Time to Turn "Shoulds" into “Musts”

In my last post, I focused on the importance of understanding your paradigms, and illustrated how paradigms can either be your greatest obstacle or the most powerful accelerator to your success. I wrote, “Your paradigms are the sentries guarding your boundary. At times, they can be of assistance and guide you over the boundary, but more times than not, they are the thoughts and habits that not only stop you from moving forward but trick you into thinking that inertia and stasis are your friends. They are the voices that tell you, beyond the invisible boundary is a place of fear and uncertainty — this is not a place that you want to be in. These paradigms, if not confronted, can destroy you and will lead you to live your life by default rather than your own design.”

By understanding your paradigms, you can, indeed, begin to create a life that you truly want to live. This is a primary tenet of the coaching method that I utilize (and a tenet that I must constantly return to when I, myself, get off track). During my blog research, I came across an interesting article on Happify Daily that takes a similar look at the subconscious yet has a different approach and perspective.

The author, Homaira Kabir, writes about letting go of your Shoulds in order to live your life by your Musts. Shoulds can be anything from staying in a miserable job so that you can pay your bills on time, to remaining in an unhappy marriage for the “sake of the children,” even though that action can have devastating consequences in the future, or any other trap that you may fall into. Her approach to the subject matter differs from mine, yet I was intrigued by the article and thought it might be something you would enjoy. Let me know what you think.

Without further ado, here is:

How to Let Go of Shoulds and Live By Your Musts

By Homaira Kabir

For all our presumptuous beliefs about being totally in control of our lives, we live up to 90% of the time in the vast subconscious. Our thoughts and behaviors arise from the depths of an iceberg that channel our direction while we sit atop, unaware of the forces beneath us.

The subconscious is like a vast warehouse that holds our deepest and most cherished desires. It's where our truest and most authentic self lives. Leaving it in charge can certainly be good for our happiness — but that is often not the case. The subconscious contains much more than the real us. From the moment we are born, everything that happens around us — overt, subtle, or hidden from conscious realization — is thrown atop this self and stowed away in a haphazard fashion.

And here’s the problem. At the entry to this chaotic storeroom, stands a gatekeeper who is uninformed and disinterested. And as we charter our course in life, we turn to it for help, unaware that it rarely ventures deep into its territory. Instead it throws whatever belief or assumption is close by, and hopes we will go away.

Sadly, we often do. And when we do, we begin, slowly but surely, to live in a world of Shoulds. It is the world of uninformed beliefs, of societal expectations, and of other people’s unlived dreams. Its journey can be deceivingly smooth, but its rewards bring us little lasting fulfillment.

Musts are different. Must is that true self that lives hidden in the chaos of the warehouse. But the more we live a life of Shoulds, the more we silence and stifle it. But it does not go away. For Must is our deepest-held urges and desires, an inner calling that willingly embraces a life of hard work in return for the rapture of truly being alive.

So how do we connect to this Must? How do we peel the layers of Shoulds that hide who we are? The short answer is by getting the gatekeeper to dig deeper. The longer answer is by bringing greater awareness to our reactions and consciously understanding the fears and impulses that drive our behaviors.

Know Your Shoulds

This is really hard, and often something we spend the entirety of our lives running away from. As T.S. Eliot once said, we are “distracted from distraction by distraction—filled with fancies and empty of meaning.” To listen in, we need self-compassion and non-judgment. Traditional practices like mindfulness help us face our primal fears that show up as Shoulds and develop the mental strength to find a way beyond them.

Fall in Love with Yourself

And no, this does not mean in some narcissistic way! There are enough of us who imagine ourselves to be more than we are, masking a gnawing sense of self-doubt. Falling in love with ourselves is about knowing our true worth and respecting our convictions, passions, and deepest-held urges. Nothing points us towards them more than frequent and positive walks down memory lane. What experience makes you genuinely happy? Using which strengths makes you come alive?

Embrace All of Yourself — Even the Dark Parts

It's strange that the very people (yes, ourselves!) that we should know better than anyone else are the people we know the least about. We imagine ourselves to be more than we are, or we dislike ourselves and reject what we find. The reality is that none of us is all bright or all dark. Author and educator Parker Palmer calls this an “inner wholeness,” explaining that wholeness "does not mean perfection, it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of your life.” It is the only way to live with opposing truths and bring our full selves to life.

Be Vulnerable

The road to our Must is not a bed of roses. In fact, it's strewn with difficult choices. And the only way to stay on course is to believe in our journey. This takes passion, but it also takes vulnerability, because there are no guarantees. True vulnerability lies in offering ourselves to the world, to what Joseph Campbell calls “the experience of being alive” and in taking risks on its behalf. It is the only way of calming the self-doubt that arises with vulnerability and of gently dismissing it as what yoga experts Ed and Deb Shapiro call “the weapon of the ego.”

Be Responsible

Must is the life force within us. As such, choosing it is the greatest thing we can do for ourselves. But it is also a responsibility we carry towards the world around us. We need to be faithful to the sweet spot between our unique gifts and the needs and opportunities we see around us, so that we can contribute meaningfully with the best of what we have to offer. Otherwise, we can spend our lives justifying why we could not light our fire — and face the regret of an unlived life in our final days.

Living as the most authentic expression of ourselves imbues our lives with meaning and achieves the greatest human desire — that to live on even after we die. Whereas Shoulds are weak, impulsive and short-sighted, our Must is what allows us to see ourselves as part of a larger humanity and belong to something much larger than our self.


Cooking for Joan

As promised in the last post, I’m highlighting the first of two recipes that I said I would include in future Cooking for Joan offerings. The first is one of my all-time favorite ways of making potatoes — mashed potatoes cooked in cream and butter. (I actually use half and half, but cream just sounds more decadent!) I served this for the first time for a chef and his wife, a nerve-wracking experience, but I needn’t have worried. The mashed potatoes were a massive hit, with seconds and thirds going around the dinner table. I was even asked for the recipe — fabulous! Give them a try at your next dinner party, or just make them for yourself — you’ll definitely want leftovers!

Mashed Potatoes Cooked in Cream & Butter


Prep Time: 5 min | Cook Time: 35 mins | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 6


  • 6 -8 yukon gold/russet potatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 qt half and half
  • 3 TB butter
  • 3 TB olive oil
  • garlic cloves
  • sage
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • salt and pepper


Peel potatoes

Add to pot along with 1/2 & 1/2, butter and oil to completely cover the potatoes.

Add peeled/crushed garlic cloves and herbs

Bring to a boil and cook until tender

Drain them in a colander over a large bowl when done

Place potatoes back into the cooking pot

Mash potatoes

Add cupfuls of the hot cream as you mash, until you reach desired consistency.

Add butter and salt and pepper, if needed

Any leftover milk/cream can be used to "revive" your potatoes in case you end up with late dinner guests or if you have leftovers.

bon appétit!

**Persephone Rising will return every other week until October, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

Categories: Purpose - Mindfulness

Tags: life coach , life coaching , paradigms , moving forward , taking positive action , creating a better life , Happify , 2020 resolutions , mashed potatoes in creram , best mashed potatoes , creamiest mashed potatoes