The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna
April 10, 2017
Periodically it’s worth taking a step back, analyzing where you are and where you want to go. Take an honest look at what you want, so that you have the ability to be purposeful in how you spend this life and what you try to accomplish. Please note, this advice DOES NOT mean analyzing or comparing your current life situation relative to Jennifer from middle school, or the Jones’ next door. That unfortunate human habit is not productive, unless your objective is to breed dissatisfaction, jealousy and unhappiness in your soul. Instead what this means is looking at where you are, how you feel, and assessing what your ambitions are for the future….irrespective of the path other people are choosing (or more likely, blindly following a socially accepted path on auto pilot). This personal evaluation requires you to dream big, think outside of the box, and envision what YOUR perfect future and YOUR amazing journey could look like. Then identifying what the steps are to pave that path for yourself.
This edition of Kathy’s CliffNotes is on the book The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion. This books has a number of great exercises you can use as a framework for personal journey evaluation. However, the one piece of this book I struggle with is the “follow your passion” mantra. I believe most people don’t have a clearly defined passion. Additionally, some people fall into the trap of trying to turn enjoyable hobbies into careers. There are a number of potential pitfalls with that approach. First, once you are required to do your hobby every day, you might not enjoy it as much as you once did. It ceases to be a “break” from your regular routine and becomes mandatory. Second, to have a career you need to do something someone else is willing to pay for (whether that’s running your own business, or working in someone else’s). Not all passions and or hobbies translate to something of value to others. If you are trying to find work you will love, I recommend reading the book by Cal Newport called So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion In the Quest for Work You Love (which also has a CliffNotes on my blog).
Who hasn’t asked the question “How can I find and follow my true calling?” Elle Luna frames this moment as “standing at the crossroads of Should and Must.” “Should” is what we feel we ought to be doing, or what is expected of us. “Must” is the thing we dream of doing, our heart’s desire.
The Crossroads of Should and Must has a universal message—we get to choose the path between Should and Must. And it gives every reader permission to embrace this message. It’s about the difference between jobs, careers, and callings. The difference between going to work and becoming one with your work. Why knowing what you want is often the hardest part. It gives eye-opening techniques for reconnecting with one’s inner voice, like writing your own obituary (talk about putting life in perspective). It talks about the most common fears of choosing Must over Should—money, time, space, and the ultimate fear: total vulnerability—and shores up our hesitation with inspiring stories of and quotes from the artists and writers and thinkers who’ve faced their own crossroads of Should and Must and taken the leap. It explains the importance of mistakes, of “unlearning,” of solitude, of keeping moving, of following a soul path.
Without further ado, here are some gems from The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion
Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. It’s that which calls to us most deeply. It’s our convictions, our passions, our deepest held urges and desires—unavoidable, undeniable, and inexplicable. Unlike Should, Must doesn’t accept compromises.
Choosing Must is the greatest thing we can do with our lives.
If you want to live the fullness of your life—if you want to be free—you must understand, first, why you are not free, what keeps you from being free.
If you want to know Must, get to know Should. This is hard work. Really hard work. We unconsciously imprison ourselves to avoid our most primal fears. We choose Should because choosing Must is terrifying, incomprehensible.
How often do we place blame on the person, job, or situation when the real problem, the real pain, is within us? And we leave and walk away, angry, frustrated, and sad, unconsciously carrying the same Shoulds into a new context—the next relationship, the next job, the next friendship—hoping for a different outcome.
Grab a piece of paper, and make a list of the Shoulds you hold on to. When you examine the Shoulds of your life, you are consciously choosing to get to know your prison—the expectations from other people’s agendas, the belief systems you inhabit but don’t truly embrace, and all the things you agreed to without realizing it. Shining a light on your list of Shoulds may involve facing some of your deepest fears, and finding support is wise. This is where the pros come in—therapists, counselors, and professionals who are trained to navigate this terrain. Working with a therapist in your day-to-day life is like having a trainer at the gym, except rather than work your muscles, the therapist works the organ that thinks it’s running the show—your brain—and the source that’s really running the show—your spirit.
