“If you truly want to change your life,
you must first change your mind.”

A few weeks ago I met with self-care counselor Durga Fuller about my diet. Our session started with me complaining that I knew better, and so should do better.

I’d met with nutritionists and Naturopaths before, made strict diet plans, and religiously tracked what I ate, when, and how many calories for months on end.

Now eight years later I found myself still addicted to sugar, with bread and cheese the primary staples of my diet. I was frustrated that with all my growth over the years, I still couldn’t eat right.

She pointed out the voice of my inner critic, and the implied assumption that I wasn’t eating better because there was something wrong with me.

Operating on this assumption brings the feeling of digging into heavy murk to try and change an anonymous “something”. It feels overwhelming, frustrating, and unwanted.

Which is why so many of us, saddled with the thoughts of “I should make more money, have a better relationship, eat healthier, etc.” feel weighed down by them. Daily life becomes a constant reminder of what’s wrong with us, what we should be doing that we aren’t, and we don’t want to touch any of it.

Unlike the insulting inner-critic (the one who just yells mean things at you like a belligerent drunk), the nagging critic is harder to see through because it sounds rational. It’s hard not to agree that life would be better if you exercised daily, or were better at your job, or had more energy, or relaxed more, or were playful, or any of a million things we hear and think “I should…”.

Years ago, I’d learned that if you say, “thank you” to the insulting critic, it stops. It doesn’t argue or fight you, it simply has nothing to say when faced with gratitude.

Yet I found the “should” critic to be a much tougher animal. First, it’s harder to recognize, and then upon seeing it, saying “thank you” feels more like an agreement than rising above.

Working with Durga we created a list of things that would actually help me eat better, and fill in the gap between “I should” and “I do”.

In the process I was reminded of a question I’d been taught to ask myself whenever I was struggling with a problem. I realized it was ideally suited to stopping the “should” critic:

Ask, “What’s the most useful thought for achieving this I can have right now?”

Pause, let your mind answer.

This question changes the focus from what’s wrong to what’s possible, operates on the assumption that of course you can do it, and even draws on the vast inner wisdom of your brain to teach you how.

I’ve started taking my should voice as a cue to ask this question, and the result is all sense of inability or frustration has dropped away.

The official plan I made with Durga was to make one small change in my eating habits I knew I could follow, but within a week I’d all but completely cut sugar from my diet, and drastically reduced my cheese and bread intakes. Not because I had any feeling of “should”, but because I simply didn’t want to eat them.