How to Be Thankful For Life by Changing Just One Word

My college strength and conditioning coach, Mark Watts, taught me an important lesson that applies to life outside of the gym…

As adults, we spend a lot of time talking about all of the things that we have to do.

You have to wake up early for work. You have to make another sales call for your business. You have to work out today. You have to write an article. You have to make dinner for your family. You have to go to your son’s game.

Now, imagine changing just one word in the sentences above.

You don’t “have” to. You “get” to.

You get to wake up early for work. You get to make another sales call for your business. You get to work out today. You get to write an article. You get to make dinner for your family. You get to go to your son’s game.

I think it’s important to remind yourself that the things you do each day are not burdens, they are opportunities. So often, the things we view as work are actually the reward.

Embrace your constraints. Fall in love with boredom. Do the work.

You don’t have to. You get to.


  1. I enjoy the heck out of your work, James. In fact, it’s one of the few emails I open as soon as my phone buzzes. You know why? Because it tends to add value to my life that moment. This post is no different and it’s just what I needed to better handle the pile of stress I’m under. Thanks man! Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. Thank you James. We (your readers) have a lot of gratitude for your insightful and uplifting words.

    Happy Thanksgiving!


  3. Even if you change the word, I don’t think we can call all the things we get to do are the rewards — like making a sales call for your business.

    • Hello Huseyjn
      I understand that u can see things like making a sales call as a chore but u can also be glad that u can use your voice, have a job, own a phone, have a client to call or even fingers to dial the number.
      Lots of folk don’t “get” to do any of that :-)

      • Yes, Indeed!

        Finding a sense of appreciation for getting to do anything, even if it seems not so special or magnificent in scope is a gift. Having any of the things you mention Donna are blessings, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual gifts of being whole and well.

        Happy Thanksgiving!

    • A note on Huseyjn’s comment: I read somewhere years ago about replacing “have with “get” and, frankly, found that there were some chores in my life for which I simply found it impossible to do so. Upon reflection and closer inspection, however, I found that these obligations were often imposed on me unfairly, were outdated chores I no longer needed to do, or were situations that had to change (i.e., end a friendship, leave a job). Getting rid of these unnecessary obligations made me feel lighter and helped me see other obligations as opportunities. (Although I must add, in fairness, that some chores find me gritting my teeth and just doing them.)

  4. James,

    Great lesson. Short, sweet, spot on.

    I’ve thought about this point in the past, imagining a patient in a hospital bed or a prisoner in a cell. Our chores and inconveniences are their dreams, hopes, and most precious memories.

    Your one word switch, though, perfectly sums it up: They don’t GET to do any of the things we have the privilege of being able to do.

    Thanks, as always, for your message.


    • stop imagining. I was in a hospital, confined to a bed. everything you imagine is true and worse. so yes be thank full

  5. Thank you so much for all the wonderful articles and quotes you bring. I know you speak and write from the heart which I find very admirable. Keep up your great craft and have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

  6. Happy to be a part of your over the globe team\family … don’t know the right word.

    Thanks a lot!

    From Russia With Love 007…nop…Ivan.

  7. So true James!!! This especially helps in those blessed hard times of being a college athlete. You are doing cool stuff, but it seems like a burden unless understood through this mindset! Happy Thanksgiving

  8. Learned that lesson years ago from an amazing trainer. She turned our 5:30am group training from “we have to do dips today” to a cheer of “we GET to do dips today”.

    And even if we were faking the excitement and sincerity, it got us through, laughing every time.

    Thanks for the reminder and for your continued great work!

    • one way, treat it like a part time job. for example, your part time job schedule is 12 hours a week, divided into 3 days, 4 hour shifts. say you work, 6pm to 10pm. at 6pm you sit down at your designated work station. you work or you wait, t’is or t’other. you “work” at least until 10pm or the timed end of your work shift. you repeat doing that until you can put “the end” after a sentence. then you put it in a drawer, letting it ferment from 4-6 weeks. after which you remove it, then with your notes, you read, editing it as you go along, until again you can put “the end” behind a sentence. you again put it back in the drawer for another 4-6 weeks, letting it continue to ferment, at the end of this fermenting period, you remove it, reread it again, looking for typos not content, because the truth is you will never really feel it’s finished, like children , you need to let them age, mature but in your mind they will never really ever be old enough to leave home (one of the first rules of writing is to let go of your “babies”)finished reading you now send it to publishers, agents, family and friends (one copy going to that person whose eye you’ve been trying to catch) if you’ve come this far, “CONGRATULATION” YOUR AN OUTLAW, a 1%. put the 1% patch on you jacket. climb on your HARLEY, ride, be proud, you’ve earned self respect and the respect of your peers. again this is only one way there are others research them choosing which way fits your style.

