A Tale of Not SHOULDING Each Other


-by Kaari Allen


I was in a room with three hundred professionals at an education conference I attended a few years ago. Sitting in my seat, I was distracted by the ‘holiday sweater’ the woman in front of me had on. I couldn’t decide if her attire choice was post-Halloween/early Thanksgiving or very early Christmas. I guess early November opens the door to any number of clothing choices. (Educators tend to celebrate via their attire - it is part of the job description.)

It was the session after lunch and the tryptophan/sleepy feeling had already set in. This presenter, albeit well prepared, hadn’t yet grabbed my attention…obviously. Probably my fault, not his. The guy sitting next to me kept clicking his pen and coughing, which didn’t help matters.

As I was taking notes to maintain focus, and doodling, of course, the speaker suddenly snagged my interest. I’ll never forget that moment. He asked if any of us had heard of “Must-erbation”. What?! He went on to explain that this term refers to the SHOULDING that people impose on others. You MUST do this, you MUST think that or you MUST see things through a certain lens.

Ever since that moment on that day I have earnestly tried to remove “should” or “must” when speaking to another human, young or old. I realized that it sounds very condescending, bossy and controlling. During a recent TV interview regarding my book, the interviewer asked, “Kaari, what is the first thing that people should do to shift their lives forward?” Hell, I was sitting there on live TV and who am I to tell someone what they should do? “Well,” I said, “I don’t know how to live life any better than anyone else. What I will say from my experiences and professional background is simple, I guess. Tell yourself the truth about whatever it is you want to improve in your life. Then, take just one step forward to shift the paradigm if only a little bit.”

I just didn’t want to ‘should’ or ‘must’ anyone out there watching.

In this very moment in our prospective corners of the world, we are living in some Bermuda Triangle of “you must,” “you should,” as well as so much uncertainty. There’s the divisiveness in our country prior to next week’s historic election. The ever-rising number of Covid19 cases is unpredictably frightening. There is also the fear that, quite frankly, we can’t control the future.

However, the things we really MUST do and CAN do far outnumber the things that we can’t do.

I do have a few ‘musts’ I can get behind:


· We must treat ourselves kindly and remember that we’re doing our damn best.


· We must be respectful and loving towards one another, no matter what frame of reference or opinions they have.


· We must be grateful if our basic needs are met and we have food, clothing, shelter, and even just one person in the world that loves us.


· We must assume that there is more good in this world than anything else.

Now go ahead and whatever you choose, ‘holiday attire’ or otherwise, trust your actions and choices. The world needs your best!”


~ Kaari