Have To? No. Say, You Want To.

Time To Read: 2 mins


Have To’s. We live in a world of distraction. Friends get together and complain how difficult it is to stop reading their Twitter feed or another Facebook post, especially after this Presidential election. Snippets of breaking news spring up uninvited on our iPhone or Android screens redirecting our attention.

In a world of constant distraction how can we guard against these bandits of our time and focus?

Repeating the refrain, “I have to get this done” to get back on track quickly falls victim to the unexpected phone call from a good friend or the email invite to go to happy hour.

Those distractions are so much more attractive than any “have to do’s.” And pressuring ourselves oftentimes leads to greater resistance to doing it at all.

Reframe. Think about replacing the words “have to” with “want to.” I want to sort through all of my photos from my trip to Italy to make a photo book. I want to cook a nice dinner for my family. I want to go to the gym and get a work out in. Doesn’t that sound better?

A “want” is a form of desire and desire feels good.

Now let’s add to this reframing from obligation to desire the value of having this desire met. When I get that photo book done I’ll be able to share my adventure with my friends. Picture that feeling in your mind. When I cook that nice dinner my family will be well fed and content. Can you see their happy faces? When I finish that work out I’m going to feel stronger. Allow that image to seep into your mind.

Zhuan Xin. Two characters make up the Chinese expression for concentration, “專” or zhuan and “心” or xin. Zhuan means to concentrate and xin is the character for heart, but really it’s meant to be read as heart-mind. Together, zhuan xin means to concentrate or devote one’s attention to.

When I heard this expression growing up, I would imagine grabbing my heart and focusing my mind on what matters—aligning my heart (emotional) and mind (cognitive) to the task at hand. I still do. And it works. For me.

I want to keep distraction at bay. I want to focus my mind and my heart on what most needs to be done. And, I wish that for you.

Have you been distracted lately? What helps you refocus? Is there an image that works to keep your mind on task?


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