You know that feeling when you come across something on the Internet and it immediately resonates with you and you think of 100 different applications for it? Well I had that feeling after reading one of Seth Godin’s daily blog posts this week. Here’s what he says:
Deadlines work. They work because they focus the mind and create urgency. They work to get us to file our taxes or finish an assignment. They’re an external lever for the work we have to do.
On the other hand, dessert works too. You don’t need an external force to encourage you to eat dessert after you’ve finished all your vegetables. It’s something you get to do, not something you have to do.
You can build a work life around deadlines. You can procrastinate, pay the late fines and push through the last minute emergencies because you need all of that in order to get to ‘have to’ mode.
Or, you can follow the path of the most productive and happy people you know. By redefining the work you’ve chosen to do as something you get to do.
And yes, I’ll point out that you can even do that with your taxes. It’s something you get to do because you’re successful and lucky enough to live in a civil society.
I’m a big fan of how changing the way we talk about stuff changes the way we think about it. In Medicine, we love to complain about how we have to do these discharge summaries, how we have to go through the tedium of our e-portfolio and getting things signed off. Instead, if we internally (and perhaps externally) rephrased it as get to, perhaps our working lives would become more pleasant.
In general, I wonder to what extent we can hack our own brains into acting as if doing stuff is a privilege rather than a burden.
Replying to comments for instance – I could think of it as “aargh I have to reply to these hundreds of comments from random people around the world #humblebrag”. That wouldn’t be very fun. Instead, I think of it as “I get to offer my thoughts to people around the world who somehow found me on the internet and seem to value my advice about their personal issues, this is awesome”.
Ultimately, I’m doing the same thing – replying to comments. But in one version of the narrative, it’s a chore. In the other, I’m having a great time. And it’s just that seemingly simple switch from have to to get to that makes the difference.