  9. You’re absolutely right, James! Thank you for posting this and reminding us all of the little things we can be grateful for every day. :) Hope all is well!

  10. “I will never say I have to work out again” are words that will forever ring inside me. They were spoken to me by my triathlete sister who was severely injured in a bike vs. car accident. (She was the bike.) Many times during her recovery she said “I just want to have a regular day and go to work.”

    Embrace the “get to” and abandon the “have to.”

  11. Just today I was getting irritated as hell because my 7-month-old son was being very cranky. I was feeling like running away from all this. Thank you for your post. I am feeling rejuvenated. You are so right, I get to take care of him… I am blessed. Thank you again.

  12. Thank you James for all your insight and amazing articles. I will remember this, because this one word “does” change everything!

  13. Its a great work you are doing James. Your example of a daily workout is valid for all the task or goals we want to achieve in life, your suggestions works for me a lot. Thanks for doing such a noble work.

  14. Thanks again . It’s a pleasure to read your articles . Always clear and to the point . I got to celebrate Thanksgiving right here today in Spain with Americsn friends . That was a great opportunity .

  15. James,

    Your example of consistency and commitment to writing (even on a holiday) and your generosity with all of your insights are among the sources of support I am thankful for this Thanksgiving.

    Wishing you and your family a glorious Holiday!



  16. Thank you James for your newsletters. I just signed up for it, but already feel how it’s going to shape my life. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

  17. Happy Thanksgiving to you!!! Bless you for writing and sharing your voice and pictures with us. I am thankful I “get” the opportunity to read your posts.

  18. I re-read the email with “get” and I noticed I changed in my response, physically for the good. In Australia we don’t have thanksgiving just a mad rush to Christmas, but I am thankful for your email.

  19. Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for sharing this lesson. It really does help to remember that we are blessed with all the opportunities we have each day and get to do things that we may or may not have a chance to do in the future. This is a great reminder to always live in the moment and be thankful for everything that you are doing.

    • I would also like to point out that during the holidays you get to spend time with your family. This is my first Thanksgiving away from family which is great because it gives me a chance to think about what we should be thankful for. All the past years it felt like a burden routinely driving all the way to North Carolina to visit family for the holidays because I had to. Now it is apparent that it is something you get to do than have to do. Happy Holidays!

  20. I was certain when I saw “one word” that it was going to be “CHOOSE TO.” Equally valid as “get to.” I myself am going to commit to “CHOICE” as what a wonderful day to be thankful for all that we CHOOSE to do!

  21. This was a great message to the world. Thank you James for this article. We forget how fortunate we are to GET to do things in our lives. A small change can make a huge impact in our mind.

  22. Thanks for the kind words James and all your inspiring advice throughout the year. Have to keep remembering it’s the journey not the destination, argh :)

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

    • yes and I read that we should also embrace our negative experiences because they re a part of our journey helping to shape who we are.

  23. Wonderful! This one word ‘get’ can change you thinking, attitude and your behaviour towards the positive.

    Thank you James for this brilliant post.

  24. I saw someone else doing this or talking about doing it but they had an even grander perspective on it. When you change your thinking from “having” to do things to “getting” to do things, don’t see them as just “opportunities” instead see them as privileges that come from simply being alive. Saying they are opportunities suggests that they are only valuable in that they may lead to something better, something in the future, but right here, right now is a privilege. Be grateful for whatever is happening right now.

  25. Thank you, James, for changing our lives one article at a time. I’ve been drawn towards your writing for its practicality and for being able to relate to the things you say. Happy Thanksgiving!

    -Ronak in India.

  26. Articles like this are great reminders for me. I often instruct my kids to watch their attitudes and their words, but I have to do the same…even in the little things. Thanks for the refresher.

  27. You are right.

    We are grateful for the breath, we continue to take.As many breath we take, we are getting that much opportunities to express ourselves and to interact with the environment. The environment may be nature, your neighbor, your family, your friends, your loved ones. It is an opportunity to express gratitude, devotion and dedication.

    Let express self so as others to get the feeling like smell of flowers, fruits of the trees and an elixir of life, water, or river.

  28. Thank you very much too, James, for the inspiration through your writing. I am truly encouraged by your writing style — simple yet powerful. May you continue to shed more light in the world.

  29. To be able to read clear, concise ideas to quickly improve your outlook on even the day ahead of you is pretty great. You do it well James. Thanks.

  30. Thank you James for the “easy to read” articles. I hope one day I can share the results of the little steps I am about to start. So looking forward to receive your future newsletters. All best!

