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The Crossroads of Should and Must, by Elle Luna, Medium

The Crossroads of Should and Must Medium

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Elle Luna has written a long but rewarding article about the recurring choice in life between SHOULD and MUST:

There are two paths in life: Should and Must. We arrive at this crossroads over and over again. And each time, we get to choose.

Over the past year I’ve chosen Must again and again. And it was petrifying. And at times it was dark. But I would never, ever, trade this past year for anything. This essay is my three biggest takeaways from the experience. It’s for anyone who is thinking of making the jump from Should to Must. Anyone looking to follow the energy deep within their chest but aren’t quite sure how.

Should is how others want us to show up in the world — how we’re supposedto think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do. It’s the vast array of expectations that others layer upon us. When we choose Should the journey is smooth, the risk is small.

Must is different—there aren’t options and we don’t have a choice.

Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. It’s our instincts, our cravings and longings, the things and places and ideas we burn for, the intuition that swells up from somewhere deep inside of us. Must is what happens when we stop conforming to other people’s ideals and start connecting to our own. Because when we choose Must, we are no longer looking for inspiration out there. Instead, we are listening to our calling from within, from some luminous, mysterious place.

Stefan Sagmeister’s TED talk about jobs, careers, and callings.

Elle writes:

Arianna Huffington describes the joy she felt learning about how Picasso chose to live his life:

The more I discovered about his life and the more I delved into his art, the more the two converged. “It’s not what an artist does that counts, but what he is,” Picasso said. But his art was so thoroughly autobiographical that what he did was what he was.


Picasso’s life blended seamlessly with his work. It was all one huge swirling mix of bullfights and beaches and booze. And we could tell. Because to look at one of Picasso’s canvases is quite literally to look into his soul. And this is exactly what happens when our life, our essence, is one and the same with our work. It’s when job descriptions and titles no longer make sense because we don’t go to work— we are the work.

And this lead me to a big hypothesis. What if…


What if who we are and what we do become one and the same? What if our work is so thoroughly autobiographical that we can’t parse the product from the person? What if our jobs are our careers and our callings?

And this was about the time that my head exploded.


Choosing Must sounds fantastic, right? To step into the fullness of our gifts and offer them up to the world in the form of our work.


Well, it turns out that choosing Must is scary, hard, and a lot like jumping off a terrifyingly high cliff where you can’t see anything down below.

It was one year ago that I jumped off the first of many cliffs, leaving a dream job at Mailbox to make art.

Read more:

I love this.  I feel like I am on a similar path.  I think because we are such social beings, being entirely true to oneself can feel so risky and vulnerable.  Life has such an interesting tension between doing what is right for oneself, but still wanting acceptance from the pack.

It is the tension between becoming and being where we learn so much, Patricia.

The difficult part for most people is that they don't spend enough time with themselves to know what they must do, so they fall back on what they should do.

Especially these days it is hard to find that time.

You're right that in most cases should becomes the default as a result.

And then years go by without ever getting to must.

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