Hey, You! Quit “MUST”erbating!

Hey, You! Quit Musterbating!

I honestly have to say that I often feel unrested about all I failed to accomplish or all that I have on my plate that NEEDS to get done. I think we ALL musterbate and probably more often than we should.

What is Musterbating exactly? According to the handy Urban Dictionary online, Musterbation is a term coined by Albert Ellis, a behaviorist, to describe the tendency to think that certain things “must” occur or “must” be done. It has got to be absolute, with little or no room for failure.

I must get my book published. I must land an agent. I must wash the car, I must write 4,000 words today.I must get all A’s in graduate school. I must make that meeting for PTA. I must have a child of my own to be happy. I must avoid those extra calories today.

As you can see, musterbating can creep into almost any area of our lives! Sadly, I can definitely see how musterbating can creep into the life of a writer!

Don’t get me wrong, now. There is great validity in the things we want, the things we desire. Goals are a beautiful thing, especially when they push us in a direction to become better people, stronger people, more fulfilled people. The problem occurs when we can no longer distinguish a goal from an absolute must, when happiness revolves around that “must.”

We’ve got to chill out and give ourselves a little bit of slack. We’re only human after all, and humans with several obligations each day. We already must wake up and get the kids ready for school, we must attend that work meeting. We must eat.

And while musterbating is a choice, for example, you really don’t have to go to work if you don’t want to, but there’s a consequence for that. You really don’t have to care for your children, but there’s a consequence for that. You really don’t have to care for your elderly mother, but there’s an obligation and a desire to want to do that. In other words, while we don’t have to musterbate because technically we DO have choices, we must distinguish the areas where we make choices because it’s part of our lives, and the areas where we are just piling on unrealistic and unnecessary absolutes.

I am slowly learning to stop musterbating. Life is too short and too precious to worry over things I cannot control. I cannot tell people what to think or how to behave. I cannot bend myself to an unshapely mess.

One sure way Dr. Ellis says we can fight musterbating: Transform the imperative into a preference.

For example, instead of saying, “I must,” you can adopt the attitude of, perhaps, “It would be nice, wonderful amazing, life-changing if I get that job, or land that agent, but I can still live a full life if I don’t.”

So, my friends, as much as we enjoy musterbating, let’s just promise ourselves we’ll try to phase it out as much as we can. We’ll be happier for it!