You probably use this phrase all the time… it’s time to stop.

Chris Sowers
Dec 16, 2017 · 3 min read
Photograph by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Something was bothering me about the way I’d ended the conversation, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Did I actually want to hang out with a couple of buddies after work? Maybe have a beer or two and talk about the kinds of things that coworkers talk about when they hang out after work… you know, work?

Of course I did.

“Sorry guys, I have to get home. We’ve got a busy evening and I need to help.”

We did indeed have a busy evening. Soccer practice for our 12- and 9-year old sons, and music lessons for the 7-year old. So that much was true.

But did I have to get home? Did I really need to help? That was questionable.

My wife was already planning on driving the youngest to his music class. And all it would take was a phone call to our neighbors David and Kelly, who have kids on the same teams as ours, and soccer taxiing would be taken care of too.

The truth was, I wanted to get home. I wanted to help. But driving home after work that day, I certainly wasn’t thinking along those lines.

Nope, instead I was thinking about the great conversation I was missing out on. The gossip. The rumors. One of the guys always seemed to be the first to know what our annual bonus was going to be, and this was about the time of year that he always seemed to know. The other guy always had a funny story or two about the latest senior staff meeting. A glimpse behind the curtain that the rest of us rarely get to see.

I was missing out on all of that. All because I just had to get home. Had to help. I had no choice. Resentment was starting to build. All of these obligations, all of these domestic responsibilities. Can’t a guy just go have a beer with his buddies, for crying out loud?

By the time I got home, I had talked myself into my status as a domestic prisoner. Shackled by my children. Enslaved by my spouse. Trapped and underappreciated by the whole lot of them, I walked into the house and made a snide remark to the first offspring I saw about how I had come home to serve him.

What in the hell was wrong with me?


Words matter.

They matter when we speak them out loud to other people. They matter when we write them down. And yes, they matter when they come from that voice in our head.

I have to go to work.
I have to go to class.
I have to study.
I have to get home.
I have to make dinner.
I have to… I have to… I have to…

With all of this having to do stuff, are we really choosing our behavior? Are we really in charge? Our brains hear “I have to” so much that they start to wonder.

And we start to resent.

Try replacing “I have to” with something else. Perhaps “I want to,” or simply “I’m going to.”

Check out the difference:
“Sorry guys, I’d love to but I have to get home to help with evening activities.”
“Sorry guys, I’d love to but I want to take my kids to soccer practice.”
Or “Sorry guys, I’d love to but I’m going to head home and help with evening activities.”

Now who’s in charge?

There’s no resentment in wanting to, and there’s no resenting what I’m going to do. It’s what I’m choosing, my words remind me. And that means not choosing having a couple of beers with the guys after work, and suddenly I’m ok with that.

Maybe next time I’ll choose differently. Because after all, it’s up to me. And the words I use are a good reminder of that, a good reminder that I really am exercising my own free will.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

Chris Sowers

Written by

I love writing and coaching other writers. Find me at https://www.coach.me/Chris11873?ref=QOvEv or https://www.writing-coaching.com/.

Better Humans

Better Humans is a collection of the world's most trustworthy writing on human potential and self improvement by coaches, academics, and aggressive self-experimenters. Articles are based on deep personal experience, science, and research. No fluff, book reports, or listicles.

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