10/09/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Mar 17, 2015

Keys To Life : How to Stop Doing Things You Don't Like


Do you have to do things in life that you don't really want to do? Most people will say there are many such things. I want you to consider that you don't have to do anything!

What are the things that you have to do, things over which you have no choice. Part of my definition of "have to" includes the notion that it is something that you actually do and you don't like doing it or you don't feel good about doing it.

When I ask this question in groups that I work with, I often hear things like the following:

• Pay income taxes
• Die
• Take out the garbage
• Go to work
• Get up in the morning
• Deal with other drivers
• Pay the bills
• Be nice to rude people

You don't have to pay income taxes. There are lots of alternatives. For example, you could choose to not earn enough to have to pay income taxes. Or go to jail. Do you get the idea? Paying taxes is something you actually choose to do - it's just that you don't like doing it so you call it something that you have to do, something that someone else makes you do.

So who are those people or institutions that you make you do things?

• Parents
• Children
• Your Boss
• Your co-workers
• Other drivers
• The IRS
• The local government
• The TSA
• Your husband or wife

And what are those things that they make you do?

• Pay income taxes
• Take out the garbage
• Make dinner (or breakfast, or lunch)
• Go to work
• Get up in the morning
• Deal with other drivers
• Pay the bills
• Be nice to rude people

Do you have to take out the garbage? No, not really. You could just let it pile up in the kitchen. It's just that you may prefer taking out the garbage to the consequences of not taking it out. Do you have to go to work? No, not really - it's just that you prefer the paycheck that comes from going to work than the zero income that comes with not working. Or, or, or.

It usually comes down to preference. I prefer taking out the garbage to living in the filth; I prefer paying taxes to being so poor that I don't owe taxes; I prefer dealing with bad drivers to taking the bus; I prefer going to work to being unemployed.

And what does preference imply? How about choice? If you prefer A to B, and you wind up doing A, who made the choice? For most of us, it is clear that you made the choice; for some, it still feels like someone else made me do it, that I had no choice, and therefore I have to do it.

It may not be that you prefer working to not working as much as it may be that you prefer the consequences of working to the consequences of not working. You know, you prefer the paycheck that comes with the job to the unemployment line that comes without the job. "Yeah, but I don't like my job."

So, who chose that job? "Not me - I had to take it." Oh yeah, well why? "I had no choice - I have to eat and feed my kids." Ummmm, I see. Pretty tough little loop, isn't it.

If you find yourself stuck in this kind of loop, you might want to read last week's post on Choosing or Just Complaining.

You may not like your job or boss or dealing with the kinds of people associated with the job (think customer service at an airline that just cancelled a flight). And you may feel stuck, really stuck.

However, the question to consider is, "How did you get here in the first place?" If you don't know, or just generally feel stuck, then we come right back to the Cycle of Improvement. Remember, if you don't know where you are going, any road will do.

Is your current job something that you always wanted, in the career that you always wanted, in the field you always wanted? The answer could range from "not at all" to "kind of, sort of" to "absolutely."

If you can accept that you are in the current job because you made paycheck more important than unemployment, you are in a great place to improve. So, if you don't like your current job, at least you can start with being grateful for the paycheck.

From there, you can begin to consider what are the other elements of job that you would like to experience. The more you know about the qualities you are seeking, the more you will begin to find choices that will support those experiences becoming true. Notice that I did not say you will make gigantic leaps forward, just that you will become increasingly aware of what you want, what choices you made that got you here, and what choices lay ahead of you that might take you closer to what you truly want.

And, when the road forks the next time, you may have better criteria from which to choose, with a better chance of getting there.

Stay tuned - next week we will examine a powerful principle, the "What If Principle." "What if" you are the only one response-able for your current conditions and the only one who can change them?

I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)