Obligation is an interesting topic, those things that require us to show up and do them: pay the mortgage, go to work, take the kids to school, monogamy, paying bills, you get the gist. We all know well the ‘have to’s’ in life. These obligations can weigh on us, pressuring us, cause us stress. Does anyone want stress? I’m not talking about the stress (eustress) one feels before a performance or deep Crossfit workout, for instance. That’s a good kind of stress, helps you perform at your peak because you want to do those things. What I mean is the distress, those times that leave us frazzled, uptight, demoralized. I call this the ‘get to’ vs. ‘have to’ mentality and duality. Upon further inspection of our ‘have to’s’, they don’t really hold up. Do you have to do anything? Really, follow the logic here. Are you free to do absolutely nothing in life? Some people get this right away, while others buck this concept. Now I am not trying to obligate you to look at your obligations, but it might be a good practice to engage in. After all, any negative energy you feel in life is a drain, a piece of you that isn’t whole, isn’t free.
Don’t we all want freedom? It may be time to inspect your ‘have to’s’ and inquire why you have to do these things. In fact, pick one thing in your life that is a ‘have to’ and follow it through. Why do you have to do it? Are you free not to? Why or why not? This all comes to down to choices we make from our values. For instance, I am free not to pay my mortgage, this is true. But, I actually get to pay it because I value where I live, value my daughter growing up in it, and love it. There is no stress, no ‘have to’. I get to do it. Words convey energy. Often times just changing a ‘have to’ to a ‘get to’ creates a subtle shift in your psychology, your emotions, even in your body, only if you believe it that is. You can relate to a ‘have to’ while saying ‘get to’ but still believing ‘have to’; in essence you are trying to manipulate your mind. Your mind is very smart however and it won’t hold up for long. This goes beyond semantics. Just think about a time, say, you wanted to go to the gym, maybe around New Year’s. You start going, but it feels like a should, a have to, so it doesn’t last very long because your mind is smarter than your will. Willpower is a ‘have to’ with a nice word attached to it. Start scanning the words you use. Do you use should, must, need, have to and other words or phrases that convey obligation? Inspect them as to why, you may be enlightened.
Some of my clients have a solid case of the ‘have-to’s’. They give people what I call a ‘dishonest yes’ and take things on because they think they should or must. When I challenge them to see this, things begin to change. They get to either keep doing it because of some higher value they have or they get to stop the behavior. It is amazing when you can clear up your own energy and turn the dial to more positivity and connection. It really is pretty simple. Wrapped in every obligation is a precious opportunity. Just today I was sitting with a manager at a non-profit who was feeling obligated to hold a supervisee accountable. As we talked through his negative lens on it, we emerged with a ‘get to’ attitude, that holding another person accountable for their role or attitude is a precious opportunity to make things right from his perspective. We essentially went from a drag to feeling auspicious in 15 minutes. It was quite cool to see the obligation unthaw and give way to a new path, a new vision, a potential new way.