Obligation to Opportunity

Learn to flip the script and claim your responsibilities and obligations as privileges and opportunities. You will be grateful. I promise.

I often find myself running from one thing to the next, to the next, to the next…raise your hand if you feel the same way. As I strive for balance, I’ve found myself drawn to the idea of changing the narrative that runs through my head. Flipping the script, if you will.

I’m fortunate that my work leads me down this path on a daily basis. For example, most recently I was working on the content calendar for our website and social media accounts here at Storey. During a team brainstorm, we added Kristi Nelson’s Wake Up Grateful to the list (couldn’t we all use a little more gratefulness in our lives?). My colleague, Emma, suggested a few passages and we landed on sharing a simple practice for shifting obligation to opportunity.

The author, Kristi, suggests you try writing a list of at least five things that you have to do this week. Your responsibilities, your to-do list. Begin each item with the words “I have to…”

She cites some examples:
I have to pay bills.
I have to go grocery shopping.
I have to go to the dentist.
I have to make that overdue phone call.
I have to prepare for a meeting.
I have to do laundry.
I have to fix the kitchen light.
I have to pick up my kids.

I gave it a go. Here are a few things on my list (both work-related and personal):
I have to follow up with the winner of the Frost-Free Garden Giveaway.
I have to write the Short Storey newsletter.
I have to finish the winter content calendar.
I have to pick my girls up after school.
I have to clean up after dinner.
I have to go for a run.

Next, she says, cross out the words “I have to” and begin each line with the words “I get to” and notice how different it feels to think that you get to do something. How does this shift the energy you bring to each task?

Kristi goes on to suggest that throughout your day, you should catch yourself whenever you think, “I have to…” and substitute “I get to…” This can help you see your tasks as privileges you may not have always had and may not always have in the future and that many people do not have at all.

Having just completed the exercise myself (see below), I can confirm that she is right. Go ahead and give it a try. I think you will too.

I get to follow up with the winner of the Frost-Free Garden Giveaway. How lucky am I that I get to make someone’s day by telling them that out of thousands of entries they won a fantastic grand prize that will enable them to grow food all winter long?

I get to write the Short Storey newsletter. What a joy it is to write articles (like this!) and share them with folks (like you!) that love our books and have signed up to hear from us on a regular basis.

I get to finish the winter content calendar. What a privilege it is to spread good, uplifting content to the world—and to know that I can be part of making someone’s day better, even if just for a moment while scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn.

I get to pick my girls up after school. How fun that I get to hear them excitedly explain what they did at school and then listen to an episode of our favorite podcast together on our drive home?

I get to clean up after dinner. How fortunate am I that my husband loves—and I mean LOVES—to cook (and grocery shop!?) and all I have to do is clean up after a lovely family meal together?

I get to go for a run. And last but certainly not least, how amazing is it that with every step I take on the trails near my home I am reminded of the wise words of my mother who recently passed away… “Get outside, you’ll feel better if you go for a run.”

I’m grateful for the trails out my back door in Santa Monica, California.
Article text and photos © Kimberly Thompson Panay in combination with text excerpted from Wake Up Grateful © Kristi Nelson and A Network for Grateful Living.

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Kristi Nelson

Kristi Nelson

About the

Kristi Nelson is the author of Wake Up Grateful and the executive director of A Network for Grateful Living. She has a master’s degree in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School and has spent more than 30 years in nonprofit leadership, development, and consulting. She has worked at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, and the Soul of Money Institute. Nelson is a Stage IV cancer survivor who cherishes living among friends and family in western Massachusetts.

As a scholar, writer, and social activist, Brother David Steindl-Rast has shared messages of peace, interfaith dialogue, social justice, and environmental stewardship worldwide for more than 50 years in spoken and written word that is both thoughtful and occasionally infused with beauty, wonderment, and wit. His TEDtalk Want to Be Happy? Be Grateful has garnered over 5 million views and thousands of people a day tap into the interactive online community he co-founded, A Network for Grateful Living, for information and guidance on the transformative power of gratefulness as a mindfulness practice.

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