Every day of our lives, we are required to make decisions. Even choosing not to decide is a decision.
Some choices are shooting stars that zip across the sky of our lives only to leave a momentary trail that lights up an influence with slight repercussions. Choices like: what should I eat for lunch, should I mow the lawn today or tomorrow, will I wear a green shirt or a yellow one.
Other choices are like massive asteroids on a collision course for an extinction-level event. When they impact the surface of our lives, they send shock waves that strike us and those we love to our core of being.
Relationship and life experts have pulled out their decision-observing telescopes to aim at the stars of our lives and help us identify and track the decisions that could create some of the most significant impact craters.
Here are the 7 most impactful decisions you can make in your life, according to YourTango experts:
1. Loving yourself
The most impactful decision you can make in your life is to love yourself. Loving yourself is a choice and likely a challenge. However, this choice paves the road to successful, healthy relationships with everything from food to friendships.
— Ann Papayoti, Relationship Coach, Author, Speaker
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2. Caring for your health
The most impactful decision you can make in your life is to take good care of your health with continuing, specific actions suited to your unique needs and body.
— Ruth Schimel Ph.D., Career & Life Mgt. Consultant, Author
3. Working through your “stuff”
We see our difficulties through our prism, and the baggage we’ve gathered throughout our lives seeps into every interaction. When we decide to become more self-aware, we own our part in the challenges in our lives and make more positive, healthy choices. We change our trajectory — we affect others in ways we’ll never know. When we model the courage it takes to deal with our issues, we give others space to do it. This creates a ripple effect that can change communities, families, and lives.
— Amy Bracht, Certified Life Coach
4. Choosing a career
Choosing a fulfilling career is undeniably one of the most impactful decisions a person can make in their life. Happiness is found in everyday living, and considering how much of your waking life you spend at work, your career choice has ripples through every aspect of your life.
When you choose a career aligned with your passions, values, and talents, you give yourself a profound sense of purpose and a reason to get up every morning to make a difference. Without a sense of direction and intentionality, you can end up lost, rudderless, spinning, and never reaching the shore.
Meaningful work offers financial stability, fosters personal growth, provides a sense of accomplishment, and breeds confidence that leads to success.
— Lisa Petsinis, Career & Life Coach, ACC
5. Finding a career you love
The most impactful decision you can make in your life is about a career change. A career change can start an avalanche of related impactful choices like moving, buying, or selling a house, ending or beginning a relationship, placing loved ones in a full-time care facility, adopting a child, retiring, and many more.
To make a career change choice easier, break it into parts.
Identify your goals and values
Carefully think about your career goals while considering your values as an individual and a professional, and use these to guide your decision-making process.
Once you have articulated your career goals and values, you can brainstorm types of vocations to fulfill both. The perfect job for you may be one you have yet to discover, so be sure to research with an open mind.
Job shadow, intern, or temp
Consider job shadowing, interning, or working as a temp in a role you might enjoy. The temporary nature of these experiences allows you to get a sense of the duties of a particular career without an initial long-term commitment. Then, you can make a knowledgeable decision about pursuing that career path if and when a permanent opportunity arises.
Sometimes, finding a career you love can mean experimenting with vocational pursuits that are unique or unusual to you. A willingness to try new experiences can be a valuable way to find a career you love. If you find an opportunity that fits your goals and values, consider trying it, even if it’s something you hadn’t envisioned yourself doing.
Reflect and assess
Throughout your career search, periodically reflect on what you have learned about potential career options and how your goals may have changed. Thinking mindfully about how your thought processes evolve can help you make career choices that reflect your most important values. Remember to frequently evaluate your progress and make necessary adjustments.
The main reason to do what you love is for happiness. Finding a place of happiness will provide contentment, make you more motivated, and better equipped to do the best job possible. You won’t just be happier you’ll be more productive.
— Maitry Joshi, Health Care Consultant
6. Choosing who you marry
The most impactful decision you can make in your life is choosing who you marry. When you are clear about your life and relationship vision, you can choose a partner who shares your vision and is a match for you in all the ways that matter to you. If you choose wisely, your spouse can provide unwavering support, companionship, and shared goals and values. If you are unclear about your needs in a relationship, you may overlook incompatibilities and be dissatisfied and unfulfilled with a partner who isn’t aligned with your vision and values.
Marriage is a partnership, and the person you choose to marry can significantly influence your family life, financial security, career, and overall quality of life. If you have children, your spouse will help shape their values, upbringing, and opportunities. Before deciding to marry, it’s critical to take the time to make sure you are compatible and aligned and can work through challenges together.
Unfortunately, when people don’t make wise choices, they may suffer in many ways, perhaps feeling depressed, experiencing health issues, financial strain, or divorce. Choose wisely, and you’ll enjoy lasting love, joy, stability, and support. Not only will you have a loving partnership, but you’ll also be inspired to be your best self on your life journey.
— Dr. Wendy Lyon, Psychologist, Master Certified Relationship Coach, and Best-selling Author
7. Whether or not to have children
There are many decisions in your lifetime that have a massive impact. They vary depending on your lifestyle.
If we are in a committed romantic partnership, hands down, the most important decision we could make is choosing to have children. Our children are our future. Bringing a child into the world is a decision to take responsibility for another human being, but ultimately for the quality of life for future generations.
Many parents are so consumed with the demands of ‘right now’ that we lose sight of our responsibility. Being a parent, and more specifically, being a responsible, life-affirming, and empowering parent who teaches compassion, inquiry, and concern for all living things is without exception the most valuable and important thing we can do in our lifetime.
NOTE: If you choose not to have children, this does not mean you lose out as you can easily participate by supporting other parents and children. Our future is ultimately in the hands of our children and the generations that follow.
— Larry Michel AKA: The Love Shepherd, Relationship Restoration Coach, and Founder of the Institute of Genetic Energetics
Choose yourself, choose your health, choose your career, choose your partner, choose life because life is a choose-your-own-adventure! Be aware of the impactful decisions to come so you don’t get wiped out by colliding with a decision with far-reaching shockwaves that caught you unprepared.
Will Curtis is a writer and associate editor for YourTango. He’s been featured on the Good Men Project and taught English abroad for ten years.