The Path to Must

Last week, we discussed the origins of Should which are put on us from the moment we are born, as we have to grow up under some else’s wing. Continuing where we left off last week, we will discuss today the path to Must.

The path to Must is a path we create. It begins in pathlessness, nothingness, emptiness – a Tabula Rasa as Aristotle called it.

Joseph Campbell said: “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path”.

The tabula rasa is the blank page, a new roll of film, the pure canvas of white. The term applies to more than just objects of our creation: it is also a state of mind where nothing is scripted – a place where there is no map, no case study, and no right answer; and the only person who can decide what to do next is you, says Elle Luna in her book The Crossroads of Should and Must, which I have been sharing with you in my posts. Because it resonated with me. Because it made me think. Because it made me cry. Because it made me excited about all the possibilities.

But what if I do not know what my MUST is?

The notion of having a calling – that you must have one – is overwhelming if you don’t know what your MUST is. So,

  • How do I find it?
  • What if it changes over time?
  • Does everyone have one?

Elle says that thinking that your Must will appear fully formed is like believing you can write a book by wishing it. But doing one thing daily – pick up the pen, write a paragraph, make a list of words – that is how your Must will appear. Remember the One single, easy, immediately doable tiny step concept I shared with you on my post The Goal is not Point, a few weeks back? This is it!

In her book, Luna says that nowhere is the essence of must more purely exhibited than in childhood. What were you like as a child? What did you enjoy doing? Were you solitary or did you prefer a crowd? Independent or collaborative? Day optimizer or Day Dreamer? Think about all those stories you have as a child and make notes. These stories hold the earliest seeds of your Must.

I look at my childhood and I see a child who enjoyed playing with teddy bears and sewing clothes for them with scraps; a child who could play independently and was happiest on her own; a child who lived with a book in her hands and another one under her arm in case she finished reading the first one. A child who enjoyed trying new things: batik, sewing clothes, stamping – anything creative. A child who enjoyed art classes in school. A child who enjoyed going to the bakery to buy a pastry – or two. A child who had a secret place to go read: sitting up high on the pine tree from where she could see the street and observe people going by without being seen. A child who enjoyed spending time with friends and then needed her own space.

Must is always with you, wherever you are, whatever you are doing. Must is YOU. Sometimes Must can feel far away but it will never leave you.

Continuing with the exercises that Elle Luna shares, “If you had one day to pursue some idea, activity or project, what are the three things that come to mind first?” List them, and don’t worry if you don’t know how to do these things. What is something that a friend does that makes you feel envious? What do you do for fun? List three things you do when you are procrastinating? Think of sights, smells, sounds or sensations that put butterflies in your stomach …


Another exercise is to acquire one new skill a month. It could be to go swimming (which I should get back to), or learn about sake, or whisky, or wine. Do headstands? Maybe not there yet. Your activities might appear unrelated, but over time, your interests will integrate and cross-pollinate because they have one common element – you. Charles Eames, the designer was fond of saying: “Eventually, everything connects”.

As you try new activities, take notes – in a notebook, a computer or your phone. Keep a notebook with you at all times and write down what comes to mind. Look for patterns, connections and recurring themes. Take notes. Take notes. Take notes when connections begin to appear between seemingly disparate activities. As new ideas pop up, add them. Grab the hypothesis when they appear.

pencils and notebook

Elle says that “Must eludes you because once you hear it speak, once you know what it is and what it wants – to teach, to build a family, to write, to make art, to put people on the moon – it is difficult to forget it. 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. And this is why Must is elusive. This is why we avoid admitting what we want. This is why our deepest desires sit in hiding for months, years, a lifetime. And this is why this journey is fascinating, intoxicating, and downright intimidating”.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why” – Mark Twain

I am going to leave it here as I feel there’s a lot to absorb, digest and mull over. Next week I’ll share with you what happens once you discover your must. And why your defense mechanisms go up. Choosing Must raises some very real and very scary questions. Let me tell you … I know.

I hope you will spend some time with making notes this week. If you are looking for something new to learn in the next few months, check out the new classes I just posted. Until I write again, keep creating,


Similar Posts


  1. Ana,
    Just wanted to say how much I appreciate your candor with us in the should and must arena.
    I has been thought provoking to me. As I plan to retire in the next year this topic will be asking me which one is it in regards to my activities and want I must be doing!
    Thank you for sharing this invaluable thought process!

    1. Thanks so much, Tana, for taking the time to write. I am happy you are enjoying the posts. Good luck with your retirement!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *