One word can cause a seismic shift in your thinking. A member of our team recently shared a story that proves this. One evening, she heard herself tell her children that she “had to” answer a few more emails before dinner. But she realized this was not entirely true. She did not “have to” answer the emails at that exact moment — she was making a conscious choice to do so.

So she decided to make a small but meaningful change to her lexicon. She started replacing “have to” with “choose to.”It better reflected reality. This word change highlighted her passion for what she does, but it also helped her consider different priorities.

The lesson resonated with me. I always strive to make the most of the hours that I have. And I never want to live a passive, reactive life.

Whether we work in an office or work remotely, we all choose how we spend our time. And while there are moments when you feel you “have to” do something, you probably do not. Just changing that one word reminds you that you are in control.

Here is why this works:

Saying “I choose” makes you responsible for the decision.

You are in charge of your actions and outcomes — no one else. That may be a sobering thought, but it is also empowering to recognize that you are in charge of your own time. You will recognize that not all demands are created equal — creating a marketing strategy or preparing for an upcoming product launch might be more important than clearing your email inbox.

Saying “I choose” makes you deeply consider what you are not doing.

Maybe you choose to spend too much time on social media or in nonproductive meetings. The consequences of those choices? You have to work later to catch up, giving you less time to spend with family or friends or doing something important for yourself.

When you start choosing, you can be more selective about what you agree to take on and more protective of the rest — how much time you spend on trivial things or projects that others can (or should) be handling. Of course, that will require you to master another word, “no.”

Sure, there will be times that you have to complete tasks that you simply do not enjoy. But once you start saying “I choose this,” even those will carry more meaning.

So the next time you think, “I have to get this report done today,” change it to, “I choose to get this done today.” Decision by decision, you will begin to make a change.

What other words would you like to replace?

Originally published on the Aha! blog

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