3 Words that Will Change Your Entire Life, If You Let Them

by Stephanie Kwong
tiny buddha

“Sometimes a change of perspective is all it takes to see the light.” ~Dan Brown

It was a cold January morning in California when a woman living on the streets uttered three words that forever altered my life.

It started with my alarm blaring its wake-up call at 6:15AM. I had a Kundalini yoga class at 7:00, but I wanted nothing more than to hit the snooze button. I did. Four times.

Lying in bed with drowsy eyes open, I silently whined, “Do I have to go? I don’t wanna… Why did I sign up for this?” I was in full resistance when I finally got up and forced myself out the door.

Rushing to the yoga studio, with my mat under my arm and an unenthusiastic attitude in tow, I crossed the path of a woman on crutches.

She had a missing leg and was clearly homeless; but rather than ask for money or food, she pointed a finger at me, smiled, and asked, “You going to yoga?”

“Yes,” I replied.

Her smile got bigger before she said, “Good for you. You’re lucky.” She continued on her way, but her words, so direct and honest, crippled me momentarily.

In that moment, I realized something big. Something life-changing big. I am lucky. I don’t have to go to yoga; I get to go. Those three words—I get to—completely changed how I experience life.

It wasn’t a fell-swoop change. It took effort and time. It took me being aware of my perspective, even catching myself in the backslide. I learned that if we’ve chosen to do something, there’s a good reason why; there’s something we’ll gain from it, even if we can’t see what that is. Yet.

After that day I saw how much I categorized things in my life. There was the “have to’s” and the “should’s.”

And when I lived from that perspective—the one of obligation—it completely stripped me of the fulfillment of all the things, even those I disguised as should’s, that are actually extraordinary blessings. They are things I want to experience, do, and learn.

Not only that, I was the one who chose to go to yoga in the first place. It’s crazy how all of a sudden my choice had become something that was being forced upon me.

There are benefits in the choices and decisions we make. And in those moments of have-to’s and should’s, we can shift into an attitude of get-to, which will transform our experience of those moments to being one of choice and a blessing.

Also seeing everything in life as a ‘get to’ has us focus on the positive benefits. You can apply those three powerful words—I get to—to any experience you feel resistant about. When you do, the resistance turn into liberation.

Up until that life-altering day, I had been feeling like this beautiful privilege of practicing yoga was something that was being forced upon me like so many other things in life. But really, I was lucky to get to wake up in a warm bed, and lucky to get to walk myself into the yoga studio with two working legs and a healthy body to do my sacred practice.

Often, we reserve luck to coincidences and random acts, like winning the lottery. But each of us is lucky, in our own right.

We can apply this same shift of thinking even when there is something that can feel challenging, like working a double shift on a Saturday.

That double shift doesn’t have to be the thing we grumble about; rather, it can be the thing we appreciate. That shift we get to do on a Saturday means we have a job and money to live.

While those three words can often shift your attitude to one of gratitude, it can’t fix everything.

There are some things in life we just have to endure—like being there for a loved one who’s fighting cancer—and that’s okay. We’re only human. Our experiences are never black or white but always a varying shade of alive.

It’s been about a year since that encounter on the sidewalk, and my world has shifted. In the big-big way. In the way that matters.

Living from a place of “I get to” and forgiving myself when I slip, which I’m happy to say has become pretty rare, has lessened my inner resistance and created deep fulfillment and possibilities I wouldn’t have seen before.

I now wake up with more vibrancy and gratitude, reminding myself of all that I get to do, get to be, get to know. Lucky me.

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