Turning Should Into Want: How to do only what you want to do

What does your To-Do List look like? What is it filled with?
How does it make you feel when you look at it?

Do you want to do everything on there?
Or do you believe you should or have to do everything on the list?

What if you could live your life only doing that which you want to do? Do you believe you can??

For many of us, the idea that we can live a life in which we only do what we want to do brings up so many old stories around selfishness, entitlement, being spoiled, the nobility of working hard and suffering. These stories keep us trapped in a mythology of self-sacrifice, resentment and bitterness.

They cut us off from joy, play, and feeling satisfied and fulfilled by our efforts and work in this world. Nothing is ever enough. Our work is never done.

And we end up screaming in our heads, “What about me??”

How about for you? What objections pop up when you hear my suggest that you can actually do only what you want to do?

How different would your life be if you looked at your To-Do list and felt a sense of excitement, playfulness, and delight?

What if you woke up each morning and said “I get to do all the things on my list today!”?

You don’t ever have to do something you don’t want to do again. And here’s how…

5 Steps for Doing Only What You Want to Do

Discipline is remembering what you want.

David Campbell

1.Know what you want

What is your Big Picture Vision for your Life? What are your values? What’s important to you?

In order to only do the things you want to do, you have to be able to identify and articulate what you want. Makes sense, right?
How could I possibly do only what I want when I don’t even know what I want?

Sounds like the perfect formula for doing a whole bunch of stuff other people want me to do until I figure it out.

Spend some time with this one. Journal about it. Sit outside and contemplate this for a while.

What’s important to you? What makes something worth the time, money, and energy it takes to do it?

2. Make a List of all the things you have to do or think you should do

Again, take some time with this. Include all the everyday, mundane chores. The dishes, the laundry, the carpool, work, taxes, mowing the lawn, weekly dinner with your family, going to the gym.

Include anything that feels like a “have to” or “should” – anything you’re doing from fear, blame, shame, or guilt. Anything that doesn’t feel like a choice, put it on the list.

3. Acknowledge that you are, in fact, choosing to do everything on the list

Before each thing on your list, write “I choose to…”

This practice helps you wrap your heartmind around the fact that you are indeed choosing to do each and everything on your list. If you weren’t making that choice, it wouldn’t be on your list.
The question then becomes, Why?

4. Go through the list and identify your Why.

Why are you doing each thing on your list?
Does it align with your Big Picture Why?
Does it allow you to live your values?

I choose to do the dishes because I want to have a clean environment in my home.
I choose to go on daily walks because I love being out in nature and moving my body. It feels good to me and feeling the best I can is important to me.
I choose to be present and available to my daughter when she wants to play games because one of my values is connection. This feels like a connecting experience.

5. Eliminate anything that doesn’t have a strong tie to your Big Why or your values.

The practice I’ve just shared with you is detailed in Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Non-Violent Communication (highly recommend, by the way). In the book, he gives two examples of what made it on to his Should List.

The carpool.
And writing clinical reports.

He discovered that, although he dreaded driving the carpool for his children, he really valued the benefits his children received from the school they attended – even though it was farther away than the neighborhood school they could walk to. In this way, he was able to get in touch with his Big Why around driving the carpool – and shift the Should into Want.

He wanted to drive his kids to school because he wanted to live out his values around their education.

On the other hand, he hated writing clinical reports, but felt, as a clinical psychologist, he had no choice. After some investigating, he determined the only reason he was writing them was for the financial compensation writing them offered. He concluded that he would rather forage in trashcans than write another clinical report.

He never wrote another one again.

When I identify what I want – Big Picture Want – I actually CAN live my life doing only what I want. And I’m still a contributing member of society. I still take care of my family. I still exercise and eat nourishing foods. I still volunteer for things and go to work.

And I do it from a place of Joy. A place of clarity and alignment with my values and my vision.

And when I cut out anything that doesn’t align with my Big Picture Want, I notice I’m definitely a kinder, more open-hearted, more generous, centered, and loving member of society because I’m not walking around bitter and resentful – wondering “what about me?”

In fact, when I start to feel bitter or resentful, this is a great cue for me to ask myself – what am I doing that feels like a burden? Why am I doing it?

Take a moment to think about all the energy you put into things that feel like an obligation. Think about all the energy it takes to get yourself to do those things. All the energy you spend in resistance or avoidance.

What could you do with that available energy once you liberate it from the Should?

I’d love to hear your discoveries with your list! What are you choosing to do that lines up with your values?

What didn’t make the cut?

Leave a comment to let us know!

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