A simple language shift may help change your outlook

Shifting from “I have to” to “I get to”

I read this article from Health magazine and tried it out for two tasks that I was not looking forward to completing: bed time and post dinner clean up. Both were looming and I could feel my energy was not positive. While reading the article, I wasn’t optimistic that such a subtle shift would have an impact. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

The article mentions shifting your language from “I have to” to “I get to.” This language shift helps our mindset from seeing something as a burden to seeing it as an opportunity. Could it really work? Could doing the dishes really not feel like a burden?

I have continued to try this over the past few days and I have been pleasantly surprised with how well it is helping. Of course it doesn’t make the laundry, toys, (children), or dishes go away, however, it does enable me to view these sometimes less than desirable tasks with a different head space.

Complaining is not attractive

The article mentions that changing from “have to” to “get to” changes the task from a threat to a challenge. It’s hard to find the energy for a good threat while finding the motivation for a good challenge is often welcomed. In reality, this language tweak is really about not complaining. “Complaints on the other hand? They can leave us feeling more vulnerable and threatened in the world, furthering a cycle of negativity and fear,” the article states.

When our kids whine, it’s an easy reminder just how unattractive complaining really sounds. It can be absolutely triggering for many of us. And while I’d like to think that when I complain it’s not quite as miserable sounding, I’d be foolish to think it’s any different. Complaining, while sometimes inevitable, is just not attractive at any age. Further, we are always modeling for our kids whether we intend to or not. We can’t possibly spend our time complaining and expect our kids to radiate positivity.

The more I have been thinking about this language shift, the more I realize how much of a positive impact it is having on my day to day mindset. Truth be told, the “burdens” have not going away – those dishes always need to be done. But if I am going to be doing them day in and day out, why not change my attitude? What I bring to the dishes, or bedtime, or dinner time is the only thing I can control. Why not see them as an opportunity? Herding small exhausted children into bed every night will happen. And is incredibly hard. But seeing it as an opportunity may be the catalyst I need to shift my headspace and maybe even elicit gratitude.

Inspired by a felon

John McAvoy just posted the following picture on Instagram which reminded me of the power of positive thinking, controlling what you can control and viewing challenges as opportunities. McAvoy went from being a violent criminal serving life sentences in solitary confinement to an ironman athlete, author and motivational speaker. Through exercise and reading, he created a routine and schedule in his 8ft X 12ft jail cell. He found the drive to not just survive but to thrive. On the caption of this photo, he says, “I wanted to take back ownership of my existence even though I lost control of my environment.”

Thankfully I haven’t found myself in a jail cell, however, I have absolutely felt a lack of control for my environment. Similar to Dr. Eger who has inspired my last few posts, she reminds us, “The only place where we can exercise our freedom of choice is in the present.” I know, saying “I get to put my kids to bed,” sounds like a stretch. But it’s going to happen tonight either way, whether we choose to view it as an opportunity or a burden.

What do you get to do today? It may not make the task enjoyable, but you may be pleasantly surprised to see how you can exercise your freedom of choice in the present and take back ownership of your existence.

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