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Have to, Want To 

At my best, I go running most every day. Sometimes, before I run, I feel full of energy, muscles ready to feel stretched and used, eager to get out there and smell the sea and grass and run. Other days I feel reluctant, dragging, comfortable sitting in my apartment, full of inertia. I go anyway, because I’ve learned that how I feel about the prospect of doing something has little relation to how I will feel doing it, how I will feel afterwards, and especially to how valuable the activity is to me. "Just do it," right?

As I ran yesterday, I had the thought that, like Emerson, I would really like it to be true that my life ought to be lived for its own sake and not require diet and exercise. Well it ought to be true. Unfortunately it isn’t. There are certain activities in life that, while prospectively unpleasant, tangibly improve my prospects for the future. Running, dieting, and paying my bills are among these. I don’t feel like I “want to” do them at the time. I feel like I “have to.” How do I eliminate the “have to” from my life?

One of my strong faith-based positions is that I always have a choice. Do I have to pay my bills? No way! It’s just that I choose to pay them rather than face the consequences: finance charges, dunning letters and phone calls, damaged reputation and so on. Years ago I realized that I was choosing to pay my bills and decided to make it as fun as possible. I love games, new technology, and progress. So when I sit down to pay my bills I look at it as a game to get through a stack of paper as efficiently as possible. It’s like shooting Space Invaders. I have the latest in check-paying software, Web-based investment management, and a direct DSL Internet connection. I make it fun. I make it a choice.

I believe that by changing my point of view about anything I can turn it from a Have-to into a Want-to. The trick is in knowing my life purpose and in taking a position that makes this activity on-purpose for me rather than counter-purpose. (If the activity is truly counter to my life purpose, I shouldn’t be doing it.) It’s not enough for me to enjoy the moment now. I want to build for the future. The balancing act is finding a way to enjoy life while building for the future.

Richard Brodie
December 1999

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Last Edited: May 03, 2000
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