The words we choose are important. They can built others up or tear them down.

Our words aren’t just important in how they impact someone else but also in shaping who we are as well. Our words reinforce either a positive or negative perspective. Our words subtly echo the story we tell ourselves every single day… a story that after a while becomes what we tend to believe.

Many times it’s the simple words, the word we don’t even realize we’re saying, that can have such an impact.

One of those words or phrases is HAVE TO.

I was talking to someone a while back and for whatever reason I picked up on the fact that she kept saying “I HAVE TO do this” and “I HAVE TO do that.” As her words became more obvious I realized how many times she said it in that one conversation (which was a lot). So, I set out on my own small experiment of consciously listening to how many times I would naturally say HAVE TO in a conversation as well as how many times others would. It was much more than I expected. You should try it yourself and see.

It was a subtle thing, an unconscious word choice but a choice all the same.

Here’s the thing…

  • HAVE TO frames things in a way that says I am obligated or required. It’s negative in most cases.
  • GET TO frames it more from a sense of gratitude and appreciation. It’s positive.

See the difference? It’s a simple shift of perspective but it can mean a lot over time as we subtly train our brains to respond out of a place of gratitude and thanksgiving versus an obligatory requirement.

The truth is, there’s not much in life that we HAVE TO do but there is a lot in life that we GET TO do.

  • That job that that you HAVE TO go to work at today, yeah… you GET TO go there. You GET TO earn a paycheck, regardless of how small or large it may be.
  • That meeting that you HAVE TO go to, yeah… you GET TO go there too. Could be worse, you could be sick or injured and physically not able.
  • That bill you HAVE TO pay, again… you GET TO. Consider that you could be living in a 3rd world country with no access to the modern commodities we GET TO pay for.

You get the point. Life is a gift, a gift that is much more enjoyable when we choose to see it that way.

So, go ahead… make the choice to replace HAVE TO with GET TO and see how your perspective begins to change.

Will you make the choice?

(BTW… this is a great lesson to teach your kids as well as adults).

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Hi Daniel, great post. I've talked about a similar thing on my blog a while back… the idea of Have To vs. Want To. In a creative sense, if I over commit myself and get too specific, I end up with a "Have To" project. Here is an example. I like to write on my blog. It's a creative outlet and I usually find great enjoyment writing about topics that interest me. Over the years I've tried to make my blog more organized at times and I will announce to my audience that I will write 5 days a week about certain topic(s). The problem with this is it takes the spontaneity out of the exercise, and instead of wanting to write about something, I find I have to write about a certain subject. When I "have" to do something, I find I tire easily and I soon look for shortcuts. I find the less I promise, but the more I do, the better the outcome. Here is the post:http://ow.ly/1O8b5

    • Thanks John. Just added your blog to my reading list. 🙂

  • Doug

    Wow – what timing. Yesterday I was presented with an "opportunity" to re-arrange my schedule and attend an end-of-school awards ceremony for my 5th grader. I groused to someone that I "HAVE TO" move meetings around and attend when I should have been thrilled that I "GET TO" go and be a part of my son's life, not to mention being thankful that he did well enough to get an award in the first place.

    Thanks for the reminder to be thankful and keep things in perspective!

    • Great example Doug. It's not an easy shift but over time it gets easier. I think it really helps to also remind us of where our priorities are at.

  • Love the post. So important to keep the right perspective. At the end of the day, the only thing that changes is perspective! (sometimes you have to… errr GET to… do the uncomfortable anyway!)

    And now… I GET TO help my wife with her garage sale! 😉

    Happy Friday.


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  • Daniel, Excellent article on adjusting one’s mindset and reframing events. It is really all about perspective. This whole concept should be required reading for Millennial entering the workforce. I think many Millennials (or the instant gratification generation) expect things to happen too quickly and easily. There isn’t nearly as much struggle and adversity as there was when our parents grew up. I’m glad I grew up on my father’s stories about the great depression and P.O.W. camp in WW II. Made for what I call “instant perspective” when the going got a little tough for me (or so I thought).

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