In The Trenches

Do I really have to?

Published on April 30, 2018 Back to blog
Teenage girl Kayaking with Golden Retriever

My daughter, Julia, recently suggested that I write a blog on “wanting to do something” vs. “having to do something.” At first, I didn’t quite understand what she meant – or how it would be relevant to business, so I asked her to explain a bit more. She elaborated, “Dad, when I go to dance practice thinking, ‘I want to go,’ I always enjoy it much more than when I think ‘I have to go.’” Immediately, I understood and thought about how our attitudes can impact not only our own enjoyment and satisfaction (or lack thereof) of situations, but also that of those around us.

How many times have you sat in a meeting, thinking to yourself, “I really don’t want to be here.” I can guarantee that that wasn’t a great meeting – for you, or probably most of the other people in the room. We tend to fulfill our own prophecies. If you think a meeting is going to go well, you perform and participate accordingly to meet that expectation. But, sadly, the opposite is also true – and, when the meeting goes poorly, you are strangely satisfied in some way because it met your expectation.

Our attitudes impact everything we do. Whether it be participation in a meeting, working on a project, attending an event or even just having lunch. If you go in with a negative attitude, you are likely to have a negative experience. A positive attitude will more likely lead to a positive one. 

So, today, I am writing to encourage an attitude shift. The next time you’re invited to a meeting that you don’t want to attend, are assigned to a project you don’t want to work on, or are otherwise put in a situation that you feel you “have to do” as opposed to “want to do,” try this:

  1. Recognize your negative attitude. – A very close friend of mine, who often approaches party-going with an “I have to” as opposed to “I want to” attitude, has a t-shirt that reads, “I’m sorry I’m late. I didn’t want to come.” The t-shirt reminds her of this negative attitude and forces her to consider an alternative. Recognizing that there is a problem is the first step to overcoming it.
  2. Don’t project the future. Direct it. – Consider why you have this attitude. It is almost always because of perceived expectations as opposed to facts. This is going to be boring. I won’t be able to do great work. I don’t work well with this person. The list goes on. But, nothing has even happened yet. Rather than projecting the future, take the opportunity to direct it. Challenge yourself to cause a different reality, and that reality is more likely to come true.
  3. Get excited about the opportunities – Even when, based on past experience, some negatives are likely, consider the positives that could also happen. Consider the relationships you can build, the learning you will gain and, even just the recognition you may receive for having a great attitude.  Every experience is what you make of it.
  4. Inspire those around you to share the attitude – Attitudes are contagious. The worst possible situation is when everyone goes into a situation with the “I have to be here” attitude. Be the leader in the room and help everyone else through these steps. The experience and outcomes will improve greatly because of it.

So, thanks Julia for asking me to write this post. At first, I felt like I had to write it because my daughter told me to (and, I generally do whatever she asks). But, after further consideration I wanted to write it. And, I’m glad I did.

As always, please share your thoughts and comments with me here. And, feel free to share this with others.

Have a great day!

Jeff Freedman
CEO/Managing Partner
Small Army | Finn Partners