August 04, 2008

Turn a have-to into a get-to

About two years ago, a good friend of mine (Mark Schulman) shared a simple philosophy that changed my life: Turn your have-to-do activities into get-to-do activities.

This is especially valuable on a Monday, when you feel like you have to do so many things – and you feel burned out or overwhelmed.

Here’s the idea: reframe your tasks into opportunities. Seth Godin also advocates this mental approach to daily ‘chores’. He once quipped that he didn’t have to blog everyday, he gets to blog everyday. By reframing, you can find more joy in your day to day responsibilities.
If you think about it, most of our activities are really opportunities that we’ve lost our gratitude for. We think of work as something we ‘have to’ go do, but when we first got the job, we thanked our lucky stars that we ‘got to’ have this career opportunity.

Is there a have-to on your list that deserves a reclassification into get-to? Pick out three big tasks you ‘have to’ do this week and pretend that you’ve been fired from them. Imagine you no longer get to manage your team at work. You no longer get to drive your son to baseball games and sit in the bleachers cheering for his team. You no longer get to attend creative meetings to hash out details on the new product. Think about it. Doesn’t that make you feel a little silly for complaining about these types of ‘duties’?

Tomorrow I get to blog, do three hours of phone work promoting the new book and then drive to Pasadena to meet with the web design firm working on my new site. I get to do these things and I’m blessed to have these opportunities. With that attitude I just may be productive, innovative and nice to be around. Try it yourself and you’ll see.

Posted at 4:16 PM in Business Effectiveness  |  Permalink  |  Comments (7)  |  TrackBack (0)



Tim once again you are so right. I am one of those people that the grouches of the world can't stand because I am always happy. Giving thanks is big for me. I even give thanks for the setbacks, instead referring to them as "learning moments".


Tim- Thank you for this reminder. Seems so simple yet hard to do sometimes! I manage 15 sales reps and this is a good perspective to offer them in my communication to them this week! thank you!



As always, thank you so much for the reminder! The words we use shape our future...

Another thought that you may like... It's not what happens to me, but rather, what happens for me in life. Every experience is a good experience when we learn from it.

Thank you again!


This re-framing is akin to the research that shows we can act our way into a better feeling.

Example: smile more often and get happier
+ people are more likely to smile back.

Although it is easier to spiral down into conflict, we can use Seth's approach to re-framing to spiral up into happier, higher-performing behavior - with others.


Thanks for the reference, my friend. Your addition of the concept of getting fired from your tasks really identifies that we can take for granted the seemingly mundane freedoms we have worked so hard to manifest.

I'd also like to add that another great philosopher, Dr. Jim Samuels and I were speaking and he pointed out that it is our lack of remembering why we do these tasks that causes us to identify them as burdens rather than accomplishments. We are not really changing our 'get tos' into 'have-tos' as much as acknowledging that when we have to do something we get to have a desired outcome which we need to keep in the front of our minds to fortify us as we do these tasks!

You rock Tim-
Mark Schulman


Tim, this is extremely insightful. So many people get bogged down with work and live in a continual rut. I am trying this on a daily basis.



Everything you said makes sense and affirms what I've believed in for so long, chiefly:

1. Life is a matter of perception - it's not what happens to you that matters but how you perceive them

2. gratitude is the most powerful tool we can have - if you focus on what you're grateful for, you're less inclined to take things for granted and attract more of the same

Solid tips here! Thanks.

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