I loathe administrative and boring work. Still, I spent a couple of hours with the administration of my business yesterday: paying bills, filling in those tedious reports for various insurances and authorities which are required at the beginning of the year.
Not particularly exciting work for me. But “must” be done.
Maybe your “must be done” topics are different. Replace it with other activities you don’t love: "I need to do the tax return. Or: I must get this weekly report for my boss done. I have to walk the dog. I need to get up earlier.
You get the gist: Whatever it is, it tends to be a burden, things we don’t enjoy doing (or the prospect of it) or even hate – this could be the admin as in my case or the tax return, the report, the diet, the visit of the in-laws...you name it.
Sometimes the “have tos” are hard, as we might not know how to deal with them or are afraid of doing them: "I have to get out of this job. Really hate it." But I might in actual fact be scared to take this step or I have not written an application forever...so I'm not sure how to apply in the right way for this job I would love to have.
At other times those “must dos” are simply boring.
Or just something else to come on top of our already super busy agenda.
It does not stop here though. Sometimes the “I need to” are not only those being brought to us from external sources, but from ourselves.
“I must move more to become fitter (or to lose weight…you fill in whatever it is in your case)”. Or: "I need to eat healthier". By the way those are the number one and two on the list of the most popular new year's resolutions.
In any case things we try to avoid to the last minute (when there is a deadline) or altogether (when uncomfortable or not our preference - after all moving more means less time on the sofa).
Unless, of course, you are one of those super disciplined people who just gets on with stuff. All the time…in that case, congratulations (hang on, are you a super human?)
I fought with the “must dos” and “have tos” all the time and just thinking about them made me feel queasy, so I tried to throw myself into the stuff I like (better) and promised myself to do the must dos later.
With the result that they started piling up and suddenly I found myself in trying to catch up all the time. Reminders for the external "must dos" kept coming in and I still procrastinated
Starting tomorrow or next week sounded like a good idea. Or the day before the deadline. Sometimes even afterwards when the threats for penalties came in: “We are going to assume your revenue for your VAT contributions”…gulp.
We all “have to” do topics, right?
At least I did. Yes, you read correctly: did. No wrong hopes here: I still take care of things in my life I am not particularly keen on or font of (or which are difficult). Getting rid of them was not the solution, but rather using the power of words.
Powerful words. And words which indicate that we don't really want to do whatever comes after those. There is a quite a force behind which tries to push us forward, and we are not prepared and looking forward to dedicating our time to it. Words which put weight on our shoulders.
That’s exactly how I felt.
Until I realized that the words I used created these bad feelings of being forced into something, or of plainly feeling powerless and often miserable about the "have to dos".
I found the antidote. It’s fairly simple, but not so easy to implement.
Before getting to it, let me explain the journey which got me there.
I tend to read a lot. Articles which help me improving my professional and personal life. Books. Lots of them.
And I attend seminars and trainings.
Slowly, but steadily the knowledge I acquired and my awareness formed: We have a choice. Always.
Before you start arguing now and tell me that this is rubbish and just not true and point me towards all those unpredictable circumstances, horrible people, awful politicians (they seem to have multiplied lately) and all those laws and regulations, do me a favour and read on a bit.
As human beings we all have the power and possibility to decide what we do. I go even further and claim that we even have the power to choose how we want to react.
If you are into books, take some time to read the chapter (about the first habit) of Stephen Covey’s book “The 7 habits of highly effective people” where he explains brilliantly the concept behind this – with facts and concepts from the field of psychology.
Shortly summarized it basically describes that, regardless of our DNA (this is just who I am…chiselled in stone), our background or history (my childhood or experiences) or our environment, we have the freedom to choose how we want to react to a situation, a person or to circumstances.
Don’t get me wrong: I am painfully aware of the fact that we have all developed triggers and habits which make us react like the Pavlov’s dog in some situations. Besides that it does not mean that we should always react like a saint: If I feel anger I might decide to react angry (some people plainly deserve angry reactions...which does not mean that it has to be rude or disrespectful).
