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- Extract the gold from your pesky inner voices!

You’ve probably had the ‘should’ thought plenty of times – 'I should be more positive/ call my mum/ eat more vegies/ be more patient/ get more exercise/ be nicer to so-and-so', etc. If you’ve been playing in the personal development arena, you know that ‘should’ is a dirty word. You might even have been told, ‘Don’t should on yourself’. Great advice.


But do you sometimes think, ‘Yes, but that ‘should’ voice is right! It’s telling me things that I know I should do, that I actually want to do, if I could just get myself to do them…’?

Dr John Demartini has created a model that links our internal voices with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and with different layers of the brain. He correlated the lowest survival levels in Maslow’s model with the most primitive parts of our brain and with language like ‘have to’ and ‘must’, and the highest levels of self-actualisation with the most evolved parts of our brain and language like ‘would love to’ – a thought-provoking set of correlations.

He also claims that ‘should’ indicates an external voice that we’ve internalised such that it is now imposing its values on us, eg. the voice of a parent or other authority figure. In my view, it’s neither here nor there whether the values were originally your parent’s or yours, the point is that if you own them now, they are yours. The more important question is, Why are my values expressing through that pesky, critical ‘should’ tone of voice?

Here’s my theory: I reckon that ignoring one of our values causes it to be ‘pushed down’ – down that hierarchy to the lower, more primitive levels of consciousness. So it’s still one of our values but has become a nagging voice that is tiredly trying to remind us to do the thing we claim we want to do.

The remedy, therefore, is to reconnect with that particular value and reinstate it higher up the priority list. Let me give you an example. My office has been a disastrous mess for longer than I care to confess. At one stage I displayed Einstein’s quote to comfort myself: ‘If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?’ but even that message got lost in the piles…It was time to do something about my desk months ago – actually, years ago. So the voice grew weary and naggy, and I became rather expert at reframing my messy desk and shoving that voice deeper and deeper into the dark, shadowy depths of my unconsciousness.

Until I read a wonderful book by David Allen called Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, in which he so clearly respects and understands the vast abundance of competing demands on our lives today that something inside me relaxed. I felt heard. I felt that he understood how much of a mess I was in and he wasn’t judging me for it. He really understood, and furthermore, he had helped other people get through this overwhelming place and create order out of chaos.

I was so encouraged and inspired that I have begun to apply his system and now my desk presents a neat collection of labelled trays rather than the disaster area of notes and papers and brochures etc. that it was before. I’m not even nearly finished implementing my new system but the whole issue feels so much more manageable now that I know it’s possible. I’m confident that I will achieve it if I just keep plugging away.

This long-overdue tidying was possible when I stopped burying that 'orderly office' value and started valuing it again; started raising it in my system of values from something I should-do-but-can’t-seem-to-get-around-to, to something I really wanted to do and am now (wow!) even loving doing.

I’m working on another of my ‘shoulds’ at the moment. I’ll share how that one is going down the track… More power to you with yours!

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