June 16

What Could I Do–Not What Should I Do

What Could I Do–Not What Should I Do

By Deborah Johnson

June 16, 2023

aspirations, career exploration, Deborah Johnson, Goal setting, Goals, growth mindset, lifelong learner, personal development, personal responsibility, podcast, problem solving, what could I do

If you asked yourself the question, “What could I do?” instead of “What should I do?” how would you answer? There are many realms of exploration where we could ask that question such as for problem-solving, personal development, career exploration, relationship dynamics and even personal goals and aspirations. When we focus on the question of “What could I do?” it stimulates one’s imagination and even the ability to dream.

Many have lost their ability to imagine and dream with time restraints, responsibilities, financial restrictions and the additional stress that life brings. Here, we are going to turn some of the inhibiting restrictions from the question “What should I do?” to the question that brings possibility, “What could I do?” Most of these areas reveal the disparity between a fixed and growth mindset. We’ll approach dependency, fear, exploration and responsibility.

Women at Halftime by Deborah Johnson What Could I Do-Not What Should I Do with Deborah Johnson 6-20-2023
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Dependency vs. Self-Reliance

If you are a parent, you understand how dependent your young children are on you. As they grow, the goal is to create more self-reliance and independence, of course within bounds! Overdependence fosters a sense of learned helplessness and can hinder personal development, self-sufficiency and the ability to overcome challenges independently. We see some of this with overprotective parents who feel they need to shelter their kids from most everything. Though that’s not to say we shouldn’t be protective of our kids!

Overdependence on others can make individuals vulnerable to manipulation or control by those they rely on and it can stifle creativity with the lack of thinking for oneself. However, healthy interdependence is good. This interdependence and collaboration with others can be very beneficial, especially with teams. It actually can encourage self-reliance. With self-reliance comes the ability to take responsibility of one’s own actions and offers numerous benefits.

Empowerment and independence based on our own values and goals encourages us to rely on our own abilities and resources with reduced dependence on others for support and validation. Self-reliance also encourages individuals to seek knowledge with an attitude of a lifelong learner to develop new skills and embrace opportunity. Ask yourself, “What could I do with more self-reliance?”

Fear vs. Risk

Many continue to face the fear of Making Mistakes. This is true at any stage of life or a career. It may stem from past experiences, including traumatic events, bullying, parental neglect or even domestic violence. Unfortunately, many of these sources of fear go back to family dynamics and that is why parenting is so important. Though there are many examples of those who have overcome difficult circumstances.

Fear can cause one to freeze with inaction on important decisions with missed opportunities. It can stifle creativity and exploration, and also can cause one to put up an external front, hiding behind a façade with a lack of authenticity and healthy vulnerability that builds relationships and honesty with each other.  

A healthy mindset regarding fear is to first identify what is holding us back. The ability to even take calculated risks is often squelched if one is frozen in fear. Courage and confidence can be built after seeking wise counsel, evaluating potential outcomes and identifying fears and worst case scenarios. Every time we take calculated risks despite our fears, there is a greater possibility of growth, reward and personal development. Ask yourself, “What could I do if I faced more of my fears?”

Exploration vs. Creativity

I have been asked multiple times about how to add more creativity in lives and businesses. This probably stems from the fact that I have produced so much original content. However, creativity has been a discipline in my life and is greatly influenced by problem solving and the willingness to take risks. Limited exploration comes from self-doubt, fear of failure and even perfectionism. With every project I’ve produced, there is the possibility that someone won’t like it. Depending on the amount of the risk, that may or may not matter. Get FREE: Side Business template

Side business template-Deborah Johnson

The book Undaunted Courage tells how Meriwether Lewis and William Clark endured incredible hardships and demonstrated great perseverance as they worked their way into an unexplored Western United States in the early 1800’s. The territory was unknown, there were hostile Native American Tribes, the environment was harsh with extreme weather conditions and they faced many other hardships including limited supplies and illness. But they kept on and didn’t quit.

To embrace innovative solutions takes courage and bravery to face unknown circumstances and not quit. Even though we may never be called upon to explore an unknown territory of land, we are challenged to explore new areas of thinking in our lives and our businesses. This takes getting beyond our self-doubt and putting aside the temptation of comparison with others. Ask yourself, “What could I do if I gave myself permission to think more creatively?”

Lacking vs. Accepting Responsibility

It’s easy to shift the blame to others on almost anything. As children, if we had siblings, they always did it! We were never at fault! But with maturity, we should be able to take on the cloak of personal responsibility. If one continues shifting blame with excuses and justification, personal growth is inhibited and many times one takes on a victim mentality that is a spiral not easily broken.

Also, a lack of personal responsibility brings lack of initiative and avoidance of accountability. It is extremely frustrating to work under a manager that shifts blame on others or takes on an attitude of denial for what has been said or for outcomes that were less than ideal. With those people, it always seems to be someone else’s fault.

Accepting personal responsibility has the potential to build trust in relationships and fosters personal growth as well as growth in a team or organization. The acknowledgement of personal choices and responsibility empowers us to make necessary changes and improve relationships. Ask yourself, “What more could I do if I accepted consequences for my actions?”


Here are five basic steps that will apply to most any situation as we ask the question, What Could I Do?

  • Develop self-awareness
  • Set and Pursue Personal Goals
  • Embrace Challenges with Calculated Risk
  • Learn from Setbacks
  • Be a Lifelong Learner


Finding Beauty in Chaos

Finding Authentic Delight in Original Work

Building a Dream on “What If” with Jim Palmer

What could I do?” stimulates one’s imagination and even the ability to dream.

deborah johnson

Thought Leader, Keynote Speaker, Author

If you are interested in growing and learning, check out our online courses here: Online Learning

1,055 words

Deborah Johnson

About the author

DEBORAH JOHNSON, M.A., creator of Hero Mountain® and former president of Los Angeles National Speakers Association, is an international award-winning music artist, author, speaker and National Media Commentator. She also hosts the popular podcast "Women at Halftime." Deborah provides tools to create your ideal lifestyle and work at mid-career or during the halftime of life, getting unstuck. You can live your second half fulfilled, focused and free! Up for multiple GRAMMY Awards and spending over 20 years in the entertainment industry, she's an expert on how to constantly reinvent yourself in a gig-economy. She is also the recipient of the Women's Economic Forum Exceptional Women of Excellence Award. Deborah is the author of multiple books, over twenty albums and musicals and speaks and performs in both live and virtual events.

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