Should, want and be

I should wake up early.
I should listen.
I should be happy.

Saying ‘should’ implies that your actions are dictated by external judgement. Asking the question why for each of these statements makes this clear. Why should you wake up early? Because most successful people recommend it. It is fitting that the Biblical commandments used an older form of should (shalt). Should also points to a sense of  entitlement. If I should be happy, and I am not, it is somebody else’s fault.

I want to wake up early.
I want to listen.
I want to be happy.

Want implies volition. By replacing ‘should’ with ‘want’, we are no longer being driven by external forces. When we want something, it is an innate feeling. Free will exists in the realm of ‘want’. It also implies that we aren’t satisfied with the status-quo, which we wish to alter through our actions. While ‘want’ also expresses desire, unlike ‘should’, the actor is in charge and takes responsibility to exercise it.

I am waking up early.
I am listening.
I am happy.

Moving from ‘should’ and ‘want’ to ‘be’ (whose verb form in English is am), we go from desire to acceptance. Sages and monks in meditation try to internalize this state – to stop wanting the world to be a particular way and accept things just as they are. Being is the bastion of complete calmness. A person who ‘wants’ often considers a person who ‘is’ to be passive and fatalistic. But the person who truly ‘is’ is liberated from the constant stream of wants that arise in our minds.

We are the words we choose to use. Should, want or be? What do you catch yourself using most often?

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