  31. Hi! I loved this post. I have been reading your blog for a few weeks now and I would like to say Thank you for your work, and sharing these ideas. Greetings from Costa Rica.

  32. Thank you James for the newsletters. They are very helpful. God bless you. I’m a medical student and sometimes studying is boredom, but now I know it’s an opportunity.

  33. Hi James,

    At first I couldn’t understand what you have just said (actually), then I went through the comments and examples people have shared, feeling *amazing at this moment*. You are really telling me the meaning of life!
    you are the man, thanks a lot. I shouldn’t be crying over many things, I have to get it done only,


  34. Happy Thanksgiving James!
    I’m thankful to the person who introduced me to your inspiring site and I’m thankful for all the short snippets of encouragement you share generously with us every week!


  35. Once again James your words have proved concise and straight to the point. It’s the little things in essence, that can make a big difference. As I learnt from my time spent in Helmand, Afghanistan—always appreciate what you’ve got, because until you lose it, only then do you realise what you had was truly special. Thanks again James. Keep up the good work!

    From Jordan Chapman in England.

    Happy Christmas!

  36. Thank you for this post. I have a son who was born with severe Spina Bifida three years ago and it has been a very difficult time. Some days it feels like there are a lot of “have to’s” in my life, especially now, when there are so many things my little guy can’t do for himself. Your Thanksgiving post reminded me that I “get to” be the mother of this special child, and I “get to” help him learn and grow and be the best he can be despite his disabilities. God chose my husband and myself for this boy and we “get to” parent him when many cannot have children. Thanks for the perspective. I look forward to your posts. Have a great day.

  37. I saved this particular email because of the title and finally opened and read it today. On December 2 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and on December 7 took myself to the ER with exertional chest pain which, thankfully, resulted in a stent placement and not a heart attack. Thank you from the bottom of my happily pumping heart for writing this wonderful article and making it available to so many readers. A perfect time to make this one word change and add it to my cancer fighting arsenal!

    • Marg — my sister is a cancer survivor, so from a very personal place, I wish you the best in your fight and I’m so happy to have you reading. I’ll do my best to keep sending helpful ideas your way.

      Good luck!

  38. I have printed and saved this post and keep coming back to it. It is an awesome reminder of the power of one word to change our perception! Reading all of the posts made to date provides a powerful testament to this concept. Thanks very much, James!

  39. Thanks James.This blog makes us realize that if we do our work with great enthusiasm,every work will become a joyful activity.Keep motivating .

  40. “You don’t have to. You get to.” Is classic Stoicism that has stood the test of time since it’s inception in 300 BC. I’m thankful for the Stoics like Marcus Aurelius who still speak to us from the grave and help us to live more enlightened lives. Thanks, James, for sharing one of my most favorite philosophy nuggets. Happy Thanksgiving!

  41. I had an amazing opportunity to get to know about your articles few weeks ago and since then I am reading every single article you have sent out.

    Thank you very much for the time and effort to help so many people and always inspire us.

  42. Great post James, thank you!

    A great example of how just 1 tiny change can make a huge difference. Just think of what you can achieve if you daily make 1 more tiny change to fine tune your life.

  43. Just changing that one word puts a different spin on how we perceive things in life. So often we take for granted the things we have to do and forget that it’s an opportunity to do things. Thank you for reminding us to be thankful.

  44. Fantastic suggestion

    Just have to Change the word “Have to “Get to”

    Brings drastic change in ones attitude towards work

  45. Neat bit of wordplay. How would you go about making it into a habit? Maybe set a time to look at your daily-do and say “I get to clean the attic. I get to pick up milk. I get to…”

  46. This is so true. God says to be thankful in all things and we get to decide how to live our lives. Having an attitude of gratitude makes everyone happier.

  47. I enjoy your posts every week, even it has become one of my daily duties to open the email and read them in the two days.

    You are a highly encouraging person. Thank you so much for your inspiring words all the time.

    Thanks again, James!


  48. It’s always a JOY to read your posts! I was just making a list of all the things I’m intended to release from my life. As I completed my first round I read your blog. Found myself really excited about all I “get” to do, rather than what I “have” to do. Total energy shift!

    Thanks a million.

  49. I blew through the first part of this article because I HAD TO GET THROUGH my emails. I was going quickly. QUICK, what’s the gist? I HAVE TO get through these an on to my other tasks.
    And then I saw your one word: get, get to, I get to do these things.
    Everything stopped.
    You’re right James. You’ve just changed my day. And my attitude.
    Thank you.
    And, I’m so glad I get to read what you write 2ce weekly. : ))

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