I Don't Have To, and Neither Do You

overwhelm thoughts Jan 27, 2021

I wanted to share a little exercise with you today, something that I've recently started doing, that's helped me change my perspective on all the different things that I feel like I need to get done on any given day or week.

This started because I found myself using the phrase "I have to," quite a bit.  

I have to eat clean, I have to exercise, I have to go to yoga, I have to clean the house, I have to do the laundry, I have to make sure that kids get up for school, I have to get out of bed so I can get my work done...whatever the case may be, I repeatedly found myself saying "I have to".

I know, analytically, deep down inside, that there is nothing that I have to do. Everything on my list is something that I'm choosing to do, because of the values that are important to me.

When I say "I have to make sure my kids have eaten today", that's because I love my kids, and I'm making the choice to make sure that they survive and thrive, in this world. Therefore, I get to make sure that they've eaten today, so that I can achieve that value, that is important to me. That's just one small example.

I want you to think ,for just a minute, about all of the things you said today that you had to do. Whether you were pleasant about it, or even grumbling a little bit, it doesn't really matter. The words that you're using, saying this is something "I have to do" might be exactly what's adding a little stress, drama, and angst into your life.

The exercise that I've started, that I found really helpful, is called a thought download...but this is a specific type of that thought download.

To do this, I take a piece of legal paper and just starting at the top, writing the statement, "I don't have to". Then, for each line on that page of paper, I write something that I think that I have to do, but I don't have to.

For example, I don't have to exercise today, I don't have to get up when the alarm goes off, I don't have to make sure the kids pack their lunch, I don't have to do the laundry. Whatever the case is, I make a huge list of all the things I don't have to do today.

Then, when I look back at this list, I can, with a clear mind, think about what I want to do, instead of what I have to do.  For example, I like to live in an organized house, so I am going to pick up today, because I'm choosing to, not because I have to.  I get out of bed today because I want to say good morning to the family before they leave. I make sure that kids pack their lunch because I want them to survive and thrive, not because I have to.

I think this might be a fun exercise, the next time you're feeling overwhelmed about all the things you have to do, and getting all the things done. Or, maybe if you find yourself saying, "Why do I have to do everything?", like I find myself sometimes, this is a really good exercise to determine what you really have to do.

The truth is, there's not a whole lot that you really have to do.  Everything you do, you're choosing because of the values and the importance that you've placed on the outcome.

Maybe, "I have to drink water is the thought". You don't have to drink water. You might die eventually if you don't, but you're choosing to drink water so that you can live. That's a choice you're making.

I want to challenge you to do this exercise once or twice, and see if it helps you to change your mindset about all those things you have to do. Instead, maybe you can think about all the things that you get to do, or all the things that you're choosing to do, and you can focus on why you're choosing to do them.

I hope this is helpful for you.  Have a great time doing this exercise, I'd love to hear how it works out. Drop a comment below or send me a message at [email protected], or drop a comment below.