The Difference Between “Have to” and “Get to”

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Sometimes we get nuggets of wisdom in places we do not expect them. I am, typically, suspect that I will walk away with such bits of wisdom when listening to people who are “slick”. Without going into too much detail about the slick person who I have in mind, there was a speech he gave last year where he told a story about talking to his partner in the morning about the day ahead and the items on his “to do” list. After he finished listing the things he “had to do”, apparently his wife (this is the part where it may be true, or it may just be a good way to get the point across) said to him, “you don’t have to do those things, you GET to do those things”. The moral of the story being that if he thought of those items on his list as things he “gets” to do, rather than things he “has to”, it completely shifts his perspective, as well as his enjoyment of the task and day ahead.

I appreciate this bit of wisdom. It has stuck with me. Not, necessarily, with respect to work (mostly because I am currently in transition in that regard) but in other areas of my life. As with most things, it comes up often for me during fitness endeavours.

black wooden board with text
A black slate in a white frame with the letters “YAA AAA AAS” – perhaps relaitng to that moment you realize a bit of wisdom has been imparted?

This morning on my run, I thought “I get to do this”. “how lucky am I”. It became part of my mantras for the day. In the sticky parts where my mind may be thinking about the finish line or my coffee in hand, rather than being in the moment and enjoying the run, I thought, “I get to do this”.

Going back to my transitional career stage, thinking about it as a privilege that I “get to” have this time to consider next steps, rather than letting myself get stressed about this time off lasting too long and the potential ramifications if it does, it is helpful to think of this time as a period I “get to” reap the benefits from.

I had lunch with an old friend the other day and she was telling me about her back issues and how they have set her back a bit in her fitness routine and how frustrating it has been. We have all had injuries, minor or significant, and know how frustrating it can be when it prevents us from being able to do the things we love. I am always grateful when I wake up (that in itself) and I am in a healthy and able position to do the movement I have planned for the day. I get to do things. Thank you.

As for “thank you”, I also say this a lot in my head. I am not sure who I am saying thank you to, but it is gratitude for the day, the hour, the state of being that allows me to have experiences. Good or bad. Frustrating or invigorating. I can’t help but have this gratitude for many reasons.

That’s what I think the biggest difference between “get to” and “have to” is – gratitude. In the truest sense. For just being and being able. That is life, no?

Nicole P. lives in TO with her husband and two dogs and enjoys getting to run, strength train, complete HIIT workouts and walk everywhere as primary mode of transportation.

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