Changing One Word Can Change Your Perspective

I start almost every week with two lists. They are written on a legal pad. One list is things I need to do for work. The other is personal to-do’s.

I would love to tell you about my neat system of keeping track of my top priorities and that I always do the “A-list” things first. I would also like to say that I have a massive celebration at 5 p.m. on Friday because this list is done.  

Reality is different. Some weeks, my list has very few things crossed off. Sometimes, I work on low-priority items way too much. 

Most weeks, several items jump on the list that I had no idea were coming. (It’s only 1:30 p.m. on Monday, and something big just jumped on my list that I wasn’t expecting.)

This week, I have to:

  • Take the air conditioner out of the living room window.
  • Work on our org chart.
  • Sign up for volunteer hours.
  • Review our new employee handbook.

The list is much longer, and most of the tasks are pretty routine and not exciting, so I can get grouchy just looking at it.

But a few years ago, I learned a little trick that helped me.

When I feel irritated, I substitute “have to” with “get to.” (I learned this from someone, but I don’t remember who.)

  • I “get to” take my air conditioner out of the window.
  • I “get to” work on our org chart.
  • I “get to” sign up for volunteer work.
  • I “get to” review our new employee handbook.

“Getting to” take my air conditioner out reminds me how fortunate I am even to have an air conditioner. Most people in the world are not so fortunate. It also reminds me of how lucky I am to be healthy enough to move a heavy air conditioner. 

“Getting to” reminds me how much I have to be grateful for in life.

“Getting to” changes my outlook on the world.

So, if you are feeling grouchy about the tasks on your to-do list, switch “have” to “get.” You’ll probably be surprised at how it changes your perspective. 


Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is the Director of Operations for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

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