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​"I Have To" or "I Get To"?

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​Lately, I have been party to several conversations in which family, friends, and colleagues have framed their upcoming events and activities as tasks that they "have to" do. Interestingly, in some cases, these were activities that they had actually volunteered to take on, versus something that someone else mandated that they do.  

If I am being honest, I am sometimes guilty of framing my responsibilities as "I have to," as well. As I have given more thought to these conversations, while it may just be a matter of semantics, I think framing our activities in this way can negatively impact our eventual enjoyment and fulfillment from these experiences.

However, if we were to approach these same duties from the viewpoint of "I get to," our level of satisfaction related to the experience would be much greater. In many ways, it comes down to our attitude toward the activity itself. If we view an activity with a negative mindset, our experience related to that activity will likely be negative — or, at a minimum, not as good as it could be. Conversely, if we approach that same activity with a positive mindset, we will likely achieve greater personal satisfaction from it. Further, if we approach the activity with a positive attitude, we will probably also perform the activity at a higher level than we may have otherwise.

Coincidentally, as I was in the midst of drafting this post, I attended a meeting in which my company was looking for volunteers to assist with a company-sponsored event in another city over the coming weekend. Realizing that we needed leaders to step up and help out, I volunteered to represent my company at the event.

Although this isn't what I had originally envisioned for my weekend, I believe it is the right thing for me to do in this particular situation. I also realized that I need to listen to my own advice and view this situation as an opportunity rather than an obligation. To that end, I have already started visualizing some of the outcomes that I would like to achieve through volunteering for this upcoming event.

Looking back over my internal audit career, many of the activities that "I had to" do — whether it was a physical inventory observation that took place over a holiday, missing out on family time to travel to a conference over the weekend, or working late to meet an impending deadline — ultimately made me a better internal auditor. Further, as these and other experiences compounded over time, they ultimately prepared me to take on additional new challenges and new opportunities.

I'm not implying that we always need to work late for no reason or change our plans at the drop of a hat. Rather, when there is a specific need that we can fill, we should strive to make the most out of the circumstances. Approaching our circumstances this way will help us expand our networks, build stronger relationships, learn new things, and become even stronger internal audit professionals.

As I have further reflected on my recent conversations, I've made it a personal goal to have self-awareness as to how I am thinking about and communicating my responsibilities.

As you look at your schedule over the coming weeks and months, I encourage you to have a similar goal. What are the activities that you "have to" do and what are the activities that you "get to" do? After all, as the quote often attributed to Winston Churchill goes: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

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