I dislike the concept of obligation. The formal definition of obligation is an act or course of action to which a person is morally or legally bound. I suppose what makes me uncomfortable with the word is the idea that we have to do something for a certain reason, even if we don’t want to.
For instance, everyday a large majority of us feels obligated to get out of bed, to go to work, to be kind and cheerful to our colleagues, to walk our dog, to clean out our cat’s litter box, to tip our waiters/waitresses. We do these things not only to maintain personal fitness and adequate social standing, but also because we feel obligated to. In other words, we feel like we have to do these things or suffer the consequences of being a sour pickle.
And all said and done, there’s really nothing wrong with obligation-driven thought. I mean, if it gets people to take care of themselves and look after those around them, then how bad can it be, right?
My only concern with this is that obligation often encourages an air of reluctance, pessimism, and dissatisfaction. When we complete assigned tasks because we have to, we lose the incentive to do the best job that we possibly can, leading us to reduced quality work.
Don’t believe me? Think back to a time when you were called upon to suddenly clean your living space because of the imminent arrival of guests. Did you want to? Probably not. Did you have to? Yes… At this horrific crux in our lives, we respond by making everything look clean on the surface. Rather than wholeheartedly sweeping and waxing our floors, we hastily hide the incriminating remains under the carpet. Out of sight out of mind, right?
But I feel like there’s a better way to view these perfunctory tasks. Why not try to replace obligation with willingness? Rather than think that you have to do something, try persuading yourself that you want to do something.
For instance, in obligation-driven thought you would say, “I have to go to work this morning or suffer the consequences of being a lazy bum and/or lack of compensation.” Now let us counter that dismal mode of thought with willingness!
Here we will say: “I want to go to work to be of greater use to those around me.” or “I want to go to work to improve my personal performance.” or even, “I want to go to work so I can finally purchase that Xbox 360.”
All I’m saying is that we need better incentives. We need to start thinking more positively. Because I believe that positivity translates to productivity. Let’s make obligation obsolete!