“All too often, we feel that we are not living the fullness of our lives because we are not expressing the fullness of our gifts.” — Elle Luna
I have NO idea how I didn’t stumble across Elle Luna’s viral blog post or book during my existential crisis. I was actively seeking out everything I could possibly find on life purpose and meaning at the time.
That just goes to show that there’s so much good information out there these days that it’s possible to miss some of it. I’m just glad I ended up finding this eventually—a few years late is better than never!
The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion (Amazon) is Elle Luna’s book published in 2015 after the success of her 2014 viral blog post The Crossroads of Should and Must (Medium). Both pieces are quick and engaging reads with lots of illustrations. If you only read one, I’d encourage you to read the book—it follows the same general premise and flow, and it’s (as you would expect) a bit more refined than the blog post.
Book Summary of The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna
Luna mentions tools like the Enneagram, the “Empty Chair Technique,” and writing your own obituary. She also discusses the difference between a job, a career, and a calling—and challenges the reader to consider what life could be like if they were all one and the same:
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.
It reminds me of this quote (not from the book):
A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself he always seems to be doing both. — L. P. Jacks
Exciting! But, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s cover the purpose of this book about purpose…
The Purpose of The Crossroads of Should and Must
- “I wrote this book to share what I have found most helpful in navigating my own journey, as well as what has been most helpful for the people I met. However, you’re not holding a book of answers, because only you know those; you’re holding a collection of the most effective questions I encountered along the way. Think of these pages as a series of doorways designed so that you can choose which way your journey will go.”
- “These pages are a pep talk to honor that voice inside of you that says you have something special to give…It’s permission to unlearn everything you’ve ever been told you should do in order to learn what you must.”
An Overview of “Must”:
We all know what “Shoulds” look and feel like in our lives, but what about “Musts”?
- “Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. It’s that which calls to us most deeply. It’s our convictions, our passions, our deepest held urges and desires—unavoidable, undeniable, and inexplicable. Unlike Should, Must doesn’t accept compromises.”
- “When you know why you are here—what you were put on this earth to do—it is challenging to go back to life as you knew it and be satisfied.” (Note: I 100% agree with this. I had my existential crisis in late 2015 and created my own purpose by late 2016, but I didn’t leave my job until mid-2018. I was working on my purpose on nights and weekends, but I didn’t feel authentically aligned to my inner compass until I took the big leap.)
- “When you follow Must every day, 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.”
There are four big concerns people have about achieving a sustainable Must: Money, Time, Space, and Vulnerability
- “So long as you keep your eye on your Must and optimize your time and energy to sustain it as best you can, you can continue to adjust and experiment with how you make money.”
- “You make time for what you want.”
- “The more intimate we are with what we want, the more self-aware we will be about how we spend our time.”
- “Finding pockets of time for your Must is a daily effort.”
- “You need a physical space—private, safe, and just for you. When you are in this space, you are not available. I repeat, you are not available. This is your sacred space to be by and with yourself.”
- “Solitude is how we quiet the voices, the incessant chatter. It’s how we create the necessary calm, empty spaces. Vision needs solitude. Leadership needs solitude. Courage needs solitude. Because when our choices evolve from an internal place of sure-footed, rooted knowing, we become resilient, emboldened, and focused.”
- “Integrating solitude into our lives must be done in sustainable, everyday ways.”
- “Choosing Must means that you have to confront some very big fears. It will make you feel vulnerable.”
- “It is here, standing at the crossroads of Should and Must, that we feel the enormous reality of our fears, and this is the moment when many of us decide against following our intuition, turning away from that place where nothing is guaranteed, nothing is known, and everything is possible.”
The Next (Must-Take) Steps
Life Requires Action:
- “To choose Must requires action. You must do something. It is the small big moment that can take days, years, perhaps a lifetime to begin…And just like that, you’re on the road to Must.”
- “Every decision you make counts.”
- “Must is for today, now.”
- “Must is a choice you make every single day. Today. Tomorrow. Again and again. Must.”
The Journey & Return to Others:
- “This journey isn’t new; it is, perhaps, one of mankind’s oldest endeavors.”
- “While this journey asks that you surrender to the unknown, it does not ask you to put yourself—or those around you—at risk.”
- “The most sustainable Musts happen slowly, thoughtfully, and quietly.”
- “It is constant effort and hard work—and inexplicably life-affirming—to honor who you are, what you believe, and why you are here. To choose Must is the greatest thing you can do with your life because this congruent, rooted way of living shines through everything that you do.”
- “The complete and ultimate journey requires that you return, share your Must, and in so doing, lift the lives of others.”
The Oneness of Life:
- “Must is why we are here to begin with, and choosing it is the journey of our lives.”
- “Must is both the journey and the destination, the upward journey of our lives that guides us toward that higher place, the oneness of all things, the ultimate source of Must.”
- “When you live the fullness of your life, you lift the collective human experience.”
- “The source of Must connects us all.”
“There is a recurring choice in life, and it occurs at the intersection of two roads.”
Which road will you choose?