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Three words that dismay the most productive and professional among us represent the death knell to a positive mindset. Stephen Covey mentioned them as part of his treatise on Habit One: Be Proactive, and just lately I’ve been feeling their proverbial pinch. The three words are:

“I have to.”

That expression is usually attached to an unwanted imposition or commitment, is it not? If you don’t believe me, ask yourself if, when you are looking forward to executing on any commitment, you use them – or if you use expressions like “I want to”, “I am going to”, or “I have promised that I will…”. In truth, I’d gamble that you only use the expression “I have to…” when what you are about to do is NOT something you want to do, at all.

Well, it’s certainly true in my case.

Until last night. I was reading a book called ‘Best Year Yet’ by Michael Hyatt. He was writing about how barriers present opportunities in the sense that if what we truly want is the other side of such an obstacle, we will do anything we can to go over, under, around or through it. Alternatively, if we aren’t really all that interested in what’s waiting ‘over there’, then there is no way on Earth that we will even try.

Now, I’m not sure if what occurred to me is what he meant, but my brain went, “You don’t have to – you get to.” My brain dropped its mic as it said that. Boom!

And my mind raced.

I get to hold my wife’s hand. I get to ride a road bike because and so that I am fit and active. I get to write because the information technology exists to make that possible. I get to drive a fast car because I earned and inherited money from loving parents that enable it. I get to drive well because people with charitable intent provided the training I needed, and as a result I get to pass on what I learned from them.

I also get to make proactive choices because life gave me the intellect to know that I can, and life did not mar my life with insurmountable challenges. I get to live in a relatively free country (damn that Covid and its excuse for authoritarianism) and am not subject to an unwanted war. I get to hug five gorgeous grandchildren because I got to bring four loving children into the world, and I get their love, too.

I don’t ‘have to’ do anything special to get any of those things. They came naturally, or I sought them out and got lucky that way. I didn’t ‘have to’ have children, I wanted and got to. Some never have that blessing and some don’t seek it – that is up to them.

There’s no doubt about it. I am living a great life because of what I got and get to do,

So from now on, I don’t have to rise out of bed in the morning – I get to.

I don’t have to write a blog that is available to millions (if they want it) – I get to.

I don’t have to walk that bloody dog – I get to.

And it’s quite surprising how that simple change of expression turns an imposition into a benefit,

Try it – from now on, instead of ‘having to’ do something you don’t want do, consider that you ‘get to’ do it because something good happened, first.