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Should you hold onto something that doesn’t make you happy?


Dear Jennifer, should is a tricky beast. Or, as I like to call it: “Should.” The question to ask is, “Should according to who?” Why is what others think is appropriate applicable to you? Who gets to decide what is best for you?

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That’s the problem with “should,” it distorts our thinking. We end up just automatically looking elsewhere and outside of ourselves for answers. The implication implied by “should” is that we ourselves don’t have the answers. And that implies that somehow we aren’t qualified or sensible enough to determine what’s good and appropriate for ourselves.


In the end only we ourselves can decide what’s best for us. After all, we know ourselves best. Not only that, but people are different. Very very different. It only appears that we are similar, but that’s mostly superficial as we tend to behave in similar ways for practical and convenient reasons. But inside, there’s a huge range of what makes us individuals.

Looking at holding onto something, we can ask ourselves what’s the Value in it for us? What’s the Usefulness? Here it helps enormously to be Aware that Good is not necessarily nice. Taking this Understanding and applying it to the specifics of a situation, we may arrive at seeing that whatever it is, it can be Good for us, but not nice. However, usually we are consumed with the not-nice aspect, and this tends to dominate our perspective.

If we make that shift to focus on what’s Good about the situation or issue then this can cause a considerable change in our happiness. If we know something is Good for us, if we are sure it is good for us, even if it isn’t particularly nice, it makes it easier to deal with. We can even achieve a complete turnaround in our perspective and now see what wasn’t nice, as nice. Once we focus on that Goodness, it can have a profound effect on our happiness.

Often fully understanding the extent of the Goodness involved leads to not-nice becoming nice. Because now Appreciation enters into the picture, as well as Value and Usefulness. Now we can address the critical question: “Is it worth it?”


Is that reward, that payoff, that benefit, is it worth the effort involved. Here stress and unhappiness and such are included in effort, because it takes energy to suffer. That’s the price we pay. So we have to look closely at the Goodness, at the Value, at the Usefulness and decide if the reward is worth the price, worth the effort, worth the hassle, worth the effort to US.

Not to anyone else, but worth it to us, ourselves, personally, intimately, worth it according to our most inner selves. Only we can make this determination for ourselves. No-one else can. here we have to let go of the distortion of “should.” That’s according to others, according to an average, according to not-you. “Should” can’t ever really be appropriate except by chance.

When we look past “should” and look honestly and without filters at that payoff, and if it works for us, then it usually changes much. Usually we realise we have been holding onto things because of others, because of “should’ because somehow we thought this is the right thing to do. That’s the deceptive corruption of “Should.” It gets us to do things according to what’s good for others, not what’s good for ourselves.

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Balancing Appropriateness

We also don’t want to turn into inconsiderate self-centred a-holes, at the same time, living our lives according to what others want is no good either. We need to find balance. Yes, as much as possible, live in a way that does not make others unhappy, but at the same time, we can’t sacrifice our personal integrity and our own happiness either.

Much depends on exactly what we do and how we behave. If it is direct actions that can affect others, that’s one thing, but if it’s an issue of perception and style and Way-of-Being, which are purely subjective, well, then if others are made unhappy, that’s their choice. We cannot for instance accommodate intolerance or pettiness or other negativities.

If what you are holding onto is neither good nor makes you happy, then letting go is entirely Appropriate and Sensible. I can only imagine you would hold onto something that makes you unhappy because there is some good involved. But good for whom and good why? Asking these detailed questions and looking at the precise reasons will lead you to an answer which is Appropriate for you.

One thing to keep in mind is that if we are unhappy, we add to the unhappiness of the world. Likewise, if our happiness is at the expense of others, we also add to the unhappiness of the world. This means we have to find ways to be happy that do not add to the negativity of the world, it also means we have an ethical responsibility to BE in such a way that we add happiness to the World. A powerful reason when it comes to deciding whether or not to hold onto something causing you unhappiness.


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