Replacing “I have to” with “I choose to” During the Holidays
Yesterday I wrote about my stressful November, and my spoon-deprived December. I told you how I took my holiday cards and stamps out, then tearfully put them away. I told you I was shifting my focus from my WANT TOs to my HAVE TOs. It was a post that got some “me too”s, which I appreciate. <3
Last night as I relaxed on the couch, thoughts about intentional choices and value-based living floated up in my brain. I decided I wanted to circle back today, dig a little deeper, and write more about how I’m approaching my holiday HAVE TOs. Here we go!
I love Nonviolent Communication, a process of relating to ourselves and others, developed in the 1960s by Marshall Rosenberg. In his book Nonviolent Communication: A Language Of Life, Marshall encourages us to translate our HAVE TOs to CHOOSE TOs. By changing our language around the things we do, Marshall says we can live more joyous lives-
We cultivate self-compassion by consciously choosing in daily life to act only in service to our own needs and values rather than out of duty, for extrinsic rewards, or to avoid guilt, shame, and punishment. If we review the joyless acts to which we currently subject ourselves and make the translation from “have to” to “choose to,” we will discover more play and integrity in our lives.
Today, let’s try Marshall’s 3 step activity to replace language that implies lack of choice to language that acknowledges choice. I added some mindfulness steps of my own, to deepen the experience, if you please.
- Write down the things you tell yourself you HAVE TO do. List the crappy, draining stuff you dread, but do anyway. Notice how you feel in your body as you write these things down.
- After completing your list, clearly acknowledge that you are doing these things because you CHOOSE TO, not because you HAVE TO. Write “I CHOOSE TO” in front of each item you listed. Notice any shift in your body as you add these words to your statements.
- Get in touch with the intention behind your choices by completing your statements like this- “I CHOOSE TO… because I WANT…” I use “value” or “need” in place of “want” but just use the words you prefer. Notice how you feel as you read your finished statements.
Here’s how the above exercise played out for me this morning, as I took those cards and stamps back out-
- “I HAVE TO send holiday cards.” I felt some jaw clenching and stomach knots. For me these somatic feelings translate into anxiousness and guilt.
- “I CHOOSE to send holiday cards.” I felt a slight lift in my chin and I noticed deeper breathing.
- “I CHOOSE to send holiday cards because I VALUE connection.” I felt a surge of energy in my body, like a sense of purpose.
Language is powerful! Please let me know if you tried this exercise, and if you found it helpful, especially around your holiday “to do” list. Remember to take care of yourself! Your feelings and needs matter! <3