Do you feel like you're doing what you 'should' be with your career, rather than what you truly want to do? In 'The Crossroads of Should and Must', Elle Luna explains how to create greater fulfilment by steering your own course. Here's what Louise FitzBaxter thought of the book.
Is it really possible for everyone to find and follow their calling?
If it is, why aren't more people doing it?
And how on earth do you make and follow your own path, in a world that would prefer you to fit the mould?
These are the questions that Elle Luna explores in her book The Crossroads of Should and Must.
"There are two paths in life: Should and Must. We arrive at this crossroads over and over again. And every day, we get to choose."
Choosing Should is living life how others want you to live it (staying in your soul-destroying job because everyone says you'd be mad to give up the money, for example).
Choosing Must is living a life that's true to your most authentic self. It means knowing who you are and listening to the inner voice that keeps pushing you to explore what you really want.
Making this choice, of course, doesn't feel simple.
You can keep everyone else happy by taking the standard path, like going for that promotion even though your heart longs to do something else.
Or you can take a risk on Must and "say yes to hard work and constant effort (...) a journey without a road map or guarantees."
Luna wrote The Crossroads after her online essay (about how she came to leave one successful career and go on to follow her true, artistic calling) generated a huge response.
The book opens with Luna's story of choosing Must, and goes on to explain how to get to know your own Shoulds and Musts, how to bring them to life through small, daily actions, and how to inspire others to do the same.
She also offers suggestions for how to manage the key issues that may challenge you once you start to embark on your path: money, time, space, and vulnerability.
It's a short, motivating and visual book, peppered with inspirational quotes, exercises for you to do, and Luna's own quirky illustrations.
Aside from its great practical advice, how much you can take from Luna's own story of transformation will really depend on where you are in your career change right now.
Having spent some time already working on my shift, I was inspired by Luna's story and motivated to check whether I'm still working as hard as I can be on following my Must.
If you're just starting out, however, her success is probably too far removed from your own situation to be inspiring yet. If I'd read this earlier, my reaction would have been to throw the book across the room in frustration at how I could never be 'like her' and plonk myself down on the sofa for another night in front of the TV.
But if you're ready to do some deep thinking and – most importantly – give some stuff a try, Luna's exercises and daily small steps approach will help you move your career change forward.
Just keep in mind that you don't have to be the frustrated artist, author or budding entrepreneur to follow the great advice in this book. It's about creating your story, step by step, whatever form that may take and however far away it may seem right now.
The book is testament to what you can make possible if you commit to exploring your Must, and take it one day at a time:
"If you feel a knot in your stomach because you can see the enormous distance between your dreams and your daily reality, do one thing to tighten your grip on what you want – today."
1. Practise daily
"The most effective way to find your Must is to find ten minutes."
Integrate more of the things you want to do into your daily life, rather than expecting a sudden shift. It's about constant effort to keep you moving forward, not about knowing the destination or arriving there.
Use Luna's simple ideas for daily activities to find your Must. Ask your mum for stories about what you were like and enjoyed as a kid; ask yourself what you would do if given a day to pursue one idea or activity; and what you envy about the things your friends do.
This is how you can overcome your fears. It's how you can turn thinking into doing. Collecting information and looking for patterns will help you to create your own path, one step at a time.
2. Get intimate with your Shoulds
"As long as we leave Should unexamined, the pattern repeats."
If you're feeling trapped, it's time to fully understand what's holding you back, so you can break free.
Luna suggests writing a list of all of the Shoulds in your life, then asking for each one: Where did you come from? Are you true for me? Do I want to keep holding onto you?
This is a simple task to get you started, but the full process will be difficult and confronting. Consider getting further support to help you, like coaching or counselling.
3. Confront your vulnerability
"We choose Should because choosing Must is terrifying, incomprehensible."
If you're standing at the crossroads of Should and Must, it often feels easier and safer to just stick with Should. It's what you know.
To follow your intuition and start out on the unknown path to Must, you have to address your fears.
Luna advises breaking them down into a realistic and manageable picture, by creating your 'What-are-you-so-afraid-of' list.
Write down ten of the things that scare you about following your Must, then walk yourself through them. Write down one thing next to each fear that you can do to loosen its grip on you. Start taking those actions.
4. Know your Must-have-money
"You can continue to adjust and experiment with how you make money."
Be practical about your finances, but play with your mix of paying the bills and following your calling, until it's right for you.
Philip Glass, one of the world's most famous composers, also worked as a plumber and taxi driver until his early forties, when his musical work became more lucrative.
Figure out what money you need for what's essential to you – not what others may think. Then find the best way to make that money without taking away time and energy from your passions.