Unless we consciously hit the brakes in those situations and become aware of our triggers we cannot decide or choose how to react to a situation as we don’t see a way out (we’re the victim).
Nope. Lots of stories made their way through media and even history books: Consider people like Mandela or Viktor Frankl (a man, who survived Auschwitz) who chose to react very differently then we might expect to their world around them, with circumstances we can only shudder to imagine.
This is not reserved for those extraordinary people showing up in history, but to everybody of us. Yes, that’s right. We can all do that.
That finally brings me to my power word which has shifted my life substantially.
Though I had gained the awareness of having a choice in everything I do (or how I react) in my life, this was not really being reflected in my language and the words I used.
I found that out when I was lucky enough to meet an extraordinary woman who - during a mentoring session with her - showed me some patterns in my own language which revealed a disconnect between this belief of having a choice and what I was really saying! I was indeed using all those pressure-inducing powerful gremlin words above. And not only sometimes!
So I learned that I can simply replace those with "I choose". Instead of stating: “I have to do my morning exercises” I shifted it to “I choose to do my morning exercises” (or whatever it is I "had to" do).
That’s all? Come on - that sounds far too easy!
Well, more or less. Choosing to do something or to react in a particular way means we are in control of what we are doing and this changes the dynamic of the situation completely.
When we “have to” it is rather connected with a huge effort, a burden, a pain, we are being pushed (even by ourselves), when we choose we are in charge.
An obvious difference, right?
I made the shift to "I choose" to (well, most of the time, you will learn in a few seconds why) and the results are amazing. After I started using "I choose to do my “blank” (fill in whatever you want) I felt that I had taken a conscious decision and I feel good about it, responsible and in charge.
This, by the way, also works for "I have to be......".
For me this blank was often filled with "strong". After all I am a single mum and was financially on my own. Juggling all of that required quite a lot of strength at times. Well, most of the time in fact.So "having to be strong" became my paradigm and sometimes it made me feel exhausted just thinking about it!
Now I have changed that to "I choose to be strong" and it feels so different. Suddenly I can see it as a great trait and majorly useful benefit!
The "job" still stays the same of course, but my perspective and attitude towards it is a completely different one.
That does by the way, not mean that I suddenly enjoy immensely to fill in my tax return or doing my admin (still tedious), but I feel in control and love the feeling of satisfaction when it's done. And I'm thrilled to say that additionally my level of procrastination for the unloved stuff has decreased by quite some margin.
Try it out and replace the need to, must, have to and got to with I choose to and notice the change in how it feels for you.
I said earlier that it is simple, but not so easy. And here’s the caveat: It requires listening to ourselves with a high level of awareness to catch ourselves out when using those words (to be able to replace them). I bet if you do, you'll suddenly hear many people using these gremlin words. I certainly did!
Funnily enough, when I started the process, my language slowed down dramatically. At one time, when I had a call, the person at the other side of the phone even asked if I was still there: I had paused so untypically long to find the right words, that he assumed the call had been interrupted. If you know me personally, you know that I can talk rather quickly (and a lot), hence this was rather strange for me! Bit embarrassing, but funny at the same time :-).
As valid for establishing any new habit, changing the language we use takes time. When we have sharpened our awareness though, we will face funny situations trying to find other ways of phrasing what we intend to say.
I’m not joking…happens to me all the time..still ;-).
You've know that all along or you're doing it already? Well, then here's the advanced version:
Step number 2 is to use a bit of a wider variety of words instead of the have-to-monsters. Think of determine, love to, being excited about, resolved, or plan.
Or simply: “I will do (blank...fill in yours)”.
Decision made, connected with a commitment. Towards yourself or others.
It works – words are incredibly powerful. If you ever had a fight or argument with a loved one, you know.
And you don’t have to believe my words, just apply it and see what happens.
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