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the Should Epidemic

This is a post I made to the Club Group about an epidemic mindset: the 'Should' mindset. From observation, this mindset can go from harmless to toxic in seconds. An unreasonable and unrealistic Should Mindset can lead to disappointment, shame, frustration, anger, and defeat.

That being said, after creating awareness of the Should Mindset, many athletes I coach have started correcting themselves and seeing themselves with a more positive, motivated, and growth-oriented mindset. They love themselves more.

This post comes from the heart - struggled with a Should Mindset for years. I felt like and disappointment and I was disappointed, frustrated, and worthless. It took learning and reflection to create the words for how and why I felt that way. I'm happy to share my process as it seems like a common mindset, and I understand the consequences.

*This is an edited version of the Facebook post to allow expansion (and, for full disclosure... Some proof-reading).

The ‘Should’ Epidemic

Hey Everyone!

A few of you have come to me to discuss how you’ve been down in training, like you’re not progressing, and that frustration is piling up.

This has come out through related thought processed:

  • ‘I should be lifting X by now’,

  • ‘Why does Jon always PR, yet I never do? I should be able to PR too’

  • ‘Why can’t I do X by now, I have been practicing for a year and I should be able to do X’.

There is no such thing as ‘should’.

I hear people say ‘I should be snatching X by now'

or 'I should lift like X'

or 'I should have qualified for X by now and hit X marker.’

Truthfully, I tell myself the same things too.

BUT SERIOUSLY. Lets give ourselves a break!

The word ‘should’ does nothing for anyone other than create feelings of shame and inadequacy.

How many times do you tell yourself you ‘should’ be doing X?

How many times do you tell yourself you ‘should’ be able to do X?

How many times do you tell yourself you 'should' look like X?

I said those things to myself for years. After the 2015 Western Canadian Championships I felt worthless and useless I was frustrated, and hopeless about weightlifting. I have never in my career (to this day, Feb 7/2018) met my own expectations, met my coaches expectations, or met the vocal weightlifting community’s expectations with regards to my numeric performance (kg’s lifted).

That’s a burden to hold. I have never met an outcome/total goal in competition.

Never once have I lifted the weights that people tell me I 'should' be able to lift.

It’s not that I didn’t try, I gave it everything: My heart, soul, and body.

I was just depressed and frustrated because I only judged my progress in weightlifting based on my total in competition, and what people expected me to lift.

It took me years of frustration to realize that if I focused on the process, I would be much happier. (Interestingly, I lift better when I’m happier and perceive less pressure to perform… Win-WIn!).

Power Over 'Should'

The only thing you ‘should’ be doing is giving something your full effort and intention. Full effort to improve yourself in weightlifting (or life).

People who say you ‘should’ be doing X are clueless and have no idea how damaging their words can be, even when it’s well-meaning. They don't know if you're injured, stressed, anxious, or depressed. They don't know how hard you work. They don't know you already tell yourself the same thing every day.

If we blindly tell ourselves and each other we ‘should’ be X without considering all variables, we can create more frustration than inspiration.

Here are 3 examples of common 'Should's' that I hear:

Example 1: Unrealistic

'I should be able to snatch 95kg by now.’

Replace with:

'I have the strength snatch 95kg, but I haven’t taken the steps to get there yet, therefore this is an unrealistic expectation. If I don't know how to snatch 95kg, that's okay. I will train hard, and use the process to figure it out and then do it.

Example 2: Realistic

'I should be logging my training every session.’

Replace with:

I have a notebook and a pen: this is a realistic expectation. I have the tools and capacity to do this, now I can give it my full effort and succeed RIGHT NOW!

Example 3: Comparison

'Mrs. Snatchalot can snatch X and she started training at the same time as me, I ‘should’ be doing the same weights as her.’

…This is the most common of the ’should’ statements - COMPARISON!

You cannot compare yourself to someone else, in real life (the Outernet) or online.

You are NOT THEM! You not have their DNA. You do not have their life. You don’t have their advantages. You don’t have their disadvantages (which may be more important than advantages).

All you have is your SELF. You can only compare yourself with yourself.

Compare your present self, to the person who you were in the past. That's fair! It is not fair to compare yourself to Instagram stars you've never met.

Replace with:

Last week I snatched 90kg, so this week I 'Should' be able to snatch 91kg.

STILL WRONG - that 'should' statement is unrealistic.

Replace with:

Last competition cycle I trained hard, tapered, and walked in under weight. I snatched 90kg. This cycle, if those variables are the same I hope to snatch 91kg.


Everyone can give effort.

There is no prerequisite DNA, money, or situation, that is required to give effort.

If you feel frustrated about training or life, find something to put full effort into that is unrelated to outcomes or kilograms.

For me, this was my mental game: I put full effort into reflecting every day on what I did well, constructive criticism, and what I was grateful for. I’ve done this for 11 months every single day. My confidence and mindset are at their strongest ever.


So, what do you do if you have a 'Should' mindset that is bringing you down?

1. Catch yourself

Bring awareness to your 'Should' thoughts. Don't try to banish them, just be aware.

2. Log your training.

Include all the reps, sets, and weights.

Reflect after your session by listing 3 things you did well, and 1-2 things you want to work on.

(Note: 'what I want to work on' is vastly different from 'what I suck at')

3. Keep a gratitude journal.

Every morning or evening (or both!) journal about 1-5 things you are grateful for! Even if it is just for a pillow to sleep on - we can all find space to be grateful.

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