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Exploring What You ‘Must’ Do & Doing It

Excerpt from Elle Luna's book 'The Crossroads of Should and Must'

{a page from Elle Luna’s book}

In her inspiring book The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion artist Elle Luna guides us through figuring out what we must do with our lives.

Where should is someone else’s standards and expectations, must is who we are, according to Luna.

Must is “what we believe, and what we do when we are alone in 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.”

According to Luna, our Must doesn’t come to us fully formed — just as we can’t write a book by thinking and wishing. Instead, we show up, and do the work. We do one thing daily. We pick up a pen or paintbrush. We make a list. We write a sentence or paragraph. We move our bodies.

“Must is you,” she writes. You just need to look within.

Your Must might be to write a novel. To gather people around the table, talking and tasting your unique dishes. To write stories about a neglected but pivotal topic. To capture beautiful moments with your camera. To play the strings as though every movement is the whisper of your soul. To shatter all sorts of assumptions when it comes to art-making. To help others live their dreams and thrive.

You don’t need to abandon your job or profession to pursue Must. I love this part of Luna’s message, because I think it’s very important (and commonly misunderstood). Often we get stuck in black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking. We think we either have to quit our jobs or be miserable. And we get upset if we can’t quit. We feel inherently bad that we can’t take a big risk and leap into the unknown. Because the reality includes responsibilities — earning money for rent, mortgage, bills, kids, food, life.

But there is plenty of room for Must in our everyday. We can find pockets of time to practice our Must. Before heading to work. On our subway commute. On our lunch break. During our kids’ naps. While waiting at the doctors’ office. While waiting in line. After dinner. Thirty minutes before bed. We can carve out space — a physical space, such as a room or a corner to sketch, sew or spin stories. We can carry a notebook to catch our thoughts mid-air throughout the day.

book cover, The Crossroads of Should and Must

In The Crossroads of Should and Must Luna shares several questions, prompts and activities for discovering our Must. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “If you had one day to pursue some idea, activity, or project, what are three things that come to mind first?”
  • “Sights, smells, sounds, or sensations that give you butterflies in your stomach…”
  • Write two versions of your obituary: one based on “how your life will progress along the path it’s on”; and the second based on “what might be written if you heed your call.”
  • Look for patterns or themes in your responses for clues to your Must.

Today, take one action to honor your calling or what you think your calling might be. Play with different activities. Journal about your deepest desires. Journal about the small ways you can pursue these desires. Because, as Luna writes, Must is a choice we make every single day.

Yes. Don’t forget that (or remind yourself frequently). You get to make that choice. Right now. Tomorrow. The next day. And the day after that.

Exploring What You ‘Must’ Do & Doing It

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you're struggling with, you're never, ever alone.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2015). Exploring What You ‘Must’ Do & Doing It. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Apr 2015
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