Get To vs. Got To

Leanne Buehler, Ph.D., Principal Science and Innovation AdvisorEmployee Engagement, Leadership1 Comment

Stressed out? Try this to manage your to-do list.

I recently had the privilege of spending a few days in beautiful Sedona, AZ where I got to explore the amazing land and learn from incredible teachers. One of the things I spent time discussing was how to keep up with the “busyness” of life. Like everyone, I have responsibilities that keep my days full of “to-dos” – three kids, running a business…the list goes on.  And yet I wish I had more time to prioritize my family and friends, my health, and to be a good boss.

Many days I fall asleep feeling like there wasn’t enough time to do it all and perplexed at how to make room for the most important things. We all have heard – focus on the important, not the urgent (Dwight Eisenhower matrix)! But how!? How do I create space for the important given all that HAS to get done right now? I can’t not get my kids ready for school or get them to soccer practice. I can’t not send out that proposal or meet with that executive team. Right?

In trying to navigate this conundrum, I raised this very question to one of my teachers. What he shared with me was simple yet powerful:

  1. Life is about choices: you decide how to spend your time, no one else decides for you!
  2. If you made the choice, the thing on your to-do list is no longer a “have to” but a “get to” (you picked it!).
  3. “Getting to” is a privilege. The privilege takes out the burden and stress and allows you to focus on the experience and the joy of your choice.

Sound too simple? I thought so too. So I asked my coach, “Hmm, but it doesn’t feel like I have a choice to get the kids on the bus every morning, or that I have to hustle to the office to make my 9:00 meeting. Those are responsibilities that I have to do.”

My coached explained that I do indeed have a choice. He pointed out, I don’t have to get the kids ready for the bus in the morning, I could drive them to school. But then I would probably be late for my 9:00 meeting. And I don’t have to attend my 9:00 meeting, but if I didn’t, I would be breaking a commitment and risk losing a client. So, I do have a choice.

And, he continued, “what if you changed your mindset from ‘have to’ to ‘get to?’” When you approach any circumstance from the perspective of, “I chose this, I get to do this,” the stress of the obligation tends to melt away. You can enjoy the experience, rather than view it as a burden. He reminded me, “have fun getting the kids ready in the morning. Remember it as a time in your day you already have with the people you want to prioritize. It’s not a thing I have to get through to get to the next thing to get through.”

That insight made me look at my to-do list in a whole new way. It is a list of choices I can follow-through on or not. And if I choose what to do, I can also choose how to do it. My mindset is up to me. I can be stressed and overwhelmed or I can be present and grateful.

So, I invite you to try it!  And please share your experiences. What impact has changing your mindset from “have to” to get “get to” had for you?

  • Jessica says:

    Love this Leanne! Useful and true.