making decisions in life essay

I asked hundreds of people about their biggest life decisions. Here’s what I learned

making decisions in life essay

Senior Lecturer in Marketing, University of Technology Sydney

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Adrian R. Camilleri does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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You make decisions all the time. Most are small. However, some are really big : they have ramifications for years or even decades. In your final moments, you might well think back on these decisions — and some you may regret.

Part of what makes big decisions so significant is how rare they are. You don’t get an opportunity to learn from your mistakes. If you want to make big decisions you won’t regret, it’s important you learn from others who have been there before.

There is a good deal of existing research into what people regret in their lives. In my current project, I decided to approach the problem from the other end and ask people about their life’s biggest decisions.

What are life’s biggest decisions?

I have spent most of my career studying what you might call small decisions: what product to buy , which portfolio to invest in , and who to hire . But none of this research was very helpful when, a few years ago, I found myself having to make some big life decisions.

To better understand what life’s biggest decisions are, I recruited 657 Americans aged between 20 and 80 years old to tell me about the ten biggest decisions in their lives so far.

Each decision was classified into one of nine categories and 58 subcategories. At the end of the survey, respondents ranked the ten decisions from biggest to smallest. You can take the survey yourself here . (If you do, your answers may help develop my research further.)

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The following chart shows each of the 58 decision subcategories in terms of how often it was mentioned (along the horizontal axis) and how big the decision was considered in retrospect (along the vertical axis).

In the upper right of the chart we see decisions that are both very significant and very common. Getting married and having a child stand out clearly here.

Other fairly common big life decisions include starting a new job and pursuing a degree. Less common, but among the highest ranked life decisions, include ending a life – such as that of an unborn child or a dying parent – and engaging in self-harm.

Of course, the results depend on who you ask. Men in their 70s have different answers than women in their 30s. To explore this data more deeply, I’ve built a tool that allows you to filter these results down to specific types of respondents.

Read more: How to help take control of your brain and make better decisions

What are life’s biggest regrets?

Much can also be learned about how to make good life decisions by asking people what their biggest regrets are. Regret is a negative emotion you feel when reflecting on past decisions and wishing you had done something differently.

In 2012, Australian caregiver Bronnie Ware wrote a book about her experiences in palliative care. There were five regrets that dying people told her about most often:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
  • I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends
  • I wish I had let myself be happier.

This anecdotal evidence has received support from more rigorous academic research. For example, a 2011 study asked a nationally representative sample of 270 Americans to describe one significant life regret. The six most commonly reported regrets involved romance (19.3%), family (16.9%), education (14.0%), career (13.8%), finance (9.9%), and parenting (9.0%).

Although lost loves and unfulfilling relationships were the most common regrets, there was an interesting gender difference. For women, regrets about love (romance/family) were more common than regrets about work (career/education), while the reverse was true for men.

What causes regret?

Several factors increase the chances you will feel regret.

In the long run it is inaction — deciding not to pursue something — that generates more regret . This is particularly true for males, especially when it comes to romantic relationships . If only I had asked her out, we might now be happily married.

Poor decisions produce greater regret when it is harder to justify those decisions in retrospect. I really value my friends and family so why did I leave them all behind to take up that overseas job?

Given that we are social beings, poor decisions in domains relevant to our sense of social belonging — such as romantic and family contexts — are more often regretted . Why did I break up my family by having a fling?

Regrets tend to be strongest for lost opportunities : that is, when undesirable outcomes that could have been prevented in the past can no longer be affected. I could have had a better relationship with my daughter if I had been there more often when she was growing up.

The most enduring regrets in life result from decisions that move you further from the ideal person that you want to be . I wanted to be a role model but I couldn’t put the wine bottle down.

Making big life decisions without regrets

These findings provide valuable lessons for those with big life decisions ahead, which is nearly everyone. You’re likely to have to keep making big decisions over the whole course of your life.

The most important decisions in life relate to family and friends. Spend the time getting these decisions right and then don’t let other distractions — particularly those at work — undermine these relationships.

