A Little Happier: Reframing “I Have to Do It” to “I Get to Do It”

On the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast, Elizabeth and I often talk about reframing.

And for me, I find, that one of the most effective ways to reframe is to consider the reminder, “Don’t treat a gift like a burden.”

I think back on a time when this idea helped me when my daughter Eliza wasn’t even twelve months old. When you have a baby that young, you have to take them to the pediatrician very frequently. I was complaining about this chore to my husband Jamie, and he said, “Why don’t you ask my mother if she’d do it? I bet she’d be happy to do it.”

And I immediately thought, “No way! Nobody else gets to take Eliza to the pediatrician, I want to do it!”

In a flash, I went from “I have to do it” to “I get to do it.”

This story reminds me of what the brilliant actor-writer-director-producer Mindy Kaling said in her happiness interview (yes, that’s right, I did an interview with Mindy Kaling):

I asked, “What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?”

Mindy Kaling replied, “When I was 18 years old, I took a semester off from college and was an intern at Late Night with Conan O’Brien. It was the most glamorous job I ever had, and I idolized the writers there. I remember lying in bed every night telling myself that if I ever got a job as a comedy writer, I would be so happy and all my dreams would have come true. Six years later I got that job, working on The Office. I felt incredibly happy and grateful for about a week, and then a whole new set of complaints set in. This would’ve shocked and disgusted my 18-year-old self. It’s helpful to remember the younger version of me because it reminds me to feel grateful when I want to be snotty.”

How about you? Have you ever been able to stop your complaining by reframing “I have to do it” to “I get to do it?”




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