I Have To Stop Saying I Have To

Weighed down by your responsibilities? Feeling stressed out or even dread about all you “have to” do and take care of? Well, I hear you my friend and I’ve been reflecting about this word “responsibility”, the responsibilities that fill our lives and how we relate to them. Let’s take a look…

Part of this reflection was prompted by my noticing and dislike of hearing myself begin sentences with, “I have to…” or “I’ve got to…” or “I need to…” or some slang gripe about what I was about to do followed by and exasperated grunt or sigh. Does this feel familiar to you?

When I took time to listen to myself and notice how often I mindlessly spoke about and referenced my life and all that I’m responsible for, especially in those quick interactions with others, I realized that I sounded like I didn’t like my life or I felt perpetually beleaguered, beaten down and dragged around by it.  I sounded like I was a victim of the life I created and the choices I made and that just wasn’t true. It was time I reevaluated and reworked how I related to the responsibilities that filled my life.

Depending upon your cultural upbringing, we are taught to either hold responsibility with honor and grace or with burden, frenzy and overwhelm, or a mix of all. One thing is for sure, there is a correlation between types of and degrees of responsibility, how we are raised thinking about responsibility, and the levels of stress and life satisfaction we feel.

A number of different studies have explored the link between these factors. Increased responsibility at work via promotion, increased responsibility in your relationships via child rearing or sick relatives, managing financial responsibility – while all add to the texture and richness of life, all come with their own list of additional items one then is required to be mindful of and tend to – and we only have so much headspace, time in the day, and energy, right?

Whether responsibilities are chosen, inherited or acquired with age, the increase in items of responsibility might very well translate into an uptick in your stress levels. And often times if it’s not so much the actuality of the responsibility we have but rather how we hold what we are responsible for that influences how we manage with said responsibilities. Basically, much comes down to our perspective, attitude and worldview.

I’m whining about needing to fill the car with gas. It’s deep winter and very cold, and I’m annoyed and just want to go home. Groan or gratitude that I have a car.

The dishes are piled up in the sink and it’s 1:30am. Whine or laugh thinking about my dinner party with good friends.

I get a call from the bank about fraudulent use of my credit card. Curse under my breath or say thank you for it being caught so quickly.

Yes, it may sound nauseatingly sweet what I’m suggesting, but it works.

When I acknowledge that many of the responsibilities, I have in life are either a direct or indirect result of the choices I made, I take full ownership of the path I have chosen that has led to these responsibilities. When I intentionally clarify this fact I can readjust my perspective and move from the “I have to” to the “This is what I will do now because I chose this,” I notice an emotional, psychological and visceral difference inside.

In other words, I can choose to look at my responsibilities as a gift and as the manifestation of the love, relationships, and the hard work I’ve put in not as “just one more thing on what can seem like an insurmountable to-do list”. Also, it helps me realize that nothing is permanent. The responsibilities of today will invariably change and shift and morph into something else tomorrow.

This shift in perspective is a form of self-care. When we own how we respond to the stuff of life, we are in charge of how we experience our lives.