How to live your life doing only what you want

If you are a busy parent or dedicated worker bee, like I am, it can be easy to sometimes feel trapped, busy, without choices, in this fast-paced, commitment-filled world. But let yourself sit with these feelings too long, and you are likely to end up feeling guilty, angry, obligated, and ultimately, unhappy…

Are you obligated to everything you do? Or are you a free agent, welcome to do as you please with your time? Perhaps you feel the answer is somewhere in between. But, unless you are in survival mode fending for food, shelter and water, you have choices in life, and you are free to make those choices based on what you want.

In my own complex, commitment-filled world, I have started down the path of feeling obligated and forced to do things that I do not want to do. And if I notice this feeling, I stop myself in my tracks. I made the choices that led me to fill my day, I chose my commitments, and I created the requirements myself. And, if I made them, I can change them. So, the question to ask is, “Do I want to change them? Or do I just need to change my perspective?”

It does no good to feel obligation. I make it a personal goal to never feel obligated. I succeed, I’d say, about 98% of the time. The 2% of obligations I let slip through always catch me off guard, and make me really rethink what I’ve gotten myself into and why I would let myself do something I didn’t want to do. And then I change things.

It’s all about perspective

It might sound strange, if you are a busy person that keeps your schedule filled, or a busy parent whose children keep you on your toes, to even consider that it’s possible to do only what you want, during a day. I challenge you to consider that for the most part, it’s all about perspective.

Take something simple, like cleaning the dishes. You may think, at first, that you never want to clean the dishes, but you “have to”. But if you think longer, what would happen if the dishes weren’t done? Would someone else in your household do them? Perhaps. Would you end up doing them later? Perhaps. But, what is the reason, then, that you would consider doing them now? There must be a reason – if you are considering doing a task – that you want to do that task now. Perhaps you don’t like the dishes to sit that long. Perhaps you want to do your part in the household or have an agreement that you will take care of that in our household which involves other tradeoffs that you want. Perhaps you want a  clean kitchen to use for other cooking. You want the dishes clean and therefore you want to clean them.

This applies to all the choices you make in a day. It is simply a matter of perspective. What you may feel like is something you are supposed to do, is really something you want to do. And if you do not want to do it, it is time to reconsider your day. We all make choices in life, and each choice has consequences that lead us to what we do with our day. If you are left feeling like you are “stuck” with something you don’t want to do, it is time to consider strongly – is this really something I have to do? Or did I choose this and want this, even if it causes immediate discomfort, in the long run its something I want. If you do not want to do it, it is time to make some different decisions — and while you may need to do something you don’t want to in the short run, to keep up with your commitments (which is, again, a choice, because you are choosing to honor your commitments), you can change that thing in the long run.

Are there ever times you must do something? With little exception, everything we do is a choice. You may be caring for a loved one who is sick, late into the nights and over a long period of sickness — but this is a choice, a commitment, you have chosen to make because of your love for this person, no matter how hard or difficult. You may drive your kids all around town after school so they can be part of activities — but again this has been a choice, for the sake of their activities, which you consider an investment you want to make for them. You may be working late at the office, or on the weekend, even when you hadn’t planned to, but this is a choice to keep your job or keep your status at your job.

Once you frame what you do each day into choices, and recognize they are things you have decided you want, you can feel much freer about your time. You are in control. You have created this story, this plan, this day. And, if you do not like something, you can change it. You may try to argue with this statement, but if you are not willing to change it, then that is a choice in and of itself, and it is what you want. There are usually trade-offs involved in change – and if you want something different, you will need to consider your trade-offs to make new choices. But you are never stuck and never a victim of someone else’s priorities. This is your life to live and you may choose your own path.

Think about your day, your week, and your month. Are you in control? Are the things you are doing with your time what you want to do (and truly, truly, think about what you want in the short run and  long run)? Take this chance to rethink your time and either change your mindset or change your day.

If your life were a story, how would you write what happens next? It is all up to  you.