Do We Have To or Get To?

Motivation is a tricky thing.

Understanding what pushes us to make a decision or carry out an action is a multi-billion — if not trillion — dollar industry. The line between psychology, advertising and high-level neurophysiology is blurring all the time as a result. Finding the proper mental triggers to pull and correct sequence is the goal of all commercials, everybody acknowledges this on some level.

Moving through life, we gloss over the reasons for our choices a lot — most are so reflexive we hardly even consider them. The way we produce results varies from person to person (and probably task to task), yet I’m confident in any instance the driving force arises from the answer to a simple question:

Is it an obligation or a privilege?

Tuesday night, I contributed to a discussion about the nature of our responsibility to God. A guy in his mid-20s and I both referred to the pressure we feel in living up to that.

“I think of it as an opportunity,” a young woman replied.

I pondered the response intermittently for about 24 hours.

Then, I found an answer. Inspired by the words of a friend, I remembered there are basically two mindsets we can have when approaching anything:

We either “have to” or “get to” — and neither is wrong.

Looking at the phrases, it’s easy to see how opposed they are: the former is weighed down and the latter is unburdened. The implication of desire is almost absent in the first and practically synonymous with the second.

“Have to” is adversarial.

By nature, it lends itself to situations where power comes into play, when one will is matched against another. I recall it used well in sports: we have to keep them from scoring. Athletes understand — even thrive — on it.

However, the statement takes on a life-or-death quality which, when carried over to day-to-day activity, leads to resentment or — in this guy’s case — paralysis. Every situation has heightened importance and making an incorrect choice seems fatal, a recipe for overanalysis and delay.

“Get to” is fortunate.

With a turn of phrase, the effort becomes a mission. The sense of duty is still there, but the tone is different. The stress is gone. And, unlike the other fragment, this can be paired readily with “want to” every single time. It follows, then, passion would accompany the labor–a wonderful development that strengthens commitment.

Either way can be used as a means to the same end.

Some people need to be squeezed.

Others prefer to be unconstrained.

What matters, ultimately, is the assigned purpose being fulfilled.

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2 Responses to “Do We Have To or Get To?”



  1. 1 Intention to Detail « MeBuilding Trackback on September 28, 2010 at 5:51 am
  2. 2 Life Savings « MeBuilding Trackback on October 20, 2010 at 10:52 am
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