As we turn the calendar page to 2018, many of us are thinking about resolutions. Last year at this time, I wrote about being more forgiving. This year I’m working on being more grateful.
Self-talk and your inner dialogue are surprisingly powerful influences on your thinking. And, true blog confessions? I think my inner dialogue is getting more and more cranky the older I get!
My aunt, Diana, introduced me to what I believe could be the solution. A tiny, utterly simple vocabulary swap that will have huge ripple effects on your entire pattern of thinking.
The change is this: Every time you catch yourself saying “have to,” say “get to” instead.
For example, when a friend asks you to lunch on Friday and you decline, saying, “Oh darn, I can’t that day. I have to go to the dentist. Let’s do breakfast on Saturday instead.”
You would instead switch the word “have” for the word “get” and say, “Oh darn, I can’t that day. I get to go to the dentist. Let’s do breakfast on Saturday instead.”
Changing that one little word has the power to change everything in your brain. You may not even take the time to process through the thoughts behind your statement, but they will go from something like this:
“I have to go to the dentist.”
‘Ugh. Drudgery! I hate giving up the time, sitting in that chair, having my teeth poked at and prodded and learning I have the inevitable bi-annual cavity no matter how much I brush or floss!’
...to something like this:
“I get to go to the dentist.”
‘I live in a country where I have access to healthcare for my teeth! I have the money to afford getting them cleaned and cared for, and to have my cavities filled. I don’t have to face a future of my teeth decaying or falling out.’
Do you see what attitude the words “get to” create? Gratefulness. It’s simply inevitable.
This subtle change in your pattern of speech is normal enough not to make you sound like a weirdo, but abnormal enough to trigger your brain to take notice of what you are saying. And it really works!
Here’s what my cranky inner self is grumbling when I say, “I have to go grocery shopping:”
‘Grocery shopping is the worst! Especially when I have the kids in tow. In the winter, just bundling them to leave the house requires the stamina of a triathlete, and then I have to schlep them around a huge store, load the van, haul all the heavy bags in and then try to put everything away. All this while they’re trying to tear open cookie packages and dump them on the floor!’
My inner self turns grateful when I change my words to, “I get to go grocery shopping:”
‘I can afford food! It’s beautifully laid out for me in a store. I don’t have to grow it, harvest it, or can it for the winter. I have an able body and a driver’s license to go shopping for myself, and the strength to load my own car and carry in my own bags. Every one of these are things I take for granted every day that other people don’t have.’
I have heard many testimonies and sermons about how easy it is, when you stop and think, to be grateful for the many blessings in hard situations. For instance, our pastor had his credit card stolen, and was quick to point out that he was grateful to have money that someone could steal! It’s not hard for us to see the blessings in our lives. It’s just hard for us to take the time to see them moment by moment. This small vocabulary change is a tiny reminder you can give yourself throughout the day to do just that.
Before: “I have to drive my daughter to soccer practice.”
‘Does anyone else feel like they’re bungee strapped to their minivan? I think I’m going to install a coffee bar in the center console.’
After: “I get to drive my daughter to soccer practice.”
‘I’m capable and available enough to drive my daughter to soccer practice. We can spend the time talking in the car, and she’ll know I’m there for her.’
These are just the small things. The inconveniences, the hassles, and the headaches that trip us up and make us crabby, especially when we’re hungry, amiright?? They’re the easy things to start retraining ourselves to say we “get to” do.
But what about the harder circumstances in life?
“I have to stay home with my kids.”
‘Even though I love them, I’m exhausted. I feel like all I do is clean up after them, play peek a boo, make them snacks, and try to keep my one-year-old from taking a leap off the top of his brother’s bunk bed. I miss my office. And I can’t even remember what having disposable income feels like...’
“I get to stay home with my kids.”
‘Even though I’m exhausted, it’s an enormous privilege to be able to afford to stay home with my kids. Even though I feel like all I do is try to keep them alive (barely successfully!!), I know that this time is precious and short, and this season will be gone before I know it. Today I got to pour love and care into my children, all day. That’s awesome to be able to say.’
“I have to go to work.”
‘Monday morning again. I am so tired of this crazy schedule. It’s so hard to pack everyone up and get them out the door so early in the mornings, be gone all day, get home just in time for dinner, homework and bed, and then do it all again the next day. I don’t know if I can stand this grind for another week!’
“I get to go to work.”
‘I get to earn a living today. I am getting paid for my labor. Not only that, I have co-workers who are wonderful, and I get to do a job that is fulfilling and affirming. I get to do something that I’m good at and that makes a difference in people’s lives every day, all while supporting my family.’
These are just a sampling of some of the very real struggles moms face, and I don’t want to trivialize them in the slightest. Some of us are facing even harder things, like the death of a loved one or a health crisis. It’s important to be honest with ourselves about our feelings, so I don’t want to suggest that we should all just sweep real heartaches under the cheery-sunshine-I’m-fine-I’m-grateful-for-everything rug. So, you can prayerfully consider how you might apply this vocab change to the more serious stuff of life, and if it would be helpful for the season you’re in.
Once you’re in the habit of telling yourself you “get to” do certain things, you’ll naturally begin talking that way with your kids, and you might see big changes spread to their attitudes as well. For example, at 6:30 AM when you’re trying to rouse your pre-teen out of bed...
“Wake up, you have to go to school.”
‘Yep. School stinks. I completely get how hard it is to wake up early in the morning just so you can go sit through boring classes that you don’t care about and probably won’t need in life, all while navigating Junior High (aka the most awkward and stressful social experiment ever invented). Just bide your time and plow through until you can graduate- in a mere 7 years!’
“Wake up, you get to go to school!”
‘I know you’re too young to understand this yet, but you have to trust me that your education is precious. It is an incredible gift and privilege to be educated. Abraham Lincoln had to walk miles to find and read one book. Yet every day you go to a building that is filled with books! And not only that, but people teach you how to read them and think about them critically. Past generations would have given anything for the knowledge and learning you are privy to every day. Even today, there are some children around the world who still have no access to education, or who have to walk miles or work in cramped conditions with few resources. You’re blessed to learn in a place that is safe and convenient and comfortable. And since I’m on a soap box, let’s not forget that a loving mother is waking you from a deep sleep that was afforded to you in a warm cozy bed, and that breakfast is readily available to you downstairs after your hot shower and access to spectacular dental care! So, get moving, okay?!’
Well, I think if we’ve learned anything here it’s that there is a LOT of talking going on inside my head. :) And hopefully if you’re in the same boat, we can turn a little more of that talk into gratefulness this year by declaring aloud that we “get to” do hard things. By doing so, I believe we’ll be on the path to one of the things I covet most as a woman of God: a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in His sight.
Happy New Year!