Should, Must, Have to

Tree Looking UpTrying to catch my breath between work and teaching and my research project, I realized I have not posted my New Year’s Resolution for this year to once again share what I am thinking about (in the hopes that it may trigger some reflection, keep me honest, and perhaps give me some support). I think I did somewhat well with the one I worked on (as personal improvement) in 2009.

Now, for 2010, I am trying to be more present to the uses of the terms should, must, and have to. Perhaps more than being a little present and aware of them, I am trying to limit their use in my verbiage, as they seem to get me into nothing but trouble.

Should implies some obligation, whether externally driven or internally focused. Either way, the issue of power is involved, with me at the receiving end of it. Whether I am told I should do this or that (usually to support somebody else’s agenda) or I believe I should do something (usually related to childhood control issues to see the world in a certain way), I often find that guilt and follow-the-leader (who somehow always knows better and more) drive me in ways I often do not want to go. It is so easy to do things because other people conveniently do the thinking (i.e., power issue alert!) for me (you?).

Must is the same, though it often comes from a higher moral, patriotic, academic, or organizational place. I would never be blogging for years or engaging in interesting research if I only listened to ways how I must think, believe, do, or say. Is Have to much different?

Now, I am not that much of an activist (ok, I am alas not one at all), and am not advocating any behavior beyond my own change in perspective. However, this may be where activism does start . . .