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5 Steps To Break Free Of The “Shoulds”

Written by: Seema Kohli, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Seema Kohli

I recently had lunch with a friend who was visiting London from New York. I haven’t seen for a while so we had a lot to catch up on. Her big news is that at the age of 53, she’s just started working again after more than 25 years. She’s learning a new skill, in a junior position and she has big plans for herself. She has a vision for her future, in which she makes good money and is inspired by her work every single day.

Image photo of Seema sitting on garden

My friend was so excited to tell me all about the job and how much she’s enjoying going to work and learning every day. And yet, the one thing she could not bring herself to say is that she has chosen to start work because she wants to be more than a wife and a mother. And that she wants the satisfaction of earning her own money. 

She talked around it, she hinted at it, but she could not bring herself to say it.

So I said it for her “you’ve decided you want to be more than a wife and a mother and you want to earn your own money. And you want to make more money over time.”

And she whispered back, “yes”.

And (thankfully) as we unpacked this more, she had an important insight that unlocked her ability to loudly say yes, she wanted more for herself.

She realised that for all these years she had been told that she did not need to earn her own money, and that as a wife and a mother, she should focus on her husband and children. She was surprised to notice that even today, there’s a voice inside of her that tells her she should not make “too much” money.

It’s no wonder.

As women, we’ve been told for generations how we should behave, how we should speak, what we should say, what we should want, and the limit of what we should claim. Not only within the cultural, societal and family structure, but also the law.

It’s hard to believe that it wasn’t until 1975 that a woman in the UK (1974 in the US) could open a bank account in her own name, without requiring the countersignature of a male. It’s astonishing to know that if a woman in the UK walked into a pub before 1982 without a male companion, she could be refused service. The fight for equal pay is an even more recent struggle.

As women, our lives have been framed by “shoulds”.

Of course, 2 or 3 generations ago, we had to comply with these “shoulds”.

Otherwise we risked being thrown out and losing the safety of the cave, the family, the home, or being arrested for breaking the law.

We had no option but to behave in a way that was “acceptable”. And we learned to show up in a certain way so that we would not be judged and found wanting.

I know you can see traces of this in how your mother or grandmother showed up. I certainly can.

This conditioning (whether generational and learned in this lifetime) continues to frame how we move in the world as women today, in 2023. It’s deep rooted in our psyche. It shows up everyday in our home, in the workplace, in our relationships, to different degrees for each of us.

And it’s what keeps us playing small. 

It’s what stops us speaking up in the meeting, taking the credit that’s ours to take, applying for the job, leaving the job, going for the promotion, pitching the idea, choosing the project we want to work on, saying no to working another late night, leaving the relationship, buying the property, joining a class, doing the master's degree, taking the sabbatical.

If you feel like you’re living a life half lived, and that you are making choices you will regret later on (and not choosing to do something is also a choice) chances are you’re living a life framed by some “shoulds”.

This does not have to be your story. You don’t have to set yourself up for regrets later on. You don't have to wait for years to pass for you to dare to venture beyond the “shoulds”.

You can start today by beginning the process of discovering the version of you that lives in a life which is framed by what you choose to do, and not by what you think you should do.

Here are 5 steps you can start with:

  1. Identify what your 5 core values are. Reflect on how true to them you are, and whether the life you lead is aligned with them.

  2. Make a list of your passions and interests and evaluate how each one makes you feel.

  3. Acknowledge your strengths and talents. How much do you stand in them, and shine them out to the world?

  4. Review your current goals and honestly consider how they make you feel.

  5. Pay attention to your inner voice and what it says to you. Notice if you act on it or ignore it, and why.

Each of these 5 steps will take you through a process of self-discovery. Wherever you uncover something that doesn’t feel right, go deeper, and see if you can identify what it’s telling you.

When you get to know who you truly are and what you really want, you’re able to free yourself from the “shoulds” and create a life you truly desire.

This is why guiding my clients through the process of self-discovery is a foundational element of my coaching programme Powerful Life Mastery. It’s the piece we work on first. Knowing who you truly are (not who the world told you to be) and what you really want (not what the world told you to want) is the first step to living your most powerful life, in your purpose

If you’re ready to go further with discovering your true self, my checklist "Chart Your Purposeful Path:10 Key Shifts to a More Fulfilling Life," is designed to help you begin this discovery. It has 10 key shifts I've used for myself over 30+ years and which I guide my coaching clients to use to support them to discover their truth and live a more fulfilling life. You can grab it here.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

Seema Kohli Brainz Magazine

Seema Kohli, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Seema Kohli is a transformation coach with over 30 years' experience in personal development and transformation. Her coaching method, Powerful Life Mastery, takes women through a process of radical transformation in which they reconfigure their inner world so that they can create the outer reality they desire. Seema started her career at a top tier law firm in London and spent time at a major US investment bank before experiencing a personal loss that drove her to walk away from her successful career to spend time in India on spiritual endeavour. In 2021 she started her own business guiding women who are ready to show up unapologetically as who they truly are and create the life they desire.



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