How to Find + Follow Your "Must" When Your Life is Full of "Shoulds"

April 29, 2015

You're standing at a crossroads. Do you (a) follow the path you think you should (potentially filled with internal or external expectations and demands), or do you (b) follow the path you feel you were born to take — even if you have no idea what that path is, or where it may lead? Elle Luna, former tech entrepreneur, on why you should always take the latter.

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." — Mark Twain

Your Calling is Calling
What's the difference between a job, a career, and a calling? According to Elle Luna, author of The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion, your job is "something typically done from 9 to 5 for pay," and your career is "a system of advancements and promotions over time where rewards are used to optimize behavior." But your calling? That, she writes, is "something that we feel compelled to do regardless of fame or fortune; the work is the reward."

Most of us have jobs, and many of us are building careers, but only a tiny few of us — such as the Mozarts, Meryl Streeps, and Kurt Vonneguts of the world — are actively following and cultivating our true calling. Why is that?

Is it because our lives are filled with too many expectations and obligations, such as financial concerns, familial obligations, and a trunkload of heightened expectations? Or perhaps because we have a feeling that we want to pursue something greater, something more meaningful and fulfilling, but we can't quite figure out what that is? Or we're not sure we have the talent or drive to become successful at it? (Or maybe it could be a mix of all three.)

Find + Follow Your True Path
When you arrive at this point, Luna writes, you can take one of two paths: the path you know, which is filled with all of the "shoulds" in your life, or the path you don't know, which could lead you back to what you were meant to be doing all along.

It's the path where what you do (paint, write, engineer, garden) and who you are become one and the same — even if you'll still need a job to cover your expenses. It's not a path to be taken lightly, but if any of this is ringing bells in your ears, it might be a path worth exploring. The Crossroads of Should and Must could help get you started.


Recently, writer, educator, artist, and brand consultant Debbie Millman interviewed Elle Luna on her podcast, Design Matters. Listen to their conversation here:


Discover More About Elle Luna
Elle Luna left a life she knew, as a tech entrepreneur at such companies as Mailbox and Uber, to embark on a life where her calling as an artist took precedence. She first published her decision — and the path that got her there — in a widely-circulated Medium article, which became this book. Check out Elle Luna's website, the book, and the article that put it on the map.


By Lisa Merlini

Tag: Exploring Education

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