Ever stop to notice how it makes you feel when you think you have to do something? Nobody likes feeling forced to do anything; in fact, most people will do the opposite when they’re told they “have to”. Just look at kids. Or adolescents. Or adults.
Why do we tell ourselves we “have to”? I have to be on a call; I have to finish this report; I have to make dinner; I have to lose weight; I have to deal with (well, you fill in the blank).
We all know what happens to our sense of enjoyment or pleasure or aliveness when we think we “have to”: gone, gone, gone. Replaced by resentment, complaint or a sense of deadness. Who wants to live that way?
It’s not really living, is it?
We’re all faced with tasks or responsibilities that we didn’t choose and yet if we don’t do them, the consequences will cause harm in some way. Or so it seems.
What if we were to take a closer look at all these “have to’s”? What I’ve realized is that when I tell myself I have to, regardless of what it is, I make myself a victim to something that is beyond my control and have no choice over. So whatever the task at hand may be, I don’t do it with any sense of possibility or discovering something new. I do it out of a sense of obligation or fear and doing it feels cramped and restricted. I resist. And I protest.
But what if we were to turn the tables on that sense of “have to”? What if negative incentive were seen as what it is: an interpretation that doesn’t allow us to really shine, or be inspired, or to discover something new about the subject or even our own possibilities? Why be a prisoner to that way of thinking?
What we can do is realize we always have a choice. If we don’t want the negative consequence we fear, it’s our choice to do whatever we think will be the right thing. But we don’t have to do it unwillingly or reluctantly.
My experience has been that whenever I’m willing to suspend that sense of “have to,” what emerges has more energy, more life and more enjoyment to it. And each time I catch myself saying “I have to” I can choose to reframe it with I “get to”.
Then, instead of the task at hand being a forced march, it becomes an opportunity to see what’s possible, to see what can be created that gives me a real sense of inspiration and satisfaction and inspiration instead of just simply getting it done.
Try it for yourself. A simple shift in perspective can enable you to feel an aliveness that may just have been missing when you thought you "had to".
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