Artist and author Elle Luna writes, “There are two paths in life: should and must. We arrive at this crossroads again and again. And each time, we get to choose."
I’ve been thinking about my shoulds and musts.
A few of mine:
mothering - lovingly have it all together when it comes to the children’s needs, schedules, and discipline
meaningful work - working hard towards professional success as measured by financial rewards, prestige and having something to show for
well-connected - have a wide personal and professional network
look great - or smashing, glamorous, skinny, toned, etc
A few more of mine:
mothering - practicing self-care first so I have the capacity to care for others
meaningful work - write about things I truly care about, which always helps me excavate towards some higher truth
well-connected - have at least one meaningful conversation a day
feel great - listening to my body instead of punishing it, going outside for a run so I can find my breath again after letting it go, sweating it out, and remembering what my body feels like to hold me
Can you tell which of these is my must and which is my should list? The distinction can be subtle. Many of my musts and shoulds sound almost the same. Even on days when I’m most aware and set out with the best intentions, I mislead myself. I go forth putting my all into it, and I effort and effort. In the end, I have gotten out of balance even if I achieve what I set out to do. I’m left in fumes wondering how being a loving mama can make me feel so terrible about myself and my children? Why does meaningful work feel so useless? Why do I feel so lonely with all the connections on LinkedIn or friends on Facebook that I have, literally right at my fingertips? How did I lose my way?
Here’s the distinction: Should is outward facing while must is inward facing. Should tells me I am not enough, I’ll never be, and that I have to ceaselessly work towards measuring up. Must is who I am, my quiet places, where I’ve already got it. So am I seeking for external approval or looking to my internal compass for guidance?
Choosing at this crossroads is hard. Not knowing which way to go, with there being so much confusion and uncertainty. And even harder than not knowing is arriving at the crossroads, seeing clearly which is the better way, but picking should because must is just too darn painful.
Well. I make myself take a breath. And I remember what my heroine Crystal says, “You already have the answer. Exhale.” Okay here I go.
I’m looking forward to meeting Elle Luna on March 3, at the Women Leading Change Symposium where she and I will be speaking more about the should and must. Join us!