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  • Writer's pictureDavid Knell

Should . . . so that

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

I should wear a mask. I should wear a seatbelt. I should exercise. 

We say these statements in our minds all the time. They are sometimes helpful, sometimes overbearing. They are echoes of what others expect of us, or they voice expectations we have for ourselves. 

But it occurs to be that they are always incompletely delivered. The real "should" statement should come with an "so that" attached at the end so that we are not just reminded of what to do but why it's in our interest to do it. 

I just did it in the last sentence. 

Tyrants say "should" and expect immediate, unquestioning, yet effective compliance. Leaders say "should . . . so that" to produce a desire to comply that comes from within, not just from without. 

  • I should wear a mask so that, if I come across someone who is contagious, I won't catch it and won't spread it to others who are high-risk.

  • I should wear a seatbelt so that, in case we get in an accident, I will not get seriously injured, feel intense pain, and be inconvenienced by a lengthy and effortful recovery.

  • I should exercise so that my mind is sharp, my body is energetic and flexible, and I avoid disease later in life. 

The why for any proposition always should include the benefits it will bring and the pains it will prevent so that you don't just feel a sense of duty to do the action but a natural desire to experience the good consequences and avoid the bad ones. 

Try this the next time you say a should statement—to yourself, your child, or anyone else—and see what happens. 

Thanks for reading. 

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