Have to and Get to

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of feeling like I don’t have enough “get to” in my life – which I blame on too much “have to”. I’ve been thinking about how often I hear myself and others using the phrase, “I have to”, to describe pretty much every part of their daily lives.  “I have to go to work.”  “I have to go shopping.”  “I have to reply to my e-mails, facebooks, tweets, etc.”  Do you know anyone, including you, who doesn’t talk about how overwhelmed they are.  There is always a pile, a list, a chore.   That pitch is driven by the idea that once we get the lists and chores taken care of then…..  We can relax, have fun, read a book, walk on the beach, start writing the book, painting the picture, spend time with those friends.  Need I go on?  The problem is that the “Have to” list never gets done.  It has dawned on me that this whole issue of “have to” is based on a lie.  I believe that the only thing we HAVE to do in this life is die.  Everything else is negotiable.  Yes, yes, I can hear you say, “But if I don’t go to work, I don’t get paid, I’ll have no food or place to live.”  I didn’t say there aren’t consequences to what we do or don’t do.  All I’m saying is that we don’t have to do them.  There really are choices.  Often they are very limited choices, but there are choices.  One choice I can make is about what attitude I take toward these choices.  I have come to really like coming at all this based on the point of view that I “get to” do, or not do, X, Y, or Z.  No, I haven’t decided to test this all out by quitting working.  I have started on a simpler level, and it seems to be having an impact.  I have added words like “need to” and “want to” to my repertoire.  The first thing I began to notice is that I felt less helpless.  Again, I’m not saying that I feel all empowered and “get to” do or not do whatever I want.  I still drive on the freeway by going the same direction that the other cars are going,  but I drive a little slower because I don’t feel quite so “have to” oriented.  I am amazed at what happens when I change “I have to go to work” to “I get to go to work.”  I know that in this economy I am lucky to have a job.  And I am even luckier to have a job I enjoy most of the time.  I get to have a dog, two cats and two horses.  I don’t have to have them I get to have them.  I am blessed.  And, in exchange, I need to feed them and clean up after them.  Not always convenient or a lot of fun, but it is part of the package.  I can choose to not “have” to be inconvenienced, but at what cost.  It’s a package deal as far as I can tell.  So, where is this all going on the afternoon of this Labor Day? I’m not sure, but I also don’t have to have it go anywhere.  I think I’ll simply let it be what it is for now because I get to make that choice.Cambria Branches

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19 Comments on “Have to and Get to”

  1. Nancy Says:

    I love this Allen! I feel blessed today as well. I get to be with my husband and both of my (grown) kids. The four of us are hardly ever all together anymore. I didn’t plan it and we usually don’t even do anything for Labor Day. But today we are together and we made a feast and life is good. Thank you for the inspirational words.

  2. Diana Says:

    You’re so cool, Allen.

  3. Karen O Says:

    Thank you Allen! Everything you have just said touches me deeply and has been in my thoughts every day these past months. I was very sick recently and since I have been back to health each breath, each step feels miraculous. Just to open my eyes and see the light of life seems surreal. Yes, the moment of my death is the only choice I cannot make and remembering that throughout each day, keeping it in my uppermost consciousness, brings me into presence. Just an hour ago I looked at my to do list and got rid of half of it. Right now my phone is ringing for the 3rd time in 3 minutes, and I’m not picking up. Those are choices. Tomorrow I start an internship at the Santa Monica Family Center and my wish is to remain connected to what you have described…as my schedule fills with more responsibilities and my client load increases to remain unattached to the “have to’s,” be grateful for the “get to’s” and let life flow like the wind knowing that all attachments are temporary and the treasure is in the here and know.

  4. Mishel Says:

    I was just conveying a similar thought to my groups last week. “Have to’s” are related to “should of’s.” Thou shalt not should on thy self. Amen.

  5. Pat K Says:

    Dear Allen, Wonderful thoughts, as usual…

  6. Annie Says:


    PS Thank you

  7. Shannon Says:


    reminds me of the statement – it’s not the destination but the journey. choices get to be part of the journey as do our obligations, which get to be part of the process. regardless of the outcome, I kinda like the process.

  8. Jennifer Seyler Says:

    You know, my life is almost all about “get to” at present, and my sole goal is to figure out how to keep that openness and freedom around for a long time. Since the untimely death of my job at WaMu at the end of June, I have been traveling, hiking, maintaining a daily Yoga and meditation practice, biking, seeing friends, eating good food, kayaking…you get the idea. I have been seeing my therapy clients, but that never feels like work in the truest sense, and as of late, have been doing thesis editing, which is also attending in a way that brings delight. So, I am all about “get to” right now and hope I don’t have to go back to “have to” for a long time, if ever…’cuz this is pretty amazing!

  9. maggie g. Says:


    It’s nice to get some fresh words of wisdom as I quote, almost everyday, those you imparted so many years ago.


  10. Beth Newcomer Says:

    Hey Allen — Good reminder that all words are magic words. –B

  11. Raddish Leaf Says:

    Sweet to read your “have to”/”get to” piece. Isn’t it remarkable how much freedom of choice we really have?

    By the way, I’m glad to note that you’re still driving on the right side of road! 🙂 It increases the odds that we’ll get to read more blog entries from you.

  12. RobW Says:

    A great reminder Allen, thanks!

  13. Cesar Says:

    I also have taken to banishing the “should” statement, its as bad as the “have to” for me.
    My favorite alternative is: “I choose to”.
    Making an active choice, instead of robotically following patterns, is a powerful act. This is true even when that choice is to do the same thing you did the day before.
    Awareness and Choice are acts of Magic.

  14. Dostoevlover Says:

    Hi Allen,
    Nice blog. And if it ever begins to feel like a chore having all those animals around, I can come over and exercise your horses for youi!:)

  15. Deb Says:

    I get to respond to my first blog – ever.
    So much better than thinking about all the emails
    I have to read… er, get to read. And then I’ll
    chose which ones I happily will delete and those
    I happily will respond to.

    Keep writing Allen – and I promise to keep reading. Thanks for your thoughts 🙂

  16. Karalee Says:

    love it…I am forwarding it to my mom right now! Blessings K

  17. heather thomas Says:

    so agree. thank you. this was a great little piece that spoke to me. as you know, i am not a big fan of “have to”. 🙂

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