“I have to work late tonight, honey.”
“I have to go to the store.”
“I have to take Billy to his baseball game.”
“I need to get to class.”
“I need to write this blog post.”
We say things like this all the time, but none of them are true.
There’s almost nothing we HAVE TO or NEED TO do. But we like to say “have to” and “need to,” usually to deflect responsibility from a choice we’re making.
“I’d like to go to lunch with you, but I have to get this work done.” Translation: I’m not going to have lunch with you but it’s not my choice. I have no say in the matter.
Often we say “have to” to others as a gracious way of declining an invitation. We could debate being completely honest vs being gracious with others, but the bigger issue in my opinion is when we allow “have to” to become pervasive in our self-talk.
When you tell yourself you “have to” do soemthing, you are telling yourself you have no choice in the matter, which is simply not true. You are lying to yourself. When you tell yourself that lie, two really bad things happen:
- You think of yourself as a helpless victim.
- You overlook other legitimate options.
In fact, a “have to” mentality could be big reason why you are so busy. If you are very responsible or non-confrontational or a people-pleasers you probably have hard time saying no, withdrawing from commitments, or making choices that would disappoint others. Those things could be so difficult that you don’t even consider them options and you feel like you have no choice. But you do have a choice!
So, for example, instead of jumping straight to “I have to work late,”
First, consider the consequences.
What happens if you don’t work late? Maybe you would be unprepared for a major presentation, you’d lose the bid, the company would go under, and you’d be out of a job. So, you choose to work late because you want to make a good presentation, want get the project, want your company to succeed, and want to have a job.
Or maybe if you don’t work late, you just won’t be as far along on a project as you’d like. You’d like to be further along, but now that you think about it it’d be better to deal with that consequence than the consequences of missing another dinner with the family. So, you choose to put off the work.
Regardless of the decision, the important thing is that you are empowered to choose.
Second, consider other options.
Once you recognize you don’t “have to” do something and you have the power to choose, all of the sudden doors are open to all sorts of options. Maybe instead of working late, you could get up early the next day. Maybe you could work late the following evening when your family is going to be out doing other things anyway. Maybe you could postpone the presentation.
You don’t have time NOT to ditch the “have to” self-talk, and instead tell yourself, “I choose to…” Or even “I choose not to…”
What impact do you think going from “I have to” to “I choose to” self-talk has on a person’s attitude and time?