I have observed a trend among those I mentor, consult with, and train. I can't say for certain if this is a growing trend, but I have observed it my entire professional life, and it has always been an obstacle to success.

The problem? "I have to..."

You see, most people ask what they "have to" do. They ask whether they "have to" be there. They wonder whether they "have to" work that hard. They argue that they shouldn't "have to" dress up for their job.

I never hear successful people - in an area of life - ask this question.

Here is the problem with "have to": it is externally motivated. That means when you ask, "Do I have to do that?", what you're really asking is, "Is someone going to require that of me, or can I get by with less?"

When you ask this type of question, you are setting yourself up to do the least possible to not be punished by someone else. If your boss says you have to be at work by 9:00 AM, do you show up at 9:00 AM? Most folks do - at least approximately - and try to not get there any earlier than they have to. Why? Because that is what they have to do.

So, what's the alternative? Try this one: "need to."

If you simply change your vocabulary on this one, you can go from focusing on what someone else requires of you, to working on what you have decided is necessary.

What's the real difference?

Well, if your boss tells you that you "have to" be in at 9:00 AM, but you want to get ahead and get that next promotion before the guy at the next cube, you might decide that you "need to" get in before him. Maybe he has been showing up at 8:45 AM (which the boss likes). So, you decide you need to show up at 8:30 AM (and start working at that time). You don't have to do that, but it's what you need to do in order to reach your goals.

What if you are self-employed? Do you avoid this trap, because there's no boss? Actually, I've seen this problem even worse among the self-employed.

Here is how it works: Assume you are a self-employed independent insurance agent. You work within a large organization (but remember you are self-employed, so you have no boss). The organization is having a conference, and you have been thinking that you would like to just work those few days in the field, rather than go. Do you start to wonder if you "have to" go? If you are like most people, you do! But instead, stop and ask whether you "need to" go. See - one word changed, and we have a different question: does this conference provide a benefit that I need?

Now it is easier to assess the value of the conference. Maybe you will learn some new techniques or information that will help you serve your clients better. Maybe you will learn how the best in the field look at their business and clients, or what their mindset is.

Maybe it is nothing more than being part of the culture. This can be important in most organizations. Some managers in this type of organization actually use conference attendance as a deciding factor in where to spend their time. They know that folks who attend get tuned into the culture, business model, products, and techniques of the organization, so they decide this is where they should spend their training time (and often, where they should send the best leads!). Okay, even if you do not accept that as a valid reason, you still know it is going to happen. So, even if you think there is no direct learning benefit from the conference, you still know you need the best leads and access to your manager to perform your best, so you "need" to go to the conference!

There it is - a simple matter of changing one word, and your focus changes from one of requirement to one of personal accountability. By starting to consider what you need to do to reach your goals - rather than what you have to do to stay out of trouble - you accept responsibility for your own progress, your own situation, and your own decisions. Accepting personal accountability for your life is an important step toward real success. In my 20+ years of consulting and coaching, touching dozens of organizations and independent business owners, I have yet to meet any successful person who hadn't taken this step early in their climb. It is a simple change of a small word, but it can make all the difference in your world.

Author's Bio: 

Gerry Seymour is a nationally recognized expert on business and personal growth. Gerry combines his experience as a management consultant with his proven skill as a coach to help you refocus your efforts in business, relationships, and other areas of life.

Gerry has more than twenty years of experience as a consultant and coach, and has men mentored and coached by successful people I several different industries and walks of life.

Gerry is based out of the Asheville, NC area,where he lives with his wife and many animals.

For more information on Gerry Seymour's products and services and to receive a free personal accountability assessment visit: http://gerryseymour.com/selfgrowth/