While reading The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play, by Neil Fiore, I find the following recommendation:
"Replace 'I have to' with 'I choose to'."
This is an idea that I ascribe to, and a notion that has appeared in my blog in the past. It's always interesting to find another expression of an idea that you harbor yourself. I can't necessarily trace my source of the idea: have I read it elsewhere before? I probably have, but don't know where. Maybe something by Anthony Robbins. The premise is very much a cognitive-behavioral one: by changing the stories we tell ourselves, we change our emotional reality.
It's all about the practice, to me. CBT is often seen as being behaviorist in the extreme form, where it may be believed that behavior is the psychological totality. But it seems to me that even if we ascribe to psychodynamic theories, there is a place for behaviorist principles.
If we want to remember someone's phone number and we have nothing to write it down, what do we do? We repeat it to ourselves. If we want to remember a poem, what do we do? We repeat it? If we want to master and remember a musical piece? We practice; we repeat. The behavior reinforces the pattern.
And so, it seems to me that we can benefit from practicing the stories that we tell ourselves. We can benefit from telling ourselves "I choose to," rather than "I have to." It reminds us that we have a choice in the matter--that we have a choice with what we do with our lives. Especially when it comes to things like working on our dissertation. Some things we have to do: we have to eat; we have to drink water; we have to breathe. But do we "have to" write a dissertation? Certainly the imperative to do the dissertation is not of the same character as the imperative to breathe.
So try to remember to choose the things that will serve you.