You Don’t Have To

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Here’s a secret: you don’t have to. There is always another choice. Choosing can be hard and you may still pick either way, but you are not a mindless puppet on a string but a human being responsible for your own choices.

Pick what excites and scares you, and amazing things will happen.

You don’t have to…

  1. Work long hours: Time is your most valuable possession, so don’t let go of it too easily. Also, long hours rarely lead to improved productivity.
  2. Take your kids to kindergarten every morning: If you choose to live in a big house in an expensive area, and buy everything you need to fit in, you will be working all the time — and thus need someone to take care of your kids. But this too, is a choice. Do you see how things could change if you lived with less?
  3. Go to school: Even school can be debated. Leo Babauta’s kids are unschooled and it seems like it’s working well for them.
  4. Put off your life plans until you retire: What if you never do?
  5. Live a routine: Living every day according to the same script is not mandatory. It’s a choice.
  6. Buy that new Full-HD television: What was wrong with the old one? The best TV shows are great even with lower fidelity. I watch my movies from the 13″ laptop screen of my MacBook Pro. If the story is good, it will move you just the same.
  7. Get an iPad: It might be world changing but no one knows what they will be using it for, thinking they will figure that part out once they have the device.
  8. Always keep your phone turned on: People are clever: if they cannot reach you 24/7, they will come up with something else. My brother just spent two weeks alone at a summer house with his phone turned off and with no connection to the Internet, and he tells it was one of the best two weeks he has had in a long time. (And it’s good to know that if you don’t like the phone, you are not alone)
  9. Earn a lot of money: It’s surprising how little you really need for a good life when you become minimalist.
  10. Live in a big house: Not so long ago it was completely normal for two or more kids to share a room. And the kitchen table is a perfectly good place for work. Less rooms means less to clean and worry about.
  11. Eat out every day: Planning and cooking your own food from real ingredients is as fun — if not more — as eating it.
  12. Buy bread: You can make your own bread, and it can be better than what you get from the store!
  13. Travel far to go camping: Using what you have and a bit of imagination, you can have a great trip without traveling anywhere!
  14. Impress people: They are all just like you, with the insecurities and all — and they don’t care as much as you think. So, do what you feel right. Stop living for other people’s approval.
  15. Listen to your inner critic: If your lizard brain tells you to stop, punch it and do it anyway! That’s how great things start to happen.
  16. Be big: Small is good too.
  17. Eat meat: You can have a perfectly healthy diet without meat. And if going all the way vegetarian is hard, eating less meat is easy.
  18. Wear shoes when running: The Tarahumara don’t wear running shoes, yet they are some of the world’s best long distance runners!
  19. Create things just for the money: What if you put your soul in what you create, and try to help people instead?

These are all choices that only you can make yourself. Choose what suits you but make sure when you choose you say so. There is no such thing as “have to.”

17 thoughts on “You Don’t Have To

  1. This is a powerful message and one that should be applied to every aspect of life! So often we live with absolutes, believing that things are the way they are and that they cannot be changed. The reality is that we often make things the way they are — we choose to live our lifestyle; we choose to spend the money we earn; we choose to believe life cannot be any different.

    There are so many people in this world who don’t get to make such choices — they are forced to live on the street, beg for food to feed their children, and rummage through the trash to find a roof to keep their family dry.

    When we put our life into the perspective of reality instead of creating a bubble of things we have to do, we will see that our choices have a domino-effect through time — they affect the lives of people who we will never meet. Recognizing this, we begin to see how there are choices that we clearly do have to make, choices that benefit the world and those around us; healthy choices, compassionate choices, sustainable choices.

    • Great comment, Raam! It is amazing to think that choosing is something powerful that we have access to, and yet we fall back to claiming that we don’t have a choice…

      Let’s choose to keep this message out there so that one day people living on the streets will have more choices too!

  2. Nice post, and very true message. For myself I use a very simple rule to make myself aware of non-essential “must do’s” and “must have’s”. I try to ban the word “must/have to” from my vocabulary altogether. It’s only a small change, but to say “I have to pick my mom up at the airport” sounds so much different from “I want to pick my mom up at the airport”. ;)
    And I believe that language does have an impact on how you feel and act, so this is a great way to do it consciously.

    • Hehe, you know that’s actually the point: If you love your TV, you need to say so. It’s your choice, not something you “have to do”.

  3. fsilber

    This is all true, but it needs to wait until you are married and your wife agrees. Power (either social or financial) is an aphrodesiac — and if you do all these things before getting married, potential dates may mistake you for a loser.

    • I don’t think I agree. There is nothing loser-like in making your own choices. If your potential dates don’t get that, they are not right for you.

    • Cool, now I have one more good reason for having an iPad ;)

      Although, I think that’s still not enough of a reason for me to get one… Yet.

  4. Loved these ideas and the power of choice. I always remind myself that not only do I choose my life, but the choices don’t have to be “either/or”. There are plenty of options, so we should never feel boxed in to pick this one OR that one. Choose what works best for you and your lifestyle.

    Thanks for the inspiration,
    Courtney

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