52 little practices for a year of big change
Replace “I have to” with “I get to”.
This practice is similar to the should practice. When you do it you’ll notice it feels both similar to and different than the “should/could” practice. Both connect you with your choices. Both ask you to look at the needs which motivate your actions. This one ignites gratitude - one of your most direct paths to joy.
Seeing the gifts.
When I replace “I have to” with “I get to” I am asking myself to see the gifts which exist in every moment of my life. Life is a gift. I don’t have to be here, neither do you. We don’t have to care. We don’t have to act. We don’t have to struggle. We don’t have to rejoice. We DON’T. We get to. We get to receive this gift. We are receiving this gift every moment. When I replace “I have to” with “I get to” I become aware of the gifts I am receiving with every breath and every movement, every thought, every interaction, every action, because the greatest gift right now, is life. As long as there is life, there is opportunity to serve, to create meaning, to learn, to grow, to see beauty, to feel love.
I don’t have to do the dishes. I get to. I have the privilege of choosing whether I prefer to leave the dishes and clean them later, or never. I could let them pile up. I could let someone else do them. I could throw them away.
Each choice has rewards. Each choice has a cost. I am privileged to have the dishes, to have dirty dishes which I ate food on, to have had that food. I am privileged to have water running into my house to wash my dishes with. Running water is awesome. I spent some of my childhood without running water in the house. You really appreciate water when you have to haul it up a hill in a bucket if you want to wash dishes. I am privileged to have two hands to wash the dishes with, and soap, and sponges. These things make washing dishes easier. You know what. Washing dishes is kind of fun if you settle into it. It’s meditative. And it’s sooo rewarding. A little water and rubbing and pow! You have sparkly dishes!
When my kids were young I didn’t “have to” pick them up for school, or make them dinner, or wake up in the middle of the night to ease their tears. I got to. I was privileged to do so. I am privileged to have children. I am privileged to love them. I have been given the gifts that help me care for my children. Food, clothing, housing, I don’t take any of this for granted.
I don’t have to go to work. Or to a party. Or on any errand. Or on anything on my list of places to go with things to do. I could walk away from all my “responsibilities” and live on the street or not live at all. I could. I get to do those things which keep me safe, which give me food, and love, and health.
I get to choose this life. Because I have life.
I’m alive so I have resources. It’s true I may not get to choose the price for going after what I want. The price may be more or less for me than for someone else. I do get to choose though. I get to choose whether to move forward and pay that price, or stay where I am and pay that price, or move sideways and pay that price, or go backwards and pay that price…you get it…there is always a choice, there is always a price, there is always a reward. I get to pay the price. I get to receive the reward.
I have a breathing body, a thinking brain, a feeling heart, to help me. I have breath. (For me, breath is connection to the infinite power).
I don’t have as much health as some. I have more than others. My choices are affected by this. I don’t have as much wealth as some. I have more than others. My choices are affected by this. I don’t have as much intelligence as some. I have more than others. My choices are affected by this. I don’t have as much power OVER my environment as some. I have more than others. My choices are affected by this. I have love, I have relationships, I have you. I have me. We have enough power WITH each other to be alive, and hopefully enough belief in each other and life to keep wanting to be alive for as long as it serves us to do so.
GET STARTED WITH THE PRACTICE.
Every time you hear yourself say “I have to” (out loud or in your thoughts) stop. Take a breath. Replace “I have to” with “I get to.” Continue with your sentence. Commit to a day, 3 days, a week (your choice) of this practice. Spend a few moments at the end of the day reflecting on the practice.
TAKE IT DEEPER
When you stop yourself and replace I have to with I get to, take a minute to
reflect on all that contributes to you having the choice to receive the gift being given to you (like the gift of “getting out of bed now” or “going to work” or “picking up my son from school” or “studying for my exam”).
Acknowledge and if needed, mourn the needs which you are letting go of (for the moment).
For example, when I am invited to spend an evening with my friends and think to myself, “I can’t. I have to get my homework done” The gifts I can connect with when I say “I get to do my homework” could be - I have resources to be in school. I have an opportunity to learn. I have the resources I need to do my homework (like computer, library, etc…), I have a future which includes the knowledge I am acquiring by doing my homework.
The price for choosing to do my homework rather than going out with my friends may be to miss the opportunity to connect and share pleasure with my friends. I don’t minimize the sacrifices I am making to do my homework rather than go to a restaurant with my friends. I can both receive and appreciate the gift of getting my homework done, and mourn the loss of an evening with my friends - and then perhaps, celebrate that I have friends that I love and want to spend time with - so in a way - celebrate my mourning. If I didn’t have the love I share with these friends, I wouldn’t feel sad about missing an evening with them.
Now before I end I think I must share this…
When I speak of replacing “I have to” with “I get to” and the joy which results for me when I do so, I’m speaking from a place of immense privilege. Many of the practices I offer here come from this place and are most likely to be relevant to those living a life as privileged as mine. I think it’s important to name this. My basic needs are met. I am not at risk of losing my bodily safety, my dignity or my freedom to the will or whim of others. I don’t have to fight for those basic needs on a daily basis, or even a yearly basis. In fact, when or if ever I am faced with that kind of struggle, it’s most likely a once in a lifetime experience. This is not true for many. Their struggle to survive is real and constant. Their struggle to thrive is real and constant. Their struggle is more complex than a change in perspective. Suggesting to simply “change your perspective” to someone who struggles in this way, in a relationship or environment which is oppressive, could be catastrophically harmful.
What do you think?