"I'm sorry pal, I can't join you tonight. I have to go to work tomorrow."
Have you ever declined dinner offers, outings or parties, or anything that defines "living the life" all because you have to go to work the following day? It might feel unpleasant because the only response you give makes you think that you're missing out on life, which leads to the thoughts of work being a hindrance to enjoying life.
Most of the time, the terms enjoy and work don't go well together. This society even states, "work now, enjoy later," as if these are two opposing spheres without overlap. And yet, those successful people are living the life which will tell you to follow your passion, make your work your play, and find work that makes you happy for the rest of your life. Is it possible to mesh these two spheres together?
I learned that it's possible and as simple as a mindset shift.
The "Have-to" Mindset
Ever since birth, our society has dictated what we have to do. We:
- Have to go to school, get good grades and obtain a degree to make our parents proud;
- Have to get a good, stable job, and maybe a car to be called successful;
- Have to give back to our parents because "we" are their so-called investments;
- Have to get a wonderful partner and get married and have children;
- Have to save, invest and buy a home to secure your future;
- Have to get a retirement plan and stay healthy until then; and
- Have to ->insert whatever society wants to add<-
The point is, we are surrounded by these have-to's that it becomes the norm of how we will approach life. A simple deviation from it is inherently scary since we are going "outside the box," which this society calls risky or rebellious.
Suddenly, when we venture out of the norm, a.k.a. follow our passions, the path now feels less successful, and the next moment, we are now starting to question, "Is this the right thing to do?" or "am I being rebellious?" or "when will this work?"
Next thing we know, we are paralyzed with fear, which leads us to abandon or label something we've been working on as a hobby and go back to society's path to success and stability because we now think that that's the path we have to take.
Is it a bad thing, though?
Well, not really. After all, our forefathers thought these as they went through life and had their slice in their respective communities. And it's safe. Who wouldn't want to be safe?
The truth is, what is lacking in this approach is the purpose of why we need to do this. Why do we need to have good grades or why do we have to get a good job to support our parents, or why do we have to be successful?
What do these have-to's ultimately point to?
Happiness? Then why do wealthy and successful people still say they are not happy?
Achievement? Then why do our parents have many regrets about the shots they didn't take?
Legacy? Then why do children still blame their grandparents' shortcomings and vow to be better than what they accomplished?
You see, no one can give a definitive answer. And if we ask anyone older than us, they'll say, "We just have to. That's the way it is."
This loss of purpose of our have-to's is why depression and burnout are all over the corporate place, much more in the entrepreneurial field and much worse in the world of performing arts. The have-to's sucks out the joy of what once was enjoyable; for now, it becomes a chore.
That loss of meaning is so painful as there is no reason to wake up anymore, and yet, here we are still being bombarded by our parents and colleagues that we have to wake up, we have to work, we have to get a stable income, we have to be successful. For no reason at all!
"Purpose breathes life to people. Without it, joy suffocates."
I believe that life is not that pointless. What you do matters. Maybe not for you, but think of the people around you. They wait for you.
Think about the people who lost their drive to live and their purpose and are now curled under the sheets of their beds. This world is full of lonely people walking with lifeless eyes and just giving up on their lofty dreams.
Isn't it an incredible privilege that it's possible to be able to help these people, give value to them, and make them realize their purpose and find their joy in life through your work? If I have that privilege, it's not like I have to, but more like, "I can't wait to help these people!"
We need to find something that we will look forward to.
It's time to have a mindset shift.
The "Can't-Wait-To" Mindset
Yes, that's right. Try to replace all of your have-to's with can't-wait-to's.
Instead of saying, "Oh man, I have to go to work," try saying, "I can't wait to go to work!" It's a huge difference! You now begin to see your work positively, and it will force you to find the purpose of your work.
Maybe getting out of bed is not that hard anymore because you can't wait to have pancakes for your breakfast, you can't wait to jog tomorrow and say hello to the sunrise, and you can't wait to take a good shower and go to work. Imagine how liberating it feels to say, "I can't wait to make a difference," rather than "I have to make a difference."
Isn't it sad that we are only able to say "I can't wait to..." to the things that this society considered leisure or hobby, like "I can't wait to watch the next episode of this TV Series," or "I can't wait to have lunch with you" or "I can't wait to go home and play NBA 2k22?" Then we refer back to our work and say, "I have to file this report," "I have to take this overtime," or "I have to finish this on time or else..."
Working like this feels more like a chore. Maybe that's why household chores are unpleasant, and someone told us we have to do them.
The beauty of the words "can't wait to" is profound and is not just wishful thinking or artificial positivity. The terms can't wait to instill a degree of urgency and importance, but this time with a positive tone, for it points us to something we look forward to, and we can't wait to obtain that beautiful reward.
But it's not just being merely delighted by the reward; it compels us to act. It forces us to move. Can't wait encapsulates in two words the truth of having a purpose, driven with urgency, fueled by positivity, and propelled by action simultaneously. Isn't it describing the ideal trait of successful people?
An open letter
If you are reading this, know that life can be pointless at times, but it's us, the living, which give meaning to our lives. If you're struggling to write a blog today (like me), remember you don't have to write a compelling blog today; say, "I can't wait to write my next blog!" If you're a songwriter with writer's block, you don't have to write your next big hit; say, "I can't wait to write my next song!"
If you're a painter, you don't have to paint the next masterpiece immediately; say, "I can't wait to start painting again." If you're a teacher, say, "I can't wait to see my students today!" and if you're a researcher, you can say, "I can't wait to learn a new thing today!"
Don't say, "I have to finish this report," but say, "I can't wait to finish this report!" All the pressure, fear, and heaviness of our have-to's will be at bay when we replace them with can't-wait-to's. It is where work becomes play.
Don't lose the fun of what you do. Transform your have-to's to can't-wait-to's. Whenever self-doubt or burnout kicks in, remember that you don't have to do the next big thing immediately. But you know what, I can't wait to see what you will do next!