by Andrew Ysasi, MS
What Is Your Must?
I was happy to hear my article The Burden of Perfection struck a chord with so many. Conditioned behavior is a tough nut to crack. Sometimes it takes a bolt of lightning or a major event to make real change happen. Often, we do not make changes in time before the lightning strikes. This story is not a story about me overcoming obstacles, but a story of my MUSTs and how these events shaped the person I am. It is also a story that people, especially me, are far from perfect.
Before a MUST
As child, it was burrowed into my soul that I was going to a private high school and college. My mother and father believed that they were laying the foundation of a solid education for their child. Both my mother and father were first-generation college graduates, and they were convinced that education was the means to a solid future. My father grew up in the inner city and was the oldest of six children. He was a Hispanic boy whose parents worked hard to put their six kids through private education. He was the oldest of the six. My mother grew up in a middle-class home and was a descendant of Irish and German immigrants. All of her siblings attended private school. Both of my parents met in high school, would marry, and send their children to the same private high school. It is not fair to place all of what they accomplished into one sentence. I know they are extremely proud of their children and look forward to what their grandchildren will become.
I was the oldest of four. Expectations were high. If I failed an assignment, I did not play sports. Think about that. Not failing a quiz, test, or class – failing one assignment. There wasn’t much room for error. My mother would say I was capable of much more if I applied myself. Throughout middle school and high school, I flirted with the honor roll. I did enough to keep a B average, which kept my teachers, coaches, and parents off my back. My mother knew I was capable of more. My junior year or high school she challenged me. If I did not end up on the honor roll at the end of the semester, I would not get my drives license. I have a summer birthday, so not having a driver’s license for the summer was not part of my social agenda. I applied myself and earned a 3.6-grade point average for the semester, enough to be on the honor roll.
My mother and I were elated, but she quickly turned her elation into a determined statement of, “I knew you could do it if you put your mind to it.” The idea of not having a license was incentive enough for me to be on the honor roll and had my mother not put that obstacle in the way; I would have continued with a 3.3 GPA.
My first MUST was to ensure that I did enough to keep my parents happy and I could maintain my fun social life. Nothing too burdensome, but over time certainly became a bother and difficult to manage. Well, my second MUST took care of that.
I graduated high school and earned a minority scholarship to a local University. I had a steady girlfriend at the time, and she was still in high school. I knew college was important, but I was more focused on her and my friends. I flunked out of classes that required work and barely made it through classes that should have been a review of what I learned in high school. I had no one to blame but me.
My girlfriend and I liked each other. We had similar groups of work friends, we worked at the same burger joint, and we looked good together. She was short and blonde, and I had earned a nice six pack cleaning semi-trucks over the summer after high school. Despite the teachings of sex education, she became pregnant while I was in the second semester of college. We were terrified, but we decided to stay together. My second MUST became – I MUST take care of this mother and child. School, friends, social activities dropped, and I got to work.
Fast forward about four years my marriage was over, and I was in a position where I MUST take care of my child. During the custody and turmoil that ensued, I learned about the law worked, learned about selling a house, and the challenge of getting out of debt. As time went on, I realized that my second MUST fluctuated from taking care of my family even if the family profile changed. I remarried and had more children, so my MUST remained consistent. To take care of my MUST I continued working and providing. Little did I know, my third MUST was approaching fast, and it was going to be another unexpected MUST.
As I moved into my 30’s, my zest for achievement continued like an explorer slashing through the learning jungle with a machete. Work and family were going well. Sure there were struggles, but I felt the accomplishments were taking care of my MUST. However, into my late 30’s, my second MUST was replaced by another unexpected third MUST. As Lao Tzu says, “The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” I certainly was out of wax, and it was largely due to work and stress. Nothing overly serious, but when you looked at all the symptoms, I was a ticking time bomb. I was gaining weight, my teeth bothered me, I was not sleeping well, I looked blotchy all the time, and I was more anxious than before. I started going to the dentist frequently, had a sleep study done, and saw an allergist. I also took a close look at my diet and talked to my doctor about anxiety. Overall, my health improved, I feel better, and I am grateful I took the time to make the changes.
As stated in The Burden of Perfection article, helping and healing is my fourth MUST. So far so good, and as I explore my 40’s, it is more relieving to have a MUST that I took control of versus the second and third MUSTs that weren’t planned! Also, I realized the second and third MUSTs were a direct result of my bad decisions. Sure, good things and blessings can come from bad decisions, but it takes more time to recover from those decisions. Moreover, there is no guarantee of recovery. In this “me” society, take advantage of choosing a MUST that is right for you, and don’t let your bad decision determine your next MUST. Do not let someone else determine your MUST. You determine your MUST.
Here are some great motivational quotes that helped me determine my MUST and keep me on track.
“We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness…” – US Declaration of Independence
“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance” – Thomas Sowell
“Failure isn’t defeating; failure is motivating. Failure provides a healthy dose of perspective, makes us more tolerant and patient, and makes us realize we’re a lot like the people around us. When you realize you aren’t so different or special after all, it’s a lot easier to be happy with the people around you—and with yourself.” – Jeff Haden
“Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being. Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper MUST be its foundation.” – St. Augustine
“Odd as it may seem, I am my remembering self, and the experiencing self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me.” – Daniel Kahneman
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” – Marcus Aurelius
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln