How an experimental attitude busted me out of the death lock between "should" and "want to"

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My “should” was always stronger than my “want to.”

So strong that I didn’t even KNOW my “want to” most of the time. I always, always tried to do what I should.

Eventually, my soul screamed in rebellion, and I stopped doing the things I should. But that did not automatically mean I knew how to follow my want to.

I didn’t want to do anything. This is called depression.

So there I was, not doing the things I should but also not doing anything I wanted to. I was stuck as stuck can be.

I started learning about the experimental attitude in Hakomi therapy training. It didn’t fully click until I got into creativity, which happened because of the books Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

A man stares at a large, colorful mural of a pair of eyes and psychedelic shapes.

The experimental attitude means you just try stuff. You do not have to manage your time perfectly. You don’t have to have the right answer. You don’t have to set a goal and work diligently towards it. You don’t have to improve yourself. You just try things.

I tried little things at first. My first artist date was going to the dollar store to see if I could find any treasure. This is something I would have never done because there’s no reason I “should” and my “want to” desire was not so epic so as to convince my “shoulding” brain. I wouldn’t have ever let myself follow such a small want-to before.

But because I was experimenting, I let myself just go. And I found an amazing pack of 600 Lisa Frank stickers for $1.

I was thrilled! My inner child jumped up and down. True treasure!

This was so fun, and so novel, and so different than my normal stuck “what-should-I-do-with-my-time-but-I-don’t-want-to” inner turmoil that I was immediately hooked.

I experimented with painting: acrylics, watercolors, oils. I tried whole new art forms. I played with new dog training techniques for my clever pal (old dogs can learn new tricks, it turns out). I started a dog-walking business. I started this blog.

Somehow, without me noticing it, the war between “should” and “want to” dissolved inside of me. I just do things now. Because I get to do so many things that I want to, I don’t really mind doing the things I “should.”

Whenever I do still hear that old argument start up inside me, I am not paralyzed by it.

I see its old familiar circular reasoning for staying stuck. Then I think, “What little experiment could I do?”

And just like that, my brain is unlocked, and my life is mine for the living.


A woman holds a key, which symbolizes the "experimental attitude." This experimental attitude liberates you from getting stuck thinking about what you "should" do versus what you want to do. It is helpful for unblocking creative people such as artists and writers as well as addressing depression and anxiety.

Mural photo by ckturistando on Unsplash

Key photo by Daryn Stumbaugh on Unsplash