There are also tools to help. The Enneagram is a powerful personality typology tool that empowers self-awareness. By better understanding yourself, you awaken to the patterns that you unconsciously repeat in your life.
“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path,” Joseph Campbell said. “Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”
Nowhere is the essence of Must more purely exhibited than in childhood. What were you like as a child? What did you enjoy doing? Were you solitary or did you prefer a crowd? Independent or collaborative? Day optimizer or day dreamer? If you don’t remember, call your mom, or someone who knew you well in your early childhood, and ask for stories about what you were like as a kid. Take notes on a piece of paper and hold on to them. These stories hold the earliest seeds of your Must.
Write two versions of your obituary on two pieces of paper. Don’t worry about being overly practical. Consider how your life will progress along the path it’s on. And then consider what might be written if you heed your call.
When you know why you are here—what you were put on this earth to do—it is challenging to go back to life as you knew it and be satisfied. And this is why Must is elusive. This is why we avoid admitting what we want. This is why our deepest desires sit in hiding for months, years, a lifetime. And this is why this journey is fascinating, intoxicating, and downright intimidating.
There are some big concerns people have about achieving a sustainable Must. The first is Money.
Just because you have a job to pay the bills does not make it dirty. And just because you want to find your calling does not mean you need to quit your job.
So long as you keep your eye on your Must and optimize your time and energy to sustain it as best you can, you can continue to adjust and experiment with how you make money.
And if, for some awful reason, you forget that money is a game, a make-believe concept that some people invented, you could be led back into the complex layered world of Should. And here, the loss isn’t a financial one. You are the cost. Is it worth it?
There are two types of money—Must-Have and Nice-to-Have. Must-Have money is a solid, fixed number that we do not want to risk not having.
Time is the second perceived stumbling block to Must. You make time for what you want. If you’re not prioritizing the things you say you care about, consider the possibility that you don’t actually care about those things.
Space is the third stumbling block to finding your Must.
This space is both physical and emotional.
You need a physical space—private, safe, and just for you. When you are in this space, you are not available. I repeat, you are not available. This is your sacred space to be by and with yourself. We all need safe containers. How might you create a safe space that you can spend time in daily? How might you get creative with where it begins and ends? Find this place and make it your own.
Importance of Play: When you’re stuck, when you need a jolt, when you crave to see things from a new perspective, it’s time to play. You don’t have to be a painter to use a paintbrush or a carpenter to use a hammer. When you play with new tools and methods, you will literally activate parts of your mind that have become hard to reach over time.
Importance of Solitude: Solitude is how we quiet the voices, the incessant chatter. It’s how we create the necessary calm, empty spaces. Vision needs solitude. Leadership needs solitude. Courage needs solitude. Because when our choices evolve from an internal place of sure-footed, rooted knowing, we become resilient, emboldened, and focused.
It is here, standing at the crossroads of Should and Must, that we feel the enormous reality of our fears, and this is the moment when many of us decide against following our intuition, turning away from that place where nothing is guaranteed, nothing is known, and everything is possible.
Must is too important, way too important, to be chosen on a whim, out of excitement, out of intoxication. That kind of decision-making is certain death. The most sustainable Musts happen slowly, thoughtfully, and quietly. They don’t happen impulsively but are built with a sober, calm intention.
Must is for today, now. And as you take daily action, the cliff will cease to be a cliff. It will simply become an obvious next step along your path to Must.
It is constant effort and hard work—and inexplicably life-affirming—to honor who you are, what you believe, and why you are here. To choose Must is the greatest thing you can do with your life because this congruent, rooted way of living shines through everything that you do.
Must feels inherently selfish at first. But when you choose Must, you inspire others to choose it, too. When you follow Must every day, you impact not only what you create for your work, but also who you become in your life. This is how your work and your life become one and the same.
“Have you ever thought of something and then just known it had to happen? This was one of those things.”
We each have unique potential that was given to us at birth, but whether or not we cultivate it is entirely up to us. In its purest sense, Must is why we are here to begin with, and choosing it is the journey of our lives.