Disbelief. It is a word that applies to how others’ reactions can affect your thoughts and actions.
As an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in communication, I was questioned why I chose to major within the realm of communicating.
Those who cast their skepticism thought that there are no careers a communication degree can be applied to–or that studying how others communicate is unnecessary, because it is common sense.
It is alarming how naturally we can revert into the habit of letting others dictate our thoughts and actions, rather than letting our innate desires influence the decisions we make.
As an undergraduate and also presently, I struggle with what others think I should do versus what I must do for myself in terms of my career path.
The internal struggle I face with what I should do is based on others’ expectations, versus what I must do for myself. Both are concepts that are addressed in a beautiful essay written by Elle Luna. In her essay, she explains the clarity she gained after a year of choosing musts.
Elle explains in her essay, “Should is how others want us to show up in the world — how we’re supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do.”
Moreover, “Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self,” Elle says.
Entrepreneur. Dreamer. Traveler. These words characterize Elle’s journey to her calling: becoming an artist.
The expedition as outlined in Elle’s essay demonstrates that the path to self-discovery is something that we all internally grapple with.
Should and must are rivals in regards to self-motivation. Should is our accountability to the world on an expansive scale. Must is what we owe to ourselves.
“By truly reflecting on why achieving a healthy lifestyle is important to you, you can strip yourself of the reasoning that is rooted in should and focus on yourself, which is a must.”
Once in a while, these two concepts converge, but usually not. That is when we are faced with a choice.
Elle explains that should is the easy decision, it is the safe decision, that individuals are naturally inclined to choose when faced with adversity. As I reflected on these terms defined in her essay, I realized they are applicable to the health realm.
When we make the decision of what food to ingest, the concept of must emerges.
For example, when you come home to your apartment at the end of the day, you should make a healthy meal but you must allot yourself time to recharge your batteries after a long stressful day. In this example, physical and mental needs take precedence.
If should and must are in a power struggle when your energy sources are drained, must will take form. Should is put on the back-burner for another day when you are more physically and mentally equipped to invest your time and energy into concerning yourself with health.
This ongoing shifting dynamic between should and must, may explain why we attempt to utilize practices to become healthy and lose weight, that don’t amount to our goals over the course of time.
In regards to other aspects of our lives (for example our work routine) should can get us through. So we continue forcing ourselves to do what we should–consuming salads and burning calories on the treadmill, then reprimanding ourselves when we slide back into must.
Slipping back into comfortable patterns could also be attributed to the remorse we feel when we fail at sticking to our health driven promises. Within our daily routines, we’re good at should, it is second nature to us, so we question why we struggle at applying this concept to the health related realm of our lives.
The answer is that the concept of should is more difficult to apply to consuming healthy meals because fuel and comfort take priority.
But what if we had the ability to transform our mindset in regards to health from should to must?
By truly reflecting on why achieving a healthy lifestyle is important to you, you can strip yourself of the reasoning that is rooted in should and focus on yourself, which is a must.
For example, after self-reflection, you may realize health is vital to you because you care about how you look, you are embarrassed by how you look, or you want to avoid a family history line of health diseases.
By implementing self-reflection, you are able to identify the core of your emotions. And by identifying this, you are able to shift your mindset in regards to health from a should to a must. When you formulate your health perspective within your own personal reasoning, you are able to persevere through the difficult days when you don’t feel like making the healthy decision.
So while it is difficult to make health a priority throughout your day-to-day routine, as long as health is solely categorized as a should, it will be a challenge to fully change your regular patterns long term—this is why it is of the utmost importance that you identify your must.