“You should get this book,” my sister wrote at our THE SCHMEXY SISTERZ Facebook chat room.
She then sent a snapshot of Elle Luna’s The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion. Reading the blurb on Amazon, I was very interested in this dichotomy and what exactly they mean and represent.
Eventually, I did pick up a copy from my local bookstore and dove right into it. It’s filled with beautiful photography, inspiring quotes, lovely illustrations, and most important of all, insights on honoring our calling — MUST — and how to live a life driven by what moves us forward.
Conclusion: It’s a refreshing way of expounding on a classic war cry that many creatives continue to fear and turn away from.
Dissecting the Crossroads
There are passages in the book that stopped me on my tracks and got me thinking about the way I was living my life as a writer.
I want to share some of the most thought-provoking insights that could inspire you to pursue your own calling, or rethink your initial perceptions about the idea of finding and following your passions.
Don’t worry. These ideas are neither risky nor intimidating to scare you from doing so, which is the beauty behind the book. (These may be spoilers for you, so you can skip this post and just pick up your copy of the book.)
1. What you do = Who you are
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? In this place, job descriptions and titles no longer make sense; we no longer go to work, we are the work. (21)
Blurring the lines between what we do and who we are opens a ton of possibilities for both creation and interpretation.
On one hand, you’re no longer separated from the work that you do. It becomes an extension of who you are, and therefore gives it meaning, purpose, and reason to pursue it, no matter what.
When you follow Must everyday, 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. (133)
As far as creation goes, we as human beings are dynamic and experiential that there’s so much we can do and achieve. Once we create based off of our experiences, emotions, beliefs, and ideals, we free ourselves of the shackles that keep us from coming up with and executing great ideas. The only thing limiting us is our willingness to explore that realm.
On the other hand, people who are exposed to your work can experience it in a whole different level. It’s not just a piece of artwork, music, writing, or digital product anymore, but a piece of the person who made it. It transcends its utilitarian purpose and becomes a valuable entity that should be felt, experienced, and shared with others.
2. If you want to free yourself of SHOULD, you have to first understand why it exists to begin with.
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. (45)
This passage was a turning point for me because it prodded me to think of the reasons why I was still where I am today: no published poetry collection, several ongoing projects, lack of time, etc. I began to tick my SHOULDs off, staring them down and determining if I could finally remove some of the inhibitions that weren’t helping me reach my goals.
This idea made me realize as well that this is what has been keeping me preoccupied for the past couple of years. I couldn’t shake off this feeling of unhappiness working as a freelance commercial writer and blogger, and so it convinced me to give it up for work that would simply support the true work I wanted to do. The affirmation and the urge to dig deeper into the SHOULDs that are stopping me from putting more literary work out there motivate me to finally change the way I was doing things.
3. Not all SHOULDs are bad.
Throughout the book, you’ll notice that SHOULD and MUST are established as binaries that you’re compelled to choose one from the other. MUST represents your calling, and so Luna encourages you to pursue MUST and not let your SHOULDs—your “prisons”—stop you from doing so.
I don’t think all SHOULDs are bad or things that pull you down, and that it’s extremely important that you only remove the SHOULDs that aren’t useful or helpful to you in any way. I personally don’t see my family and daily responsibilities as prisons that I have to escape from, but I do understand that I have to overcome my fear of being ridiculed for my attempts at writing fiction or the fear of silence and obscurity.
Again, not all of your SHOULDs are bad. You just need to understand why you have them and determine which of the limitations deserve to be chocked out the window for good.
4. There is dignity in all work.
You might have a nine-to-five job while you pursue your calling on nights and weekends. Or you might focus on your calling full-time and make a living from it. There are many options to choose from, and there is dignity in all work. Just because you have a job to pay the bills does not make it dirty. And just because you need to find your calling does not mean you need to quit your job. (87)
The idea of leaving one’s “boring, corporate job” to pursue the calling has been romanticized all too often these days. In fact, I’ll be the first to admit that this is what I did in hopes of dedicating more of my time and energy into the creative work I wanted to do.
How silly I was for thinking that work was the hindrance to my calling. Because eventually money became scarce and I was forced to take back the job I had left behind.
It felt humiliating to be in that situation, but it was a good wake-up call to handle this transition the smart and sensible way. I eventually found the missing link: I took a job that allowed me to pay the bills and that didn’t involve hardcore writing. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself, and what I would encourage you if you ever are wooed into the idea of trading your job for the journey to pursue your calling.
5. Be alert to your desires, urges, and wants.
One of the best ways to determine your own calling is to be extra alert to what draws you in.
Luna shares several neat exercises to help you discover your MUST, but I wanted to share this technique in particular because it teaches you to be more in-tune with yourself. It’s something that we tend to forget as we strive and struggle each day.
6. 10 minutes.
Luna suggests it’s as simple as dedicating a minimum of ten minutes to doing the work. You can offer to take on more if time will allow you.
The main point here is that there’s no reason for anyone to say they didn’t have time to spare, because you can spend just ten minutes to do whatever it is that you need to do to pursue your calling.
The next time you tell yourself the excuse that you don’t have time, pull out your timer, set it to go off in 10 minutes, and start working.
7. When you choose MUST, you inspire others to do the same.
Must feels inherently selfish at first. But when you choose Must, you inspire others to choose it, too. (133)
I didn’t fully understand what this meant when I first read it. It eventually dawned on me that this is one of the most important parts of the journey to finding and following your passions.
I love this idea because it adheres to my own principle of being the change you want to be (Ghandi). The work that I do becomes real and concrete that others can experience it and find it in themselves to pursue and launch their own dreams as well.
Will you acknowledge your MUST?
Because in the end, it all boils down to where you decide to go from here. If you feel that the idea of pursuing your passions isn’t something that works for you, then it’s a decision everyone else has to respect.
If however you choose to acknowledge your MUST and wish to pursue it, you open yourself to a journey filled with possibilities and without any form of guarantee. It’s literally an unknown world that only you can paint for yourself, and that’s the beauty and the terror of the journey.