You really should…

Donkey looking down

Many years ago, a man set off to walk to market with his son. They took their donkey and on the way they passed through several villages.

At the first village the people laughed at them. “You are so stupid”, they said, “one of you should ride the donkey.” That seemed like a good idea, so the son got on the donkey and they walked on.

Then they came to the second village. “How terrible”, the villagers called out, “forcing an old man to walk while the young man takes it easy. The old man should ride!” So the father and son swapped places.

At the next village they again found themselves the object of ridicule. “Idiots!” the people cried. “You should both ride the donkey!” So they did.

And at the next village the people threw stones: “You should be ashamed of yourselves!” they shouted, “crushing that poor animal! You should be carrying the donkey, not the other way around!”

You can probably see where this is going. At the next village the people told them they should stop carrying the donkey and simply walk to market. So they did.

Different people will always tell you that you should do different things. You will never be able to satisfy them all.

A ‘should’ is a rule of thumb: a principle for behaviour that used to make sense in the past but might not work any more. And when so much change is happening all around us, even your own ‘shoulds’ may no longer apply.

Better, instead, to do what is right for you — no matter what anyone else thinks.

Learning to spot your shoulds will help you find a better alternative, so can get to market faster, your way, and without a sore back.

How often do you hear the people around you say, “You should…” without really explaining why? How often do you do the same? And in a time of  so much change, doesn’t it make sense to check whether these ‘shoulds’ still apply?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By Frank Jakobi via

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