiness. This, I thought, was something worthwhile. However, the bad part about striving for happiness is that when your quest is interrupted, it can really be a downer. You see, when I am not happy, it is usually because of some stress or another. This type of state leaves me weaker, and I tend to get sick. Indeed, worrying myself sick was something I seemed to excel at. And so, I would end up not feeling well for longer than I should have (and I daresay I shouldn’t have been sick in the first place), and this would affect all of the activities that I enjoyed. I thought about how other species deal with their everyday lives, and I had a little bit of an epiphany. I realized that pretty much every species out there does what it needs to for survival purposes. Indeed, a lot of animals seem to dwell in a state of either fear or contentment (I am severely understating things, of course, but the point is that they are not happy so much as they are content. Honestly, I don’t know how many animals out there consciously go out their way hoping that the sun will come up tomorrow). Applying this contented frame of mind to people is a little difficult, as we are complicated beings with emotions and feelings and blah blah blah – Honestly, we make ourselves more complicated than we really are. I think contentment is underrated. Now, I’m not saying that it is wrong to be happy. I’m just saying that if we keep trying to be happy instead of letting it happen naturally, we will end up killing ourselves from the effort of what I believe to be impossible. Don’t believe what I’m saying? Try forcing a smile all day and see what happens to you… To better understand my line of thought, let’s create a scale from one to ten, where one is misery and ten is bliss. Ambivalence would be around five, which would make contentment around seven or eight. Now that we have a scale, all we need are some volunteers. Yes. You, and…you, in the corner, yes… Please come to the front. Let’s examine our volunteers…. Our first volunteer, Jennifer, is an engineer. She loves the satisfaction of a job well done at work, and also enjoys all of the activities she engages in outside of work. She is active in soccer, and in the community, participating in various charity events, and helping out in her neighbourhood. She has a cat, and is also very seriously involved with her boyfriend Chet. Our Second volunteer, Marcus, is a lawyer. He loves to win cases, and he loves to learn. He’s a great squash player, and is married to his high school sweetheart. While he doesn’t really have a lot of time for active participation in the community, he sponsors two sports teams through his home business (graphic design).   I suppose you were expecting two radically different cases? Not so. Well, not really radical. Let’s move on…   Jennifer is very laid back. While she does get upset once in a while, she doesn’t try to overdo it in the other direction in her search for happiness. While mildly disappointed when things don’t go her way, she doesn’t sit around and worry about it. Instead, she works hard to ensure that it doesn’t get worse, and in doing so achieves a certain level of satisfaction. She resides around the seven or eight mark on the scale we established earlier. With her averaging this score on the scale, she’s pretty level-headed about things, and realistic. There is mild optimism in her personality, too, as she doesn’t have too far to fall if something bad happens. Marcus, on the other hand, is always trying to win. He’s all about making sure that he’s got a genuine smile on his face, but it comes with a heavy price. When something goes wrong, like a case going sour, his confident manner is usually shaken, and he becomes depressed. He feels like a failure because he can’t keep that level of happiness going. This tends to affect his work, and his home life. The normally happy Marcus tends to brood, and also likes to be alone. By trying to constantly achieve nine and ten on the scale we created, he becomes very vulnerable to falling far, even when he falls just a little. Thanks, guys. You can go back to your seats. You see, when Jennifer has a setback, and falls to a lower score, she doesn’t fall as far as Marcus, because her score wasn’t ridiculously high. I believe that this is the problem with us humans. By constantly trying to achieve an impossible level of happiness, we set ourselves up to fall, and when we fall it feels like we fall so far, even when it is only a short distance… So now, after all of this introspection, I sit at about a seven or eight. I think this is a great place to be. There is very little stress, and the things that used to bother me don’t really get on my nerves all that much. I don’t go looking for trouble, and at the same time, I don’t kill myself trying to find the holy grail. This is not to say that I don’t do things to make myself a better person. On the contrary, I’ve been quite busy with my photography project, for example. It’s been an interesting experience, but I’m learning a lot. I don’t expect to be Ansel Adams or Diane Arbus, of course. However, when something good happens, I feel much better about it because I am not constantly waiting for something spectacular to happen while other opportunities might pass me by. And when something spectacular happens? Instant smile. Does this mean that I just settle for whatever comes my way?  Not necessarily.  I still manage to have new ideas, and implement new plans.  Considering I have a more stable base, this is much easier to do. I also enjoy spending time with my family and friends. Think about it. If I am on my own, and I am a seven or eight, imagine what happens when my wife walks into the room, or I’m having an animated conversation with Dave or Cat. The happiness rating usually goes up. And since falling a little doesn’t feel so bad due to my relative position on the scale, and doesn’t happen so often anymore, the moments where the score rises occur more often, and are cherished for what they are – happy times. […]

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