Skip to content

The Difference Between “I Have To” and “I Want To”

John O'Leary and his wife Beth
How shifting your mindset can change what you see.

“We do not have to love. We choose to love.” 
― M. Scott Peck

There is a significant gap between living from a place where we feel obligated to perform and living with a mindset that views service as an opportunity. I was reminded of this through the simple action and words of my wife. Let me explain.

It was early morning and I was exhausted after getting home at 2am from a delayed flight. As I groggily reached for a towel after a shower, I noticed a simple note that read, “I love you” next to a mug of hot coffee on the bathroom sink.

My wife, Beth, who doesn’t even drink coffee made a pot, poured a cup, ran up a flight of steps and placed it where I couldn’t miss it.

Now, her morning was hectic, too. She had four little ones to get up, lunches to prepare, backpacks to check, kids to get out the door and a work meeting to attend. In other words, with a million things happening that morning, she didn’t need to put one more thing on her list.

I dressed quickly, danced down the steps, and kissed my four little ones and their mom. Thanking Beth for her thoughtfulness, I asked why she made the coffee? Her answer was awesome in its simplicity:

“Because I wanted to.”

My friends, ‘wanting’ to do something is so much more liberating than ‘having’ to do anything.

In marriage we commit with the simple words: “I do.” So often in life, though, that simple notion of “I want to” degrades into “I have to.” The former comes from the choice to love; the latter from an obligation of fear.

Choosing to love positively impacts not only your family, but also your business, spirituality, relationships and life. You’ll discover yourself more present, active, engaged and effective.

Fueled by love, you’ll discover yourself to be less timid making sales calls, less anxious dealing with challenge, less distracted in virtual meetings, less likely to complain about what’s wrong and more likely to celebrate what’s right.

The tension and stress associated with “I have to” go to work, forgive her, move forward, watch my weight, clean my house, pick up the kids, be home for dinner, or get back into my faith dissipates when the sentence begins with “I want to.”

So, brew that pot of coffee.

Fill the mug high and deliver it to those around you with a smile.

Free yourself from the chains of “I have to” and be set on fire with the joy again of “I want to.”

It positively transforms your thoughts, words and actions.

And it elevates the lives of those lucky enough to be drinking the coffee you serve.

This is your day. Live Inspired.

John O’Leary

5 replies on “The Difference Between “I Have To” and “I Want To””

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Live Inspired Together is a community of friends changing the world together, starting with their own. In a world that often focuses on negativity, John O’Leary - Live Inspired shares the other side of the story through his member-supported channels (essays, Live Inspired Podcast, video, webcasts, social platforms) to connect our community and share inspiration and actions to live it. Support now.