Ever hear a person approaching retirement say, “Now I’m going to start doing what I want to do –– not what I have to do”? It got me thinking. How much time do we spend doing what is expected of us rather than doing what we really want to do? It’s a tough dilemma that we face every day.
Unfortunately, we do what we “have to” do all too often. We dress up for dinner even though we’d rather go casual; we stay after hours to impress the boss; we go to the annual party, yet again, even though it was boring last year; we ditch the girlfriend because the parents don’t approve. You get my drift?
Before you know it, one simple gesture becomes habit, and you find yourself spending a lifetime doing things for reasons other than because you want to.
Here are several reasons why we feel compelled to “do what I have to”:
Satisfaction. Most of us want to please those we hold in high regard. So we do “what we have to” to satisfy family members, friends, and superiors.
Acceptance. When we’re young, we want to be friends with the cool kids. When we’re older, we do “what we have to” to become “members” of groups that we admire.
Acknowledgement. All of us prefer a pat on the back rather than an ugly frown from others. So we adjust our behavior to win praise.
Reward. We “kiss up” to folks who can benefit us personally. We do “what we have to” to secure that reward or promotion.
Fear. We simply do “what we have to” to avoid criticism or punishment.
Payback. We feel a responsibility to pay back those who’ve done things for us in the past.
Conformity. We do “what we have to” to conform to expected norms rather than stand out in the crowd.
Are Your Have-to’s Overwhelming You? (A Dilemma We All Face)
Are the expectations real or imagined? Do people make you feel obligated to satisfy their expectations or are you putting the pressure on yourself? When was the last time you tested that premise?
Do you place more value on what others think of you or on how you view yourself? Listen to your conscience. If you’re not ready to do something, don’t let others convince you that you are.
How much time do you spend trying to gain acceptance? It takes a lot of energy to masquerade as someone else. In fact, it’s exhausting. Real friends accept you for who you are, not who they want you to be. Be the real you. Everyone else is taken.
Do friends and family assume payback for their support? Real friends don’t keep score. They give of themselves without expectation of something in return.
Do you compromise your principles to please others? Does your conscience conflict with demands being placed on you? Remember, you have to live with yourself for the rest of your life.
How much time do you spend performing your job versus trying to look good? Great organizations reward people based on performance rather than politics. Every minute you spend promoting yourself is valuable time you could be doing something worthwhile.
Are you being asked to give more than you can? If you give generously of yourself, don’t let others make you feel guilty. To some people, enough is never enough. People can make you feel guilty only if you allow them to.
Are your expectations of yourself unreasonable? Some people are perfectionists; they always want to give more. The problem is that they’re tough on themselves to a fault. Do what you can. You’re only human.
The Answer to Your Dilemma: Do It for You
There’s a very fine line between trying to please others so much that your own needs aren’t being met. This creates a tug-of-war with no “right” answer –– but we’re continually forced to make one anyway. As W. Clement Stone, the inspirational author, said, “You always do what you want to do. This is true with every act. You may say that you had to do something, or that you were forced to, but actually, whatever you do, you do by choice. Only you have the power to choose for yourself.” So, how do you choose? Solving this dilemma begins by knowing your personal values, establishing priorities, managing other people’s expectations, and yes … believing in yourself.
When you believe in yourself, you’ll be proud of who you are rather than pretending to be who others want you to be; you’ll pursue what you love most rather than being hijacked by the needs of others; you’ll strive for the standards that you set for yourself rather than seeking the approval and validation of others. And you’ll know in your heart that you’ve given what you can while managing to reserve some for yourself.
Satisfying your own needs does not make you a bad person. In fact, it enables you to share your happiness with people closest to you and still have enough to give a smile away to a stranger in need. Don’t wait a lifetime to satisfy your needs or you may regret it one day. As George Bernard Shaw, the Irish playwright, said, “Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get.” Don’t do this because you have to. Do it because you want to!
What Do You Think?