Pressure Words

“I should, I have to, I ought to, I need to, I must”… sound familiar? These phrases have a precise name, “modal operators of necessity,”  but I call them pressure words.

We live with our thoughts, all day, every day, morning ’til night. How many direct commands do you give yourself in a day? One an hour?  One a minute? How often do you bully yourself with language?

Putting pressure on oneself often backfires. The rebel inside crosses arms, digs in heels and refuses to budge.

I use these words in an effort to motivate myself, but being ordered about invites resistance. Some time ago I set out to find a new, more effective and positive motivation strategy.

I decided to change my pressure words to “I want to, I hope to, I would like to.” I gave this project my attention for a solid week: edit out the shoulds in all their forms, and replace them with wants.

At the end of the week, I realized it was a much bigger job than anticipated. My head was filled with shoulds. At the same time, I could tell that this simple mechanical change in my internal dialog was transforming my world.

Try this for a day.
Listen for these language patterns:
I should
I have to
I ought to
I need to
I must

Replace with I want to in some form (“I’d like to, it would be nice if, I’d feel good if….”)

You might notice that you have a choice.


Jan Elfline

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