Word Swaps: Have To and Get To

Here’s a synopsis of my weekend:

“I have to drive to Macon for Alumnae Weekend, where I have to host a bunch of events.  I had to go out and buy three new outfits for all the parties.  I have to speak at a luncheon.  I have to come up with something to say to open the Celebration Concert.  After the concert, I have to run across campus to host a cocktail reception.  Then I get to go back to my hotel and crash.”

Parenthood705All of those statements are true, and it’s pretty much the way I’ve been thinking about a very exciting weekend that’s coming up. But that paragraph sure does remind me of  the scene in the movie “Parenthood,” where Mary Steenbergen and Steve Martin are discussing the fact that they might be having another baby.  He is being pulled away from the discussion.  She asks, “Do you really have to go?” and he moans, “My whole life is ‘have to.'”


This is a habit that I have noticed in myself and I think it’s a habit among busy grownups.  We mentally list all the things that we have to do, our responsibilities.  The danger of a “have to” mentality is that it places more weight on the responsibility of an event or a task and makes it less about the opportunity.

What if we swap “have to” for “get to?”

“I get to drive to Macon for Alumnae Weekend, where I get to host a bunch of events.  I got to go out and buy three new outfits for all the parties.  I get to speak at a luncheon.  I get to come up with something to say to open the Celebration Concert.  After the concert, I get to run across campus to host a cocktail reception.  Then I have to go back to my hotel and crash.”

It’s a verbal shift that inspires a mental shift.  Like that piece I wrote about calling yourself a woman instead of a girl.  The words I use to describe my life don’t just reflect my attitudes about life–they help to create those attitudes!

Yes, my weekend is filled with events that are my responsibilities as president of my college’s alumnae association.  The words I use to talk about them should honor the fact that they are also delightful OPPORTUNITIES!  I get to drive to Macon because G is taking care of the kids all weekend.  I get to host parties–the joy of an extrovert!  I am lucky enough to be able to afford some new clothes.  I get to talk into microphones and I do loooooove talking.  There’s music!  And wine!  And reunions!   Why am I saying “have to” when I am lucky enough to “get to?”

Sure, sure, some have to’s are just WORK.  It’s hard to say, “I get to have a biopsy!” or “I get to clean up this dog barf!”

Nevertheless, here’s my challenge to you today.  Listen to yourself talk.  When you hear a “have to, ” can it be swapped out for a “get to?”  If you try it, let me know how it went!

22 thoughts on “Word Swaps: Have To and Get To

  1. Terri

    I had this exact conversation with myself a few months back, one day when I caught myself in a “have to” mindset vs. a “get to” one. It’s a good reminder today, when I “have to clean out my car, pack my gear and camp with 8 girls in the mountains.” I’m blessed to have a car that can comfortably hold 8 people and their gear, more than enough clothes and shoes to pack for a weekend of camping, and — most importantly but most often overlooked when I’m feeling worn down by them — to be in a position where I can be these girls’ leader and take them on adventures. And to have a husband who is happy to hold down the home front with the boys (and probably finish all the loads of laundry from our trip) and a friend who will take Jacob this afternoon until Daddy gets home. It’s just a matter of perspective. Thanks for the reminder. And have fun this weekend! Now, I have to get my kids off to school. Whoops — did it again. 🙂

    1. Virginia Wilcox

      I get to chuckle at this posting because the random ad that pops up beneath it is the Charmin Bear baby got back ad. Now you HAVE to love that little bit of irony! And oh yeah…I GET to see you this weekend! SCORE!

  2. Lauren McDonald

    Ashley, I love your posts! I have a friend who insists upon “get to” instead of “have to.” She always asks me “What do you get to do tomorrow?” It completely changes the way I think about it.

    1. Baddest Mother Ever

      Yes!!! I started thinking about it when I said “I have to chase after these kids” and then I realized how many of my friends have lost children. Sometimes we forget that our responsibilities are also privileges.

  3. Karen Higgins

    I have tried to change this mindset for a couple of years now. It’s a day to day thing. I even try to make sure I word things “correctly” for my daughter. Because she “gets” to go to school – some kids aren’t so lucky because they are ill or live in a part of the world where girls aren’t educated. And I “get” to go to work – because there are many people out of work that would love to be employed, and have insurance. And the dog puke? I “get” to do that too – because we are fortunate enough to be able to afford a loving pet. It works for everything really. They are all blessings if we recognize them. 🙂

  4. debrahelwig

    We live the life we frame for ourselves. It’s not what happens, it’s how we think about it. Every single thing we experience, we have, we ARE can be a curse – or a blessing! You do a beautiful job of making these truths real and full of breath and life. Love you for it!

  5. xm1204

    I love this idea. Changing your “have to” to “get to.” I think I’m going to start doing that. It’s a great way to insert positive thinking into your life.

  6. Heart To Harp

    Attitude creates experience, and Karen proves with “get to clean up dog puke” that absolutely everything can be reframed into a positive experience! Thanks for the reminder that whether something is a burden or a joy is totally up to me.

  7. Tara

    I have had several friends who have read this post and who have exclaimed (yes with empasis and excitement) that this has changed their attitude–about an impending trip, cleaning out a closet, going to work, cooking for their children, and so on (I won’t confess which one is mine–ha!). You are doing good in this world. Keep it up. You are amazing, and you have a real gift. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

  8. Pingback: Miscellaneous Meanderings | I Might Need A Nap

  9. Pingback: The New Normal | Tales of a Wesleyanne

    1. Baddest Mother Ever

      I’m so proud of you! I was eager to leave for college and had done it several times before for camps and GHP, but I still remember feeling so shell-shocked on that first night. I cried when I didn’t expect to. And the next day, I met a few people and a few more people and they are still the women I love today.

      This is such a huge step for you. It’s OK to have your breath taken away. Do your best every day and remember that your best will change from day to day.

      I send love to you and peace for your mind and heart.


Want to Leave a Comment? Please Do!