In life, you’re never obligated to do anything…

23 July 2019


Dr. Nicolas Chevrier, psychologist

You always have a choice. Now that I’ve captured your attention with the title, let me explain what I mean by it. Developing good stress management involves changing your lifestyle and work habits. These changes are usually the “easy” part. The most difficult thing is to get rid of the thought patterns that prevent you from adjusting to the different situations that come with entrepreneurial life.


I’ve noticed one in particular coming up constantly when I work with business leaders. This thinking error is brought on by the “should and must statements”. It manifests itself directly in everyday thoughts:

I must go to this meeting.”

I should be able to answer all calls from customers.”

I must finish all my chores by 5:00 tonight.”

This bad habit can prevent you from seeing a source of stress with a fresh pair of eyes. It makes it more difficult to adapt to new or unexpected situations. It manifests itself in the continual addition of “I must” and “I should” to daily tasks. “I have to go home early to make dinner for the kids.”

However, these thinking errors reduce the perception of control over your environment. I’m not obligated to get home early to make dinner for the kids (rigid thought that causes stress). I prefer going home early so that they can eat a balanced homemade meal. The goal is a balanced meal. Do I know a take-out restaurant that will allow me to attain this? The local Lebanese restaurant maybe? I’ll take the time I need to work on this file, and if I finish too late, we’re having Lebanese! (alternative thinking better adapted to reality)

How do you neutralize the pernicious effect of feeling obligated? Remember and apply the following reality on a daily basis: I am never obligated to do anything. Obligations don’t exist. Hard to believe isn’t it? But, it’s true. Obligations do not exist, only choices exist. Of course, choices involve consequences. Paying taxes is not a choice, you say? Of course, it’s a choice. I can decide against paying, but there will be consequences. Stay focused on choices and consequences.


By introducing the notion of choice into my everyday life, I take my control back. I make choices. They have consequences that I accept. Therefore, control is on my side.

  • My presence at this meeting is not crucial, so I will go if my schedule allows it.
  • Although my preference is to answer all customer calls, I chose to prioritize calls during office hours.
  • Although I would have liked to complete all my tasks, I have until 5 pm to work on my list of priorities.

Some of these choices will be difficult to make, but they will help you manage obligations in your professional, family and personal life: seriously considering the inconveniences caused by choosing to forgo a task, and accepting that sometimes living with consequences is the best decision to properly manage your resources.

“My client will be disappointed if I don’t answer the phone during my son’s annual show.” Well, the choice is mine. My client is disappointed or my son is disappointed. This may not be the ideal choice, but it’s my choice.

About the author

Nicolas Chevrier

About Nicolas Chevrier


Dr. Nicolas Chevrier, psychologist, holds a Master’s in Clinical Psychology and a PhD in Occupational and Organizational Psychology, in which he focused on the impact organizational factors can have on the development of burnout.