Last Sunday was International Day of Happiness, which happened to coincide with me starting to read ‘The Crossroads of Should and Must’ by Elle Luna. It’d been recommended to me by the owner of one of Kimber’s doggy friends, and I was intrigued enough to buy it.

The premise of the book is that our lives are governed by ‘Shoulds’ and ‘Musts’. Shoulds are the things we feel we ought to do, mostly instinctive beliefs that we accumulate throughout our lives, and that mainly come from other people. ‘Musts’ are the things that we’d feel compelled to do if we didn’t have all the ‘Shoulds’ in our life, activities that would make our heart sing. Elle Luna surmises that most people tend to rely on and follow the ‘Shoulds’, while ignoring or suppressing the ‘Musts’, dismissing them as ‘too hard’, or ‘not for the likes of us’.

Within the book there are ways to help you identify your ‘Shoulds’, assess whether they’re still relevant, and decide if they’re something you want to keep. Then there are questions and exercises designed to help you identify what your ‘Musts’ are. For some people there may be one, overriding thing that they are secretly crying out to do, for others there may be a few. Some people will know what their ‘Must’ is, others will have buried it for so long that it might take a while to come back to the surface.

I’m fortunate enough to have had quite a lot of navel-gazing opportunities over the last few years, and as a result I already know what activities make me happiest, and what I ‘Must’ do if I’m to feel that I’ve lived a good and full life. But there’s always room for a reminder, and having answered the questions, the same four things came up. I Must: write; read; be outdoors; and socialise with friends and family.

But having that knowledge doesn’t mean that the ‘Shoulds’ and doubts and negative beliefs don’t get in the way. I know what I want my life to look like, what I want the detail of those ‘Musts’ to be. But sometimes it’s harder to follow a dream than it is to stick it in a drawer for later. After all, I can still be happy if I’m writing, reading, being outdoors, and meeting up with family and friends, even if I’m not writing what I really want to write, or reading every day, or being outdoors in the places I really want to be, or having as much time with family and friends as I’d like. And we all know there’s no such thing as a ‘perfect’ job, or life.

But I do think there comes a time when you have to make a decision. You have to decide either to be happy with your lot, to have no regrets, and really enjoy your life as it is; or to follow your heart and do everything you can to make your dream a reality. Over the last few years I’ve lost a ridiculous number of friends who should still be here, reading this blog post. Friends who were younger, fitter, and seemingly healthier than I. My time on this Earth is limited. I don’t know how limited, so I’ve decided I need to take that dream out of the drawer. And I’ve decided that it won’t be overwhelming or scary. Making the time to read more, starting to write what I want to write, being outdoors, and spending time with people who’re important to me on a daily basis is a good enough start. For the rest? I have a plan…