Did I really? Did I have to write this?
What would have happened if I didn’t?
Let’s consider the possibilities:
1. I would have written something else.
2. I would have done something else, not written anything at all.
Why do I say I had/have to write this? What do you mean when you use the words “have to”? And why does it bother me so much when I hear people use this phrase?
In question about me: Likely in this case, I have a message that I think is important to share. I want people to know something. I have a burning desire to contribute and my ‘have to’ energy is just hyperbole. The world will just not survive without me sharing my opinion. ugh. Obviously not true.
When do you say you ‘have to’ do something? I hear it quite often, when someone is choosing to do something other than something I am suggesting. Either a class, or dinner out, or something. The response I get is, “I have to go to my friends, or another class, or clean my room, go to sleep early”, an on and on. I also hear it in couples coaching sessions, when one person is talking to or about the other. I had to......often is shared as the truth.
Why does it bother me so much? Because I know it is an outright lie.
Do you actually ‘have to’ do those things?
Of course not.
It is something you prefer to do.
I have two thoughts about why/how you might be saying it. One is more of an etymological discussion. We make lists. These items are actually on your list of things to do. I have this to do tonight, I have that to do tonight. Like wash my hair, or do the dishes, or balance my checkbook. I have these things to get done in the office today. And somehow it got morphed into this idea that we have no choice.
And the second thought I have is the more likely. Saying, “I have/had to” relieves you from the concern you might have of hurting someone’s feelings. The language itself suggests you are not responsible for what you are doing. “You just have to” after all.
If we could really get over the idea that we are the cause of someone else’s feelings, I think it would be easier to speak our truth. “I’d rather do this other thing than what you are offering me.” “I’d like to talk to this other person who is calling me now”. vs. “I have to take this other call.” What does that even mean?
It seems like the current catch phrase these days is, “I want to be authentic”. Let’s start with this simple truth. You don’t have to do anything. You are choosing what you want to do in every moment. Yes there are impacts and consequences. Are you willing to accept responsibility for the impact of what you choose and allow others to feel however they might about your choice? Or are you going to continue to pretend that you can’t do a thing about it.
You had to. You are off the hook for your choice.
And here is the bad news, no one is buying it.
Somewhere inside, we know this isn’t true. And we might feel bad about your choice. It is just that usually the rest of us are equally afraid to speak up about that too. We just say, ‘okay’ and make an internal mental note of another way ‘you did me wrong’.
Next time you say (or hear someone else say) “I have to”…
Consider these things:
1. What needs get met by doing this thing?
2. Why are you choosing to do it?
3. Are you feeling happy about doing it? Conflicted?
4. What is the impact (and to whom)?
5. What conversations—likely with the person you are saying it to, would you consider having?
Or simply do this one thing for two weeks to one month, and see if it makes a difference in your life.
Replace the words “have to” with “get to” or “choose to”.
Do you feel more powerful, more honest, more free or more authentic? After, of course, feeling awkward for a bit. Changing habits, especially ones this important, can wreak havoc with our nervous systems!!