Should vs. Must

This piece starts to explore Elle Luna’s book The Crossroads of Should and Must. She writes that we’re often guided by a list of ‘shoulds’ – things that determine how we live our lives, according to others’ expectations of us. They’re ingrained in us from a young age. Listening to, and taking action from our ‘must’ is about casting aside those external ‘shoulds’ and being true to ourselves – chasing after what we want because it interests and excites us, and because it has meaning for us, even if it doesn’t comply with societal expectations.

“We arrive at this crossroads over and over again, and every day, we get to choose. Starting out or starting over, making a career change or making a life change, the most life-affirming thing you can do is honor the voice inside that says you have something special to give, and then heed the call and act.”

Elle and the team behind The Escape Manifesto both tell the story of Roz Savage – a woman who once had the big corporate job in management consultancy, the big salary, the material things…on paper, a very good life. And yet, there was something missing – a feeling that she wasn’t living in a way that fit. She sat down to complete an exercise, sometimes known as ‘the rocking chair’ exercise. By fast-forwarding herself long into the future, she imagined that she was at the end of her life and wrote down two very different versions of her future obituary.

“The first was the life that I wanted to have. I thought of the obituaries that I enjoyed reading, the people that I admired…the people [who] really knew how to live. The second version was the obituary that I was heading for – a conventional, ordinary, pleasant life. The difference between the two was startling. Clearly something was going to have to change…I felt I was getting a few things worked out. But I was like a carpenter with a brand-new set of tools and no wood to work on. I needed a project. And so I decided to row the Atlantic.”  

She quit her job, sold her possessions and rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

Not everyone needs to, or would necessarily want to take such extreme action in order to live in line with their ‘must’. But at the heart of Roz’s story was a decision: to cast aside her list of ‘shoulds’ and follow her ‘must’.

How do shoulds and musts impact you?