The Power of ‘I get to’ versus ‘I have to’

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first of all, thank you SO much for your support and encouragement around me going after writing and publishing the new wifestyle BOOK! more on that soon because i actually would love your feedback about some important aspects of it.

after such a positive response about my first rejection letter on friday, i have spent the weekend contemplating what i wanted today’s post to be about. i thought it should be a follow up about the book but since today is columbus day indigenous peoples day in portland i wanted to touch on that (it’s a big deal, read about it. the non-profit i used to work at gets a shoutout!) or maybe i should write about all about the fun weekend we had together (snapchatted all about it @thenewwifestyle).


when i awoke this morning at 5:12am for no good reason, i started going through the list of things that i have to do today. i started telling my husband (when he awoke 1.5 hours later) that “i have to write a blog post since i didn’t last night, i have to go for a run, i have to meditate and i have to prepare for a presentation on partnerships and…”

then my trusty anxiety started creeping in and grabbed me by the throat. i fell back on the bed (not dramatically like a pass-out-scene but like a ‘ack! it’s too much. i’m falling over’) and told my husband i felt overwhelmed.

his response, “you don’t have to do anything.”

immediately my response was “oh yes i do because….!” and launched into how the world could potentially end if i didn’t do all of my list today.

his response, “you don’t have to do anything.”

deep breath. he was right and damn he has a good memory. i told him something very similar recently when he was expressing all of the crazy travel he has coming up. i said “you don’t have to do any of that…you get to!” sometimes it is less fun to get your words thrown back at you but ultimately so necessary. the power of ‘i get to’ versus ‘i have to’ is an interesting concept.

he asked me to rephrase everything that i have going on today and now it sounds like this:

“i have get to write a blog post, i am able to go for a run, i want to meditate and i get to prepare for a presentation to help people have better partnerships.”

that slight change in phrasing decreased my anxiety by like 47%, which is a pretty big deal. it helped to give me back control of my language, my choices and my life. i don’t have to do anything, none of us do.

he also reminded me that i’m working hard to stay present and to not numb out to my anxiety, no matter how terrible it may feel. remember in brené brown’s book “the gifts of imperfection,” she says you cannot just choose to numb out grief, anxiety, vulnerability, shame, etc. but then say “i just want to feel joy, gratitude, and happiness.” that is not how it works. if we decide to attempt to numb the negative emotions, we numb everything out including the ones that bring us great joy.

if you are feeling overwhelmed, change the way you think about the things that are going on in your life. by simply replacing the words “have to” or “should” with “get to” or “able to” it will help to restore a sense of control. the power of ‘i get to’ versus ‘i have to’ is stronger than you might imagine.

have to vs get to

so with that, i am happy to share this insight today in a blog post. now i’m off to go for a run because i am healthy and able to exercise. happy monday and i am glad we get to experience today, even if there is a lot going on!


  1. Elyse

    October 12, 2015 at 9:13 am

    What a great reminder on (Canadian) Thanksgiving! Thanks for this!
    Elyse recently posted…I’m Thankful For

    • chelsea

      October 12, 2015 at 3:19 pm

      yay! happy thanksgiving canadian friend! hope it’s grand 🙂

  2. jennifermckennasays

    October 12, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Great post! My running buddy – Jessica says “You have the opportunity to….” Reframing is huge in my world! I get to comment on my awesome friend Chelsea’s blog, I get to workout today …. 🙂

    • chelsea

      October 12, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      great way to reframe it too “you have the opportunity” i really like that too! thanks for sharing jennifer and for your comment 🙂 have a grand workout!

  3. PK Eastman

    October 12, 2015 at 10:23 am

    Great post, Chelsea. I learned this principle many years ago from Lou Tice and it has saved my sanity many times. It is a principle of great value when working with adolescents and teens.

    • chelsea

      October 12, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      oh i haven’t heard of lou tice – going to check this person out! glad to hear it’s helped your sanity many times too PK 🙂

  4. Amanda

    October 12, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    There is SUCH a power in perspective and giving negative thinking a positive spin.
    Amanda recently posted…Talking About Insecurities: Golden Vlog

    • chelsea

      October 12, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      absolutely agree, amanda!! it’s hard because my mind for so long has gone to that negative space very easily but this is helpful to do that positive spin!

  5. Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian

    October 12, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    This is such a good point! I so often fall into the exact same pattern you described here, where I start my day with a list of “have tos”. I’ll try this mindset change next time that happens.
    Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian recently posted…Wedding Planning Adventures

    • chelsea

      October 12, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      glad i’m not alone in that lisa and let me know if it helps next time you start feeling that way. when i start out my mornings feeling overwhelmed by all the things ‘i have to do’ it’s hard to start with full energy behind it! thanks for your comment 🙂

  6. Paula Howley

    October 12, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    LOVE this post. Today I got to make Thanksgiving dinner for my family and another little family that we love and hang out together catching up on our lives. It was lovely.
    Paula Howley recently posted…Ankle Deep in Brain Dust…plus, a story!

    • chelsea

      October 14, 2015 at 8:37 am

      yay! happy thankgiving paula! sounds like a fantastic day you spent with family and good food!

  7. Joey

    October 13, 2015 at 5:56 am

    Absolutely great post!! We can definitely control our attitude towards things, and this post is a great reminder that we have the power over how we view things!

    • chelsea

      October 14, 2015 at 8:38 am

      thanks for your comment, joey! it is amazing just how powerful our attitude is to how we function (i never used to believe that) but it’s true!

  8. Audrey

    October 13, 2015 at 7:34 am

    That’s a great reminder 🙂 I used to take the numb approach to anxiety/emotions, too. I think I’m happier overall when I let myself get mad/sad/happy/scared. I’m glad your little attitude change improved your whole “(get) to-do” list!
    Audrey recently posted…Learning to Adult at 25

    • chelsea

      October 14, 2015 at 8:39 am

      i feel the same as what you said, audrey. i think i am overall happier when i do experience the full range of emotions (even if some days it’s harder than others)!

  9. Vivien

    October 13, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Awesome post and very true!
    Vivien recently posted…Why I Almost Vowed to Never Enter a Tall Tales Contest

    • chelsea

      October 14, 2015 at 8:39 am

      thanks for reading and for commenting vivien! i always get happy when i see your circular photo pop up 🙂

  10. Elizabeth T

    October 13, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    I catch myself starting my day with a list of “I have to’s” and I get so bummed out. Love the change in perspective that comes with “I get to”! Also I love how much of a team you and your husband are. 🙂

    • chelsea

      October 14, 2015 at 8:40 am

      i totally feel you on that, elizabeth! hopefully the change in wording will help you out too so you don’t feel so bummed. i am so grateful to have my husband as my forever teammate 🙂

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