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Change Your Attitude And Outlook By Changing One Word

Updated on April 23, 2018


This article suggests a simple change you can make to your internal dialogue that can greatly affect how you feel about yourself and your situations.


Internal Dialogue

As we go about our daily lives, we all have an internal dialogue taking place all the time. It happens automatically, in real time, at a conversational pace. This is how we think about what is going on around us. Sometimes, this internal conversation is simply an observation of what we're doing or seeing at the time. It's often how we work through an issue. It's almost as if a part of our brain is providing a play-by-play narration of what we're doing, thinking, and feeling.

Words are important. The words you use in your internal dialogue – the conversation that you have with yourself nearly all the time – can make a difference. Using the wrong words can enforce a negative outlook while using the right ones can help improve your attitude. If you're like many people, this dialogue can be very self-critical and can have a negative impact on your attitude about yourself and others.

"Have To"

Our internal dialogue often includes things that we “have to” do. We “have to” go to work. We “have to” stop at the grocery store. We “have to” pick up the kids from school. What do all these “have tos” have in common? They're all chores that we can't get away from and that are probably keeping us from things we'd rather be doing.

It's true that those things need to be done. We can't get around that fact. So, what can we do to improve the situation?

By changing our internal dialogue from “have to” to “get to”, we can look at the same things in a very different way.

How would you describe your internal dialogue?

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“Have To” Versus “Get To”

The phrase “have to” sounds like an order. It's like a command or directive that you have no choice but to follow. You have no say in the matter. Subconsciously, it has negative connotations. After all, no one likes to be told what to do. Many people will subconsciously rebel in a situation like this. Since it's your own mind that you may be rebelling against, this isn't in your best interests.

“Get to” sounds like an opportunity. It implies something positive and satisfying that you can look forward to with anticipation. It can be freeing and rewarding.

By telling yourself that you “get to” do something rather than “have to” do something, you can approach that thing with a very different point of view. You can begin to see that thing as an opportunity that has been made available to you rather than a task that you've been burdened with. This can help you have a healthier attitude about things that you otherwise have little control over.

Here are a few examples that show how this change can be used and the effect it can have.

Go To Work

You can tell yourself that you “have to” go to work. You'll be there all day working to make someone else rich. You don't want to do it, but you have no choice.

Or, you can tell yourself that you “get to” go to work. You have the skills, education, training, luck, or whatever else it takes to be employed. You earn money through honest effort and are able to provide for yourself and perhaps a family. There are many people who would love to go to work, but don't get the chance. Aren't you glad that you get to?


Make Dinner

If you “have to” make dinner at the end of the day, you know what a chore it can be. All that time and effort and you have to do it day after day. It seems like it never ends.

Instead, you can decide that you “get to” make a meal that nourishes your family and leaves them satisfied. You may even get the chance to all sit down together, talk about the day's events, and reconnect with one another. There is still work involved, but this small change in wording can help you see this as more than a chore that needs to be crossed off your list.

Grocery Store

You may “have to” stop at the grocery store on your way home. It will be crowded and it will take a lot of time and money. It's a real inconvenience.

On the other hand, aren't you lucky that you “get to” go to the grocery store? You don't have to hunt or gather your own food. There's a great variety of things to choose from and it's all safe to eat. Nearly everything is available at any time of the year. There are places in the world today where people don't have options like this.

Visiting Elderly Relative

You may feel that you “have to” visit an elderly relative. Perhaps this is someone who isn't well and may not be around much longer. The thought of this can be depressing.

But, you “get to” visit with this person again. You have the opportunity to show your appreciation for the things this person has done for you over the years. You may both take some comfort in that. Many people regret not getting the chance to say the things they wanted to say in a situation like this, but you get to.

Pick up The Kids

You already have a lot going on during your busy day, and now you “have to” pick up the kids as well. It's another chore on your long list.

When you “get to” pick up the kids, you get the chance to see how their day was. Maybe they've learned interesting things, or met a new friend. Kids are changing all the time, and by picking them up, you get to see some of these changes day-by-day. Enjoy these times; they will be over sooner than you realize.



You may “have to” take daily medication because of health problems. It's often expensive and there can be unwanted side effects.

On the other hand, you “get to” take medications that help keep your health problems under control. They may allow you to live an otherwise normal life that you would be missing without them. Isn't it great that scientists spent years developing such medications and you get to benefit from them?

Paying Taxes

This one may be a bit of a stretch, but the principle still applies. We work hard for our money and we “have to” turn a big chunk of it over to the government. There's income tax, sales tax, meals tax, estate tax, etc. – can't they stay out of our wallets?

By paying these taxes, we “get to” have services that we all take for granted. We have fire and police departments, safety inspectors, highways, bridges, public education, a strong military, and many other services. You may not agree about the value of some of these things, but they're all important to someone. We get to have these services because of the taxes we pay.

Do you think these changes have the potential to help you?

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Don't be a victim of your internal dialogue. Recognize when the words you use are affecting the quality of your life. Then use small changes to help you see the positive side of the things you are doing. It can take some practice to recognize when your internal dialogue is negative, but once you do, you have the option to change the words you use. Choosing to do this can make life a little less stressful, and a little more joyful.

Related information

The Bank of You - Putting time and thought into your self-development can be an investment with a long-term payoff in your life.

The Benefits of Mistakes - Most of us try to avoid mistakes, but there are times when mistakes can lead to new discoveries.

© 2015 Ron Bergeron


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