How to turn your intentions into positive actions

How many times have you thought or even said “I really should…” in the last 24 hours?

I should have taken that job

I should get more sleep

I should have committed to less

I should…

We spend so much mental energy focusing on judging what we should have done in the past or planning what we should do in the future that we miss out on being authentic and available in the present.

Types of “shoulding”

· Past-Focus — I should have… where the primary motivation is judging

· Future-Focus — I should… where primary motivation is planning

Chronic “shoulding” is largely a first-world problem and is often driven by FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). In a recent report by ScienceDaily, Dr. Darlene McLaughlin shares that “the problem with FOMO is the individuals it impacts are looking outward instead of inward. When you’re so tuned in to the ‘other,’ or the ‘better’ (in your mind), you lose your authentic sense of self. This constant fear of missing out means you are not participating as a real person in your own world.”

The Real Impact of “Shoulding”

· Defers your happiness

· Promotes self-judgment

· Increases negative emotions like frustration, exhaustion, striving, and proving

· Constructs an obligation mindset

· Gives away your power to what you haven’t done

· Creates a life based on scarcity where you never have “enough”

And our “shoulding” is cyclical. It feeds itself as it becomes a habitual way of life unless we intentionally BREAK the CYCLE.

So instead of “shoulding” all over your life, let’s consider these four positive solutions.

1) Know Your Triggers

While there are many things that induce “shoulding,” here are some of the main motivators. Take a mental tally of the key culprits in your life that cause you to say “should.”

· Obligations

· Expectations

· Anxiety about what you’ll miss (FOMO)

· Reputation management

· Seeking approval and acceptance

2) Set Your Boundaries

What you assign urgency to is what you do. Take time to distinguish if something is truly urgent, or just feels that way. When you prioritize what is most important — not just what appears critical in the moment — you are able to set boundaries that are in line with your values. And when you have clear boundaries that define values-based intentions, the “shoulds” don’t have as much mental airtime to broadcast.

3) Create Your “Ta Da” List (not just your “To Do” list)

One of the recurring themes I heard in my Millennial Leadership Project was that many high achievers felt a strong level of frustration and even guilt when they didn’t finish everything they thought they should do. Instead of letting your “to do” list determine your success, try creating a “ta da” list at the end of each day with everything you completed and then celebrate what’s done!

4) Honor Your “Enough” Point

Don’t let the powerful “shoulds” place efficiency over sufficiency. Begin to determine what “enough” looks and feels like for you with each tasks or commitment. Before you reach your capacity, consider what your “enough” point is — the space when you can honestly say “I’m done for now” and then hit pause. Here, you’ll find a space where achievement and fulfillment can co-exist.

Your challenge: Stop “shoulding” all over your life and begin turning your intentions into positive actions.

Leslie Bosserman, M.Ed., CPCC

Executive Coach + Lifestyle Strategist for Millennial Leaders + Managers

Originally published at


  • Leslie M. Bosserman

    Founder and Executive Coach

    Lead With Intention®

    Leslie M. Bosserman, M.Ed., CPCC is an Executive Coach and Lifestyle Strategist for innovators and creative professionals leading dynamic and diverse teams. As a thought leader, Leslie has spoken at TEDxEustis and is currently writing a book on a decade of work around the science of Emotional Endurance. After working for a decade in higher education and student development, Leslie launched Lead With Intention® – a boutique coaching and consulting practice that specializes in leadership coaching, customized training, and organizational strategy for clients and their teams around the world. She collaborates with a range of creative professionals from entrepreneurs launching their startups to executive leaders at Fortune 500 Companies. Leslie is committed to enhancing her local community and co-created and launched The Makers Place™ with her husband. As the regions first coworking space with onsite childcare, this innovative multi-use space supports parents who need a professional workspace along with flexible childcare options. She also currently works as the Director and Site Supervisor of Mini Makers™ Preschool. Leslie has also served locally on the leadership team for TEDxSacramento as the Event Coordinator and volunteered as a coach for emerging female leaders through The Women's Impact Alliance (formerly The Coaching Fellowship). As a two-time UCLA alumna, Leslie graduated with her Bachelor’s in Mass Communications (B.A.) and a Master's of Education (M.Ed.). She is also trained as a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC) through The Co-Active Training Institute, international leaders in Coach Training and Leadership Development. Before becoming a Professional Coach, Leslie worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she taught leadership and diversity classes as well as ran a campus-wide Leadership Certificate Program for over 500 students, faculty, and staff members. She also has worked professionally in residential life and academic research at UCLA and in Public Affairs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory under the U.S. Department of Energy. Leslie loves to travel and explore new places and has visited over 30 countries, including living abroad in the Middle East for a year where she volunteered at local schools in Amman, Jordan with her husband. She is an avid artist and creative who also enjoys karaoke, cooking ethnic food, supporting local coffee shops, and practicing yoga. Leslie is a novice pickleball player and an expert bargain shopper! She lives in Northern California with her husband and three young children, and travels internationally for coaching, organizational trainings, and retreat facilitation.