I don’t have to, I get to

This lesson could very easily be taken from from a summer of drum corps, made to sound like 149 of my closest friends and I overcame some unspeakable horrors and learned many great lessons. It would be reasonable to do so–I could pander to the band kids who think their activity of choice isn’t recognized and maybe get a few shares on tumbler. But I won’t. However, feel free to read it that way–it’s still applicable.

Interestingly enough, this came from my second swim lesson.

As catchy as the title might be if it came from my first swim lesson–“I don’t Have to, I Get to: A Lesson from My First Swim Lesson”–I don’t think I had enough of a clue what was going on to think about what I was doing any more than simply copying movements and trying to string them together.

But for the second lesson, I hadn’t made time to get some goggles. That means I got to work on kicking just about the whole time.

*Disclaimer incase I make this sound really bad: I did a few laps on a kick board and I thought it was hard because I’m out of shape. This is more about a habit of mind than me being out of shape, promise.*

Different mindsets are useful for different purposes. Sometimes thinking “I have to” is the right choice. I think it has a very “getting things done” air about it. You put your head down, you do the work, it has to get done.

You can change one word. Have becomes get. I get to. To me, this sounds more like an opportunity. The great thing about opportunity is that you can take it and make it great. When you get to do something, it’s yours. In the context of the swim lesson, I thought about it more. I noticed how different parts of my body felt when doing different things and I compared that feeling to what coach was telling me to do. I asked a bunch of stupid questions to help me understand. And for that, I got better.

If we dichotomize the two–have to is negative, get to is positive–we find ourselves sitting in a lesson about how positive thinking can positively impact your life.

Anecdotally, many claims have been made that affirmations (positive thinking) improves your life. An example is the author of the comic Dillbert, Scott Adams. He claims to have told himself every day while looking in a mirror that he would become a successful comic writer. And to ease my skepticism and near radical empiricism there’s a study by Barbara Fredericton, which is well-explained here.

I’ve skipped most of the benefits of positive thinking because they’re well explained elsewhere in more depth and more eloquently stated than I could have done.

The real lesson is that thinking positively is hard.

If you’re blessed with rampant optimism, google “do affirmations work?” For everyone else, try telling yourself that you will earn ten million dollars next year. My immediate internal response is something like “Yeah right…” and I expect yours is similar.

Let’s reframe that example goal of 10 million dollars.

“I have to earn ten million dollars next year.”

“I get to earn ten million dollars next year.”

In my mind, I have to takes less effort up front and more later. I don’t have to worry about it right now because I have all year. But when the year is in progress, I feel pressured by the deadline. I have to find a way to make it work. It sucks. It’s just a negative experience.

However, I get to takes more effort up front and less later. How I’m thinking of it, this wording requires me to actively find something that I want to do and will get financial gain from.

Getting to do something sounds more pleasant than having to do something.

What do you get to do tomorrow?

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