This past year I have noticed how my vocabulary impacts my attitude. Words have power. They impact others, of course, but they can also have an impact on us.
For example, several weeks ago, I was headed out of town to a speaking engagement. A friend called and asked me where I was going. I said, “Oh, I’m headed to San Jose. I have to speak at a convention.” I said it with a little resignation in my voice.
When I hung up, it hit me. I don’t have to speak. I get to speak. That instantly changed my attitude.
How many people would gladly do this for free—or even pay for the opportunity? Yet I was getting paid to do it.
The first expression (i.e., I have to do it) is the language of duty. Nothing wrong with that. I am all for responsibility. But too often, we say it with a sigh, like it’s a sentence—or we are a victim.
The second expression (i.e., I get to do it) is the language of privilege. It is as if we have been given a gift, and we are relishing the opportunity.
This subtle shift may seem small, but it has had a big impact on my attitude. I am choosing the language of privilege every chance I get.
- I don’t have to workout this morning; I get to workout. What a privilege to be healthy and be able to care for my body.
- I don’t have to write a new blog post. I get to write one. What a privilege to have readers that actually care what I have to say.
- I don’t have to meet with the guys in my mentoring group; I get to. What a privilege to meet with eight young men who want to learn and grow.
- I don’t have to go to church today; I get to go to church. What a privilege to belong to a church where I can worship God and where I have such good friends.
- I don’t have to stop by the grocery store on my way home; I get to stop by the grocery store. What a privilege to live in a place and at a time where we don’t have to forage for food.
You get the idea.
You can make this shift, too. Here are three suggestions:
- Become aware of your vocabulary. This is a little like my post last week on the difference between try and do. The first step is to actually become aware of the words you are using.
- Start using get to rather than have to. You don’t need to become compulsive about this, but start intentionally using the language of privilege rather than duty.
- Notice the difference it makes in your attitude. For starters, it can suddenly make you grateful. Rather than dreading or resenting an activity, you can be thankful for it.
A few days ago, I was talking to an author friend, who was lamenting the fact that he had to actually write his book, now that he had a contract.
I stopped him and said, “No, Josh, you get to write this book. This has been a goal of yours for as long as I have known you. You are living your dream, buddy!”
Instantly, his attitude shifted. “You’re right. I get to write this book.”