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Leadership Thought #364 – 12 Decisions That Will Define Your Life

June 4, 2012

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Some decisions have the potential to change the arc of your life.

In my line of work, I am constantly on the lookout for life lessons and what leads to happiness and success.  Fortunately, I have been blessed to work with some wonderful people who provide me with excellent fodder for my learning.  While most of my time is spent on the business leadership front, I do get a big-picture view at times.  I do not believe in compartmentalizing important life issues and prefer to take a multidimensional approach to my work since there are no one-dimensional human beings.  Over the years, I found that how you answer the following twelve questions could have an enormous impact on your overall quality of life:

  1. How connected you stay to your family and natural support network – life is more difficult if you don’t have a strong and easily accessible support network.
  2. Who occupies your social circle and becomes your closest friends – if you want to be happy and successful, spend time with happy and successful people who make you feel good about yourself (it really is this simple); misery also does love company and is constantly on the lookout for its next recruit.
  3. Whether or not you pursue a spiritual life – a life without faith is like living in a building with a cracked foundation – sure, it may stand, but it is much more vulnerable to the trials and tribulations of existence.
  4. The importance you place on education and continuous learning – every major research study I’ve read points to a direct positive correlation between all major quality of life indicators (except stroke) and level of education; you stop learning to your own detriment.
  5. The importance you place on health/physical fitness – being unhealthy and out of shape only makes life more difficult and more expensive overall; you will also have a shorter life span and, more than likely, will be less successful than others in your peer group.
  6. What you choose as your career/profession – most people are unhappy with their career path, and it shows; you cannot be great at something you do not like, and not liking your work adversely bleeds into all other aspects of your life.
  7. What you do with your free “me” time – many people I know have little “me” time and waste what little time they have on pointless activities instead of becoming more “in touch” with themselves and who are they are becoming as a person; you should enjoy your own company.
  8. Where you choose to live – if you like where you live, it has a massive impact on your ability to cope with stress and increases your level of everyday happiness; the opposite is also true.
  9. The importance of money and material things in your life – acquiring things only leads to short-term happiness, and the more you acquire, the less you appreciate what you already have; Once you get beyond the necessities of life, comparing yourself to others and what they have is a very slippery slope.
  10. Whether or not you decide to get married or have a life partner (and who that person is) – married people live longer, have greater economic security, and tend to be happier; a compatible and supportive partner on your life’s journey can make a big positive difference.
  11. Whether or not you choose to have children – kids are a lot of work and not for everyone, but for the right parents, they provide immeasurable joy and happiness; Children also encourage you to become a better person and put the needs of another human being above your own, which is good for your soul.
  12. How well you plan for retirement and whether you live within your means – there are a few things more stressful than regular cash flow problems and worrying about falling short of what is needed. Individuals with surplus resources tend to have more options when times get tough and can be more charitable towards others.

The good news is that, depending on where you are in life, most of these decisions are not set in stone, and you can make positive changes. Some decisions may take more work than others to get right and will require some level of courage and humility to confront, but the end results will be worth it.  We spend so much time focusing on the wrong things that we lose sight of what is most important.  There are very few true victims in life, especially in developed nations.  When all is said and done, each of us ends up being the sum of our decisions, the ensuing consequences that result (good and bad), and our follow-up actions.