The world is just full of all kinds of boundaries and constructs for how you should be.
You must wear the company uniform to work.
You ought to make dinner at home rather than get take-out.
You should save more money.
You would be better off if you spent more calories than you take in.
Is there any surprise when we do this to ourselves?
I should stop eating so much.
I should get this crappy project started.
I should save money by not going to the movies.
I should do my laundry so I can wear something decent tomorrow.
Which of the aforementioned statements sparks you to movement? Maybe none of them.
I'm going to carefully watch my nutrition 3 days per week.
I've scheduled uninterrupted time to begin the project that I'd like to finish.
I enjoy movies and I could go to the theater less frequently... one less movie per month.
Doing laundry is tedious, but it's better than wearing dirty clothes. Once my laundry is completely done (and put away), I'm going to go see a movie.
How do these statements land for you? Imagine yourself setting a goal with some specifics and even a possible incentive. For you, do you think setting a goal would be more, same, or less productive than shoulding yourself?
Many people like the goal-setting approach. It makes more sense in some ways. It's behaving in a kinder way to ourselves in more ways. Goal-setting is also likely much more close to how we would approach helping a friend or colleague rather than shoulding on them.
Why are we so prone to should ourselves?
We hold ourselves negatively accountable for our behavior. Since there is no one else to share the blame and since it is quite easy to allow ourselves to be distracted, we also tend to treat ourselves less kind than we do with colleagues. They are just people who sometimes struggle doing things they know are necessary, but they usually get where they need to be. We are lazy, undisciplined, maybe even too dumb to figure this out.
Of course this is hyperbolic. At the same time, reflect on the language you use to talk to yourself. When you have a task or responsibility, how does your self-talk affect your approach and follow-through? If you're taking on a big goal that you previously have not attained, do you imagine accomplishment, or failure and treat yourself accordingly.
A "should" is exterior. A goal is interior. You get to choose whether you "should" stop using should or if you will set a goal to reduce the "shoulds" you say to yourself each day.