"Got To" vs. "Get To"

This is another in a series of what I call "therapeutic distinctions", pairings of concepts that are similar to each other but which contain subtle yet important differences that can significantly affect a person's quality of life. Such is the distinction between "got to" and "get to".

People often don't choose which situations they have to deal with in their day-to-day lives. So many of the decisions you are required to make are based in response to some need. If your washing machine breaks down you either have to fix it, get a new one or begin using the laundromat to clean your clothes. If you want to lose weight you have to burn more calories than you consume. In countless situations you have to do "x" if you want to get "y".

A chore is a task you've "got" to do. The only option in response to such a mandate is to comply or resist. This sense of obligation can generate all kinds of frustration. Performing required actions can lead to a sense of accomplishment, which certainly contributes to a meaningful and productive life. But even if a person does everything he or she "has to" do, it can be a great challenge to do this with a sunny disposition.

This is where the ability to exchange "got to" with "get to" can be an extremely powerful shift in perspective. It is a method for extracting the greatest possible benefit out of the challenges of life. A person who must get up and go to work has a chance to practice walking with a kind heart through a hard day. The need to pay your power bill presents the possibility to do so with a sense of gratitude for living in a society that has consistent electricity. The most menial job that you've "got" to do is an opportunity to "get to" practice humility, pride and good cheer.

This is a simple but powerful method to turn obligation into opportunity. What you've "got to do" can usually be measured: you'll either do it or not. In comparison, what you "get to do" is more a reflection of your attitude and therefore usually can't be judged by traditional measures. It has less to do with the quantity and more to do with the quality of personal endeavors. As Einstein said, "Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted."

You've certainly got many things to do today, this week, this year, this time of your life. You get to do them with a cheerful attitude that is capable of bringing a shining light to the lives of other people. You get to act in such a way that others don't have to suffer from your poor mood. You get to learn something valuable about yourself that you can carry with you from this point forward. You get to practice discipline and courage under fire. You get to experience life as an exciting and precious adventure filled with special moments that are hidden in plain sight.

Get it? Got it? Good!


Bill Herring provides psychotherapy and counseling services in Atlanta.  In addition to his general adult practice he has special skills and abilities helping people recover from sexual control issues such as chronic cheating and excessive pornogaphy use,   

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