I choose to stop saying I have to

As part of the Personal Growth Course I’m currently re-reading “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” A lot of great nuggets re-discovered. Specifically, in the “Listening to Our Language” section, Stephen R. Covey writes that our language becomes a sell-self-fulfilling prophecy. Yes, couldn’t agree more. For example, I scroll to the “Reactive Language” section, and it says, “I have to do that.” I go to the proactive equivalent, and it says, “I will choose an appropriate response.” 

Oh .. oh. Now I understand where I went a bit sideways. As they say in the Army: great initiative, bad judgement🤦‍♂️

I’ve been working on avoiding saying, “I have to do that,” but I tried to switch it with what I thought was even more proactive version “I want to do that.” I mean, wouldn’t it be awesome if I just did the things I wanted to, brilliant right?

Here’s the problem. When it comes to making choices based on what brings more love into my life, sometimes, I don’t want to do certain things. I choose to sacrifice because I want to grow in love. Calling sacrifice something that I want, feels somewhat masochistic and perhaps that’s why my word switch hasn’t quite stuck yet for me.

For example, when my mother in law got sick, and I helped out with things like going to the bathroom, I chose to help out because I wanted to grow in love. Not because I wanted to help her go to the bathroom. 

Is it just a play on words? No, not for me at least. I believe that it’s important to say I want to things that I wanted yesterday, want today and will want for the rest of my life. Regardless of whatever I might feel like on a particular day or think is advantageous for me given the current trends. 

By using the word choose, instead of have to, I make it clear to myself that I am responsible for whatever happens because I thought about which good I want my action to be ultimately serving. 

How often do you find yourself saying, “I have to do this”? What would happen if you started saying “I choose to do this” instead?


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  1. I had a similar Ah-ha moment with the word *should*. While working a stressful job, suffering from prolonged anxiety, my wife caught me saying “I should……and I Should that….. Not realizing that my thoughts were putting additional, self imposed stress on my mind and body. I have worked to eliminate the word should from my vocabulary over the last year or two, and it feels great. I do things that I want to do, and not due to some invisible pressure from the words should or have to. Change your thoughts, change you life as they say. The vocabulary in our minds is very powerful.

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