Motivation, What I Mean When I Say

“I Don’t Want To”

Recently, I was making a pros and cons list. On this list, the very first con of a long list of cons was “I don’t want to”. Now, this is a phrase I’ve heard myself say for years. This is a phrase other people have heard me say for years. And I did jot it down.

Why though? “I don’t want to” can’t possibly be reason enough to not do something. It can’t possibly be enough of a reason for anything, right? Well, no, not quite. But it did get me thinking.

What do other people think I mean when I say I don’t want to do something? And what do I actually mean?

“I don’t want to” is so commonly used as a phrase of laziness. When we hear that phrase we think of kids kicking their feet and having a tantrum. We don’t think of adults carefully weighing options, listening to logic and gut feelings, and making a healthy decision for them.

However, I try to live a life where that phrase isn’t used as an excuse. I might not want to run, or write, or work, or do Aikido but I do because not wanting to is not reason enough.

But that’s also because “I don’t want to” often means “I’m too lazy to”. I think this is an important distinction that we have to make before we start using the phrase.

So first things first, understand that I don’t use “I don’t want to” as a replacement for “I’m too lazy to…”. Instead I try to just be honest with myself and say, “Wow, I don’t wanna do this. Cool. Still gonna do it”. Yeah, it is less fun but my life is better for it.

Second, if you find yourself saying you don’t want to do something like laundry, exercise, or eating right stop. Acknowledge that you don’t want to and keep doing what you need to do. Simple solution. Not so fun application.

What this ends up doing, is it sets you up to understand when you really have no interest in doing something. It also helps you realize that if you honestly don’t want to do something (not just because you’re lazy or whatever) there’s probably an actual reason behind it.

Photo by Sebastiaan Stam on

All right, so we’ve cleared the air. We know what we’re talking about now. And it isn’t laziness. It isn’t waiting for motivation. It isn’t taking the easy way or throwing a tantrum.

When I say, “I don’t want to” I mean it.

It’s reason enough.

There is no reason to subject myself to things I won’t enjoy, that will stress me out, or that will upset me. There’s no reason to commit to something I don’t want to do or that I know I won’t like just because I don’t have a reason I think you’ll think is valid.

Let’s make up a scenario.

I hate clubs (never been to one but I know I’d hate it). I don’t like being around a lot of liquor, I don’t like drinking that much and I don’t like drunk people. I don’t like crazy loud techno whatever music. But I get invited to a party that includes all those things. I have no excuse not to go. My evening that night is free. I like the person going. I have nothing else on my plate.

But I still say I won’t go. Why? Because I don’t want to.

And that’s reason enough. I don’t have to have some grand reason for not wanting to go out or do something. I don’t have to have some better reason for choosing not to do something. Right?

Entitled to a reason?

If you have a reason, no one else is entitled to knowing that reason. If “I don’t want to” covers it, perfect. When pressured, you don’t have to explain your reason (if there is one) behind your choice. No one is entitled to that knowledge, no matter what they say or how they try to pressure you.

Our lives are our own.

At the end of the day, if you don’t want to do something for any reason or feeling, you don’t have to. We have lots of choices presented to us every single day. We don’t have to waste our time with choices we don’t want to make. If you don’t want to go out, don’t. There’s tons of choices big and small but the small ones are the ones that add up.

But that’s a different story.

Photo by Fabian Reitmeier on

But what do people think I mean when I say, “I don’t want to”?

Well, people think I’m really rude.

And I’m not. I just don’t feel the need to beat around the bush over and over. I don’t want to avoid the question politely until I end up giving in or getting frustrated because I failed to stand up for my point.

It’s better to start of with a strong statement and set intentions from the start. While it might come off as rude or blunt, it’s honest. Of course, we don’t have to say things in a mean way. We can be kind but firm in our decision.

As an outsider, it’s important to give people their space. It’s polite and kind to give people their space. We aren’t entitled to their answers, their life, and we ought to respect that more than we often do. So if someone tells you they don’t want to do something, accept that.

I don’t like them.

I may have touched on this in other posts but if I don’t want to hang out, do something, or go somewhere I don’t hate you. I like you. I just also realize what I need to do to maintain my balance.

If someone tells you they don’t want to do something that involves you, don’t jump to the conclusion that they don’t like you or that they dread your presence. Instead, ask them if they’d like to do something else or if they want to do something else.

I’m lazy.

This is one I get a lot and it’s unfortunate. I do a lot of stuff day to day as do most people. That means that there are nights where I just cannot (and yes, I really mean I can’t) do something other than eat dinner, watch an episode of something, read, and go to sleep. That might make me look like a lazy bum. Especially if there’s workouts, dinners, or something else at night that most people don’t struggle to get to.

But when I balance my life, sleep, workouts, activities, and work and it turns out I’m running on empty too often I cut out some stuff. If I feel like I’m heading towards burning out, taking it a step too far, or pushing myself a little too much (something I’m very guilty of) I will take a step back. I’ll say, “I don’t want to”.

People think those things and about ten million others. But you and I would be stuck here all day if I tried to write all of them out!

There’s a point to all this. I don’t care what people think or how they choose to judge me. I am comfortable with myself, I know myself. I understand that “I’m too lazy to…” and “I don’t want to…” are not interchangeable in my vocabulary. I know that “I don’t want to” is a valid reason for me.

This comes down to confidence. I am confident enough to say “I don’t want to” when people press me for an answer. Are you?


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