Must Do vs. Want To

Updated to Business on December 14, 2022.

There is a reason most people don’t stick with their diet. Same for: going to the gym, doing your taxes, and drinking more water. Must do’s suck.

Isn’t that true?

“Must do’s” on your To-Do list are a drag and end up last on your list of priorities.

Same in your business: planning the year, asking for help, or fixing your web site can be “must do’s.”

This is why email can be so addictive – it’s a distraction from “must do’s. We stay busy, avoiding.

I’m the creative type

I used to pride myself on being spontaneous.

“I’m the creative type,” I thought. And, as we all know, creative people don’t plan ahead, get organized, create systems, or a bunch of other things that make life simpler and help me reach my goals. Those were all “must do’s.”

When something becomes a “want to” it’s easier. It’s more likely to grow into a habit, and (dare I say) can even be fun.

We got a dog

Four years ago we got a dog. Friends of ours were getting a puppy and my wife thought the timing was right for us. Pretty soon “our dog” became “your dog” and I was walking Riley twice a day.

I knew I had to make those walks a “want to”, or I’d be pretty miserable, especially when it’s -20 or raining. And that’s what I did, here’s how.

From Must Do to Want To

The brain loves to see what’s wrong: your clothes, your income (or lack of), a client, your car. Your amygdala (the thimble-sized part of the brain that decodes emotions) loves to fixate on the negative. So, rather than focusing on what we have to do to grow our business, we are paralyzed by what’s wrong. Bummer.

If a task on your list looks at all like a “must do”, then pretty soon you might build up negative energy around it and push it away. Exercising becomes boring, or inconvenient, and then you stop. Calling a new client is scary and uncomfortable, so it doesn’t happen.

It’s a predictable pattern. And it doesn’t help.

The brain can refocus

At the same time, the brain can refocus, just like a camera, and make a task a “want to”. It starts with a choice.

Drinking more water is easy if you focus on how replenishing your body feels good. Starting your day with a plan is easy if you focus on how successful that makes you. And writing that new blog (like this one) is a snap when you focus on serving people. And walking a dog is a joy when I focus on how happy he will be (pretty well guaranteed), or the new podcast I’m going to learn from.

When I know I’m getting stuck, procrastinating, or stalling it helps to remember I have a choice. After that it’s a matter of choosing what to focus on. If I let my “lizard brain” (nod to Seth Godin) take over I’m doomed.

If I make a conscious choice to focus on the pleasure, the benefit, and the good feeling my action gets me then I can move ahead. Then I have a “want to.”

Where do you need to refocus?