In our daily lives, we often use phrases like “have to,” “need to,” and “should” without giving them a second thought. These words might seem harmless, but they can hold us back in significant ways.
The Weight of “Have To”
“Have to” is a phrase that can add a heavy burden to our lives. When we constantly tell ourselves that we “have to” do something, it can lead to a sense of obligation, pressure, and even resentment.
Whether it’s a task at work, household chores, or personal goals, this phrase can make us feel like we lack control and are at the mercy of external forces.
We have no freedom.
The Limitation of “Need To”
“Need to” suggests necessity and often creates anxiety, overwhelm, and stress.
When we constantly focus on what we “need” to do, it can overshadow the activities we genuinely want to engage in.
This pressure to meet external expectations can lead to burnout and a loss of self-direction.
“Need to” removes the freedom to do what you want.
The Trap of “Should”
“Should” is often used to express societal or personal expectations.
We may tell ourselves we “should” exercise more, eat healthier, or work longer hours.
Even when these expectations seem positive, thinking we “should” do it often leads to feelings of guilt and inadequacy when we don’t live up to them.
“Should” can be a harsh and unforgiving taskmaster.
And the truth is, there is nothing you “should” do. Should isn’t real. And it takes away your freedom.
Walking Through Sludge
On top of all this, each time we tell ourselves we have to, we need to, or we should, we make it much harder to do the thing – no matter what it is.
Using these words is like digging a giant pit of sludge in between you and the thing you want to do.
So now, not only are you not free to do what you want, you also aren’t free to do it in a way that’s easy or enjoyable.
Imagine for a moment you’re laying on the couch, catching up on a bit of Netflix or reading your latest book. When you think, “I should get the kitchen cleaned before dinner,” the chances of you actually cleaning the kitchen are much lower than if you thought, “I want to get the kitchen cleaned up before dinner.” Even if you did then get up and clean, the chances of you enjoying your experience are lower still.
These words have power.
One more example from my client, “John.” I often noticed John using “have to,” “need to,” and “should.” “I have to work late every night to get that promotion,” or “I need to make everyone happy.” The constant use of these phrases was causing him immense stress and affecting his well-being.
As I showed the power of these words and how they affected him, he decided to make a change. He shifted his mindset by changing “I have to work late” to “I choose to work late because it aligns with my career goals.” Instead of saying, “I need to make everyone happy,” he began saying, “I will do my best to make people happy, but I can’t please everyone all the time.” This shift allowed John to reduce his stress, set healthier boundaries, and focus on his own well-being, which ultimately improved his relationships and work-life balance.
Breaking Free from These Limiting Phrases
- Use Different Words
Recognize that your choices are yours to make. My favorite replacements are “Want To,” “Choose To,” and “Get To.”
Why do you want to do this?
Why do you choose to do this?
Why do you get to do this?
If you cannot answer one of these questions in a way that feels good, don’t do it.
- Give Yourself Permission
Give yourself permission to only do what you want to do.
You may want to go to work because you love being able to pay your mortgage. But each time you tell yourself you have to go to work, you limit yourself. You make it harder to go and harder to enjoy it.
You may want to exercise because it makes your body feel amazing. But each time you tell yourself you should, you limit yourself. You make it harder to exercise and harder to enjoy it.
You may want to finish the dishes because you love having a clean house. But each time you tell yourself you need to, you limit yourself. You make it harder to wash the dishes and harder to enjoy it.
- Make a Not-To-Do List
If you don’t want, choose, or get to do something, consider adding it to your Not-To-Do list.
Why torture yourself about things you don’t want to do and, often, things you’re probably not going to do anyway?
Add them to your Not-To-Do list and be done with them. Then, each time your brain reminds you about that thing, lovingly remind your brain that it’s on your Not-To-Do List and doesn’t need any more of your time or attention.
Questions To Consider
- What things do you think you “have” to do? Why? How might you be wrong about that?
- What things do you think you “need” to do? Why? How might you be wrong about that?
- What things do you think you “should” do? Why? How might you be wrong about that?
- Take each answer from the questions above and consider why you WANT to do it, why you CHOOSE to do it, or why you GET to do it.
Remember that it’s your life, your choices, and your path to create. Embrace the freedom to shape your destiny in a way that aligns with your true desires and values.
You don’t have to do anything. You don’t need to do anything. There is nothing you should do.
There is only what you want to do, what you choose to do, and what you get to do.
Now that’s freedom.
Live Free. Love Life.