I just completed reading a chapter in the book 48 Days To The Work You Love by Dan Miller which asks about having a plan for your future. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have never been able to look at the future with any certainty and making plans for it was something I have never wanted to do. How can I plan for the future when I have all I can do to make it through the now? I can’t see that far ahead and what happens if I don’t feel like doing what I’ve planned for the future once I get there?
In a conversation with a friend the other day, I learned that she shared my fear of the words “have to” in any sentence. I have to go to work. I have to honor that commitment of time to (some task) that I made two weeks ago. I have to do the dishes. I have to ….
My immediate response to those two words is one of complete defense. I feel tense, put upon, taken from, resentful, and contrary to the activity at hand. In order to survive in my world of many have-to’s, I have developed protective boundaries to reduce the number of have-to’s in my life. I make the rules. I decide when to answer the phone, go to work, exercise, make plans to do things, etc… If I don’t “feel” like doing something, I just don’t. I have given myself permission not to go there. That’s all well and great, but sometimes you really do “have to” do some things. How could I get through those times without all the negative feelings associated with those words?
Something I learned many years ago to help me with this problem was a simple word substitution exercise that allowed me to access my truth in these “have-to” situations. Take any sentence with those two words and substitute “have to” with the words “want to”. If after saying the sentence with the substituted words my answer is “yes” then I graciously continue forward with the task. If I hear the answer, “no”, then I decide how to proceed based on that. Is this something that is going to require some negotiation and discipline to work through. Sometimes that is called for, but I do not feel that I must do things simply because that’s how they ought to or should be done. Ought and should imply a judgement originating from somewhere outside of yourself. It usually has nothing to do with your own values.
The next time you have to, ought to, or should do something, ask yourself if you want to. Make your plans for both the moment and into the future based on what is in your highest and best interests. Having a clearer vision of what I want to achieve for my future, I no longer see planning for it as a “have-to” but as a “want to”.
Yours in transformation,