The Secret to Enjoying Hard Work

Consider the difference between these two phrases: “I have to.” vs. “I get to.”

Imagine you’re going to spend the day taking care of a sick family member.  Maybe it’s your father, or your brother, or maybe it’s your child.  You’re going to spend a day taking care of their needs.  It’s probably going to be messy, you’ll likely be up and down the stairs multiple times, getting medicine, food, etc.

Imagine yourself spending this day to the mental drumbeat of “I have to.”  When you’re driving over you’re thinking I have to do this.  When the person asks for another ginger ale, you have to get it.  How do you feel when you anticipate this day? What about during the day, as you do each chore, how do the words I have to make you feel?  If your brain follows the same pattern as most humans, going about your tasks with an I have to attitude, is more likely to make you feel overburdened, and even resentful.  Every trip up or down the stairs, every request for more soup will feel like a demand.  An I have to mindset puts your locus of control outside of yourself.

Now let’s flip it.  Imagine the same opportunity presents itself; you get to spend the day caring for a sick family member.  The language shifts.  Instead of driving over thinking I have to, you’re thinking I get to spend a day caring for someone I love.  Each ginger ale or bowl of soup is another opportunity.

Would this day be a wise investment of your time?  How would you feel before, during, and afterwards?   How would you feel about the other person?  How do you think they would feel about you?

The I get to mindset makes difficult tasks more gratifying and pleasurable.  You’ll likely feel a closer connection to the sick person.  You’ll also feel better about your own contribution.  With the I get to mindset, you feel empowered rather than put upon.

The difference between an I have to vs. I get to mindset will dramatically change your own experience.  And equally important, it will also change the way other people experience you.

Let’s take our thought experiment one step further.

Think about some of the people you spend time with, be they co-workers, family or friends?  Do you know anyone with an I have to mind set.  They’re the people who complain before during and after any good deeds or meaningful work.  They typically feel unappreciated and undervalued.

Here’s the sad truth, people with an I have to mindset bring that negative energy into their interactions with others.  Even when they perform the tasks at hand well, they don’t get much positive feedback because their emotion energy has a chilling effect on everything.

People with an I get to mindset, on the other hand, breath grace and positivity into others.  People with the I get to mindset don’t do things for praise or appreciation, yet they get more positive affirmation because of the emotional climate they create.

Taking care of a sick person is hard work, and so are many of the other things our lives require of us.  Yet we are always at choice about the mindset we bring to our tasks.

You can breathe life and grace into situations, or you can add anxiety and negativity.  Which one do you think makes you happier?