“Have To” and “Need To” vs. “Want To”


Following up on my “should” topic, let’s take a look at another group of energy-sucking phrases.

  • “Have to”
  • “Need to”
  • “I must”

There are very few things we have to do or need to do, and everything else is choice.**

In fact, if I talked with you right now, I bet I could trace almost all your have-tos and need-tos to earlier choices that you made quite voluntarily. In other words, you might think you have to, but you only have to because you want something else. It’s that simple.

But you pay an emotional price when you walk around saying, “I have to” and “I need to.” You even pay a price by saying “I need” all by itself.

Need implies lack, and your subconscious hears need phrases as “something’s missing.” Need phrases are probably second only to should-statements in their capability to sink your mood-ship with a series of small holes.

“I need to… I have to… I feel like I’m pushing this boulder of ‘have-tos’ around all day.”

Try phrasing your desires as “I want” instead. Try it now. Take a few things you “have to” do today, and instead say them out loud with “Today, I want to…”  Notice how you feel. Notice any subtle changes in mood direction as you alternate back and forth.

  • Try: “I’d really like to get a wash done right now.”and not: “I have to do a wash.”
  • Try: “I really want to get to this meeting, because it is important to what I am trying to accomplish.” and not: “I really need to get to this meeting.”
  • Try: “I chose this job, and this report is part of it. I’ll feel better if I get it done, so I’d like to get it done as quickly and accurately as possible, and get back to the fun stuff.” instead of:  “I hate that I have to do this report as part of my job.”

Build on your want statements during the day. Set up segments of your day, and events, with want statements.

“I’d like to…”

“I’m looking forward to…”

“I want…”

Pretty soon you start seeing a day full of choices, instead of self-imposed slavery. Try it!

Please feel free to share any approaches  you may have phrasing your day.  Thank for reading!

**Some say we “need love,” but I’ve read cognitive therapists who would disagree: once in adulthood, we want to love more than we need love. Most would agree that breathing, and other bodily needs and functions are among our actual needs, but there are philosophers and spiritual leaders who might even disagree there. From the perspective of some, there is no death, only a change of consciousness. If this is true, even physical needs become choices. From my perspective, almost anything feels better phrased as something I like, love or want.

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