I grew up around a lot of chaos.

Alcoholism, mental illness, tragedy. I was surrounded by a family that felt like fighting was the new normal. When I was 14, I would run away and go to the mall. There were no cell phones at the time, so I would go to Borders Books because they had one of the few payphones. The payphone just happened to be located next to the self help section. I now would call that divine intervention or divine timing. But back then I just thought, “oh, that’s cool. I’ll look at meditation and whatever.”

And so I started on this path of trying to quiet my mind and trying to get out of the chaos.

Over time, I took self help to an extreme.

I started trying to avoid chaos and loss so much that it was like I was forcing myself feel normal.

I started doing everything that people told me I should do. If my friends told me I should wear this or date that guy or go to this party, I did it. I did well enough in school that I was seen as intelligent, but I also stuck with the party kid vibe so I’d be cool. I tried to go both ways.

I did everything I “should” do.

Someone once said, “oh, you’re really great with kids, you should be a teacher.” And I was like, “okay, cool.” I went to college, became a teacher.

My mom called me once and said, “you should probably look into getting a serious relationship soon. You’re getting kind of old.” And I was like, “Well, shit!” So I went out that night and met a guy and dated him.

Over time, I became unhappy teaching.

I worked in Southeast DC, which I loved, but it was feeling like something was missing. I loved the teaching part. I love the empowerment part. And I loved watching people make a difference in their lives. But something was off. So, I started talking about it.

People said, “You should go back to grad school and get another degree.” Of course, I said, “Oh, okay,” And I did it. This was my path. I just kept doing what I should do.

I got to a point where I was ridden with anxiety. I was waking up every day and doing nothing that I wanted it to be doing. I even remember a point when I wanted simple things like just stop at 7-Eleven and if people were like, “You shouldn’t do that,” I’d totally stop. Like, “Oh, right, duh, stay in your lane, self!”

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I realized I made no choices for myself.

Katie DePaola, Inner Glow Circle CEO, was my life coach at the time and she was the first one who tried to point this out to me. And it made me so uncomfortable. I would push back, “Stop saying that! I don’t get a choice.” It was like my desires didn’t matter. I was just going to fit in this mold that’s perfect and do everything I’m supposed to do and that’s how I’m going to be successful.

But if that was success, that fucking sucked.

People will ask, “What was your breakthrough?” Well, I was sitting in my therapist’s parking lot on the phone with my life coach and she said, “So, what do you have right now that you actually want?”

And I realized it was really nothing. Nothing.

Of course, I knew I was very fortunate. I had nothing to complain about. But I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. I would always get my greatest visions when I was on the treadmill. I imagined myself speaking in front of a room of women because my favorite part about being a teacher were the parent teacher conferences. I loved when the moms would come in and I would coach them, “This is how you make it better. This is how you inspire your kids.”

I told my coach, “Well there’s no market for what I like to do. I really want to teach women how to change their families and change their lives and change their communities and change the world.” Those felt like such lofty goals.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a point in your life where you just decide, “Nope, enough’s enough,” but this was my “enough’s enough” moment.

My coach said, “What do you want to do?”

“I want to figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life because this cannot be it,” I said.

And so I did it.

I broke up with my boyfriend from the therapist parking lot. I called my dad and I just said, “You’re gonna kill me, but I’m not going to go back to work again.” And I called the principal and I told him, “I’m quitting. I love the kids and I’ll finish the school year, but I’m quitting. I have to go.” I’m sure he could feel it coming when he was writing me up for meditating during math time.

I started looking at all of the pressure and the anxiety that I felt from running my life based on what everyone else told me to do.

From this level of higher awareness, I could finally shift into desire and into choice.

And so the lesson I’m sharing with you is really a new level of consciousness. Start listening to yourselves when you’re not really choosing. In coaching, we call “shoulds” a context. It’s a lens through which to see the world. It’s an idea that may or may not actually be yours.

“Should” is a way to compare yourself to someone else’s idea of perfection.

And that doesn’t feel good because what I want is not necessarily what you want or what the woman next to you wants. By shifting into desire and choice, you can really step into your own power and start creating the world that you actually choose for yourself. Not just the byproduct of everyone else’s idea of perfection.

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Start to analyze those “should” thoughts that go through your head. Some of them may actually be things that you want to do. And some may be things you don’t want to do. You have to develop that level of awareness and the skill of checking in with yourself to decipher between the two. That’s what puts you back in the driver’s seat.

Take this lesson into everything that you take on because you are actually the one who gets to decide.

You are the one who gets to choose what you should or shouldn’t do, what you want and what you don’t want to do.

Tell me in the comments,

Do you have a resounding “should” going through your brain right now? What would your life look like if you chose based on desire and what your heart really wants?