Elle Luna on the Crossroads of Should and Must

“There are two paths in life: Should and Must,” artist Elle Luna writes in her essay, The Crossroads of Should and Must. “We arrive at this crossroads over and over again. And each time, we get to choose.”

Should, in her words,

“… is how others want us to show up in the world — how we’re supposed to 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.”


Photo taken from elleluna.com

Must, on the other hand,

“… 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.”

I was struck while reading the essay. It made me question some of the most important things in my life: Which path I’m heading to — Should or Must? What road did I follow when applying a writing job? What urged me to form a metal band?

Maybe you find yourself asking similar questions. Remember that Should comes from external while Must comes within. Are you doing your job because you love it, or you only want to meet your family’s expectations?

Should is what other people want us to show up.

My parents expect me to study law and become a lawyer. That’s what I told them before (kind of a childhood dream). But when I realized I don’t want to be a lawyer — not even close — I decided to take actions. I changed my route. And followed my Must. My parents, however, think I’m a failure.

Must, in any way, is ourselves. It’s who we are, our callings, and what we desire to do.

People who keep doing what they love despite their conditions, people who follow their heart without support from their families, and people who embark a journey to fulfill a lifelong dream despite the risks — they are the ones who follow their Must.

Whether it’s baking, pottery, fashion design, music, gardening, or painting, as long as you feel connected with it, as long as you see its greater value and purpose, and you want to do it, that is likely your Must.

We can determine we’re following our Must if, as Luna points out [emphasis mine]:

“When who we are and what we do are one and the same, we are walking the road of Must. When we choose Must, what we create is ourselves. It is a body of work.”

Even though it feels right, for some reason, only few choose Must. Why? This, as she explains [emphasis mine]:

“Choosing Must often requires a leap of faith… Choosing Must is scary, hard, and a lot like jumping off a terrifyingly high cliff where you can’t see anything down below… Choosing Must raises questions that are scary, big, and often, without an easy answer in sight.”

Money, time, and fear of the unknown are often the reasons we’re afraid to choose Must.

This made me question: Who said that being super rich is a prerequisite to our Must? Who said we need an infinite amount of time before doing what we love or the things that make us feel more alive? Who said we can succeed without failing or without going into the unknown?

I don’t know everyone’s story. But I know for sure, almost everyone dreams of doing the things they love. They just don’t know what it is. Or even they know they couldn’t commit. Of course, having more money and time is an advantage — that’s a fact. But the real problem I believe, is not the insufficiency. It’s our approach. Our attitude. Our mindset.

I understand, some vocations require lots of money and time. But in today’s generation — the information age —  the opportunities to better our situation, to connect with others, to learn something new, to escalate our skills, and to evolve as a society, are incalculable.

Lack of money and time is no longer an excuse why we’re not doing our Must.

Why not take advantage of the technology? We can start a business using free resources on the Internet — there are tons of them. Or create or join a platform where like-minded people connect and help each other. Or explore alternative ways of doing things we once thought as impossible.

In order to succeed in following our Must, however, we must have the courage and determination. It’s not going to be easy. But when will we start?

“If you believe that you have something special inside of you, and you feel it’s about time you gave it a shot, honor that calling in some small way — today.” — Elle Luna

Read the full essay, “The Crossroads of Should and Must.”