Seize opportunities. You can apologise or change course later but you can’t time travel. Your education and experience can never be lost.

Read more: Running the risk: why experience matters when making decisions

Avoid making decisions that violate your personal values and move you away from your aspirational self. If you have good justifications for a decision now, no matter what happens, you’ll at least not regret it later.

I continue to ask people to tell me about their biggest life decisions. It’s a great way to learn about someone. Once I have collected enough stories, I hope to write a book so that we can all learn from the collective wisdom of those who have been there before.

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Essays About Choice: Top 5 Examples and 8 Prompts

Finding it hard to start your essays about choice? Here are our essay examples and prompts to inspire you. 

Making choices, whether big or small, makes up the very journey of our lives. Our choices are influenced by various factors, such as our preferences, beliefs, experiences, and cognitive capacity. Our choices unravel our lives and shape us into the person we choose to be. 

However, humans can easily be distracted and could be irrational when making choices. With this, new studies have emerged to learn more accurately about our thought processes and help us move beyond our limited rationality when making our choices. 

Read on and see our round-up of compelling essay examples and prompts to inspire you in writing your piece about choice.

1. The Art Of Decision-Making by Joshua Rothman

2. tactical generals: leaders, technology, and the perils by peter w. singer, 3. how your emotions influence your decisions by svetlana w. whitener, 4. how to choose the right pet for you by roxanna coldiron, 5. how to make money decisions when the future is uncertain by veronica dagher and julia carpenter, 1. the hardest but best choice in my life, 2. how to make good decisions, 3. “my body, my choice.”, 4. the consequences of bad choices, 5. how consumers make choices, 6. the rise of behavioral economics, 7. moral choices, 8. analyzed the poem “the road not taken.”.

“One of the paradoxes of life is that our big decisions are often less calculated than our small ones are. We agonize over what to stream on Netflix, then let TV shows persuade us to move to New York; buying a new laptop may involve weeks of Internet research, but the deliberations behind a life-changing breakup could consist of a few bottles of wine.”

The article dives deep into the mind’s methods of making choices. It tackles various theories and analyses from various writers and philosophers, such as the decision theory where you make a “multidimensional matrix” in coming up with the most viable choice based on your existing values and the “transformative experience” where today’s values may not determine your tomorrow but makes you fulfilled, nevertheless.

Check out these essays about reading and essays about the contemporary world .

“The challenge is that tactical generals often overestimate how much they really know about what happens on the ground. New technologies may give them an unprecedented view of the battlefield and the ability to reach into it as never before, but this view remains limited.”

Fourth industrial technologies such as artificial intelligence are everywhere and are now penetrating the military system, enabling generals to make more tactical choices. This development allows generals a broader insight into the situation, stripped of the emotional and human interventions that can spoil a rational and sound choice. However, these computer systems remain fraught with challenges and must be dealt with with caution.

“… emotions influence, skew or sometimes completely determine the outcome of a large number of decisions we are confronted with in a day. Therefore, it behooves all of us who want to make the best, most objective decisions to know all we can about emotions and their effect on our decision-making.”

Whitener stresses that external and hormonal factors significantly affect our decisions but determining the role and impact of our emotions helps us make positive decisions. This exercise requires being circumspect in our emotions in a given situation and, of course, not making a decision when under stress or pressure.  Check out these essays about respect .

“Whether we choose to adopt a cat, dog, rabbit, fish, bird, hamster, or guinea pig, knowing that we provide that animal with the best care that it needs is an important aspect of being a pet caretaker. But it’s also about the individual animal.”

Knowing which pet is best for you boils down to carefully evaluating your limits and lifestyle preference. This essay provides a list of questions you should first ask yourself regarding the time and energy you can commit before adopting a pet. It also provides a run-through of pets and their habits that can match your limits and preferences. 

How do I know when is a good time to invest? The article answers this burning financial question and many more amid a period of financial uncertainties propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also provides tips, such as evaluating your short and long-term financial goals and tapping an accountant or financial adviser, to help readers make a confident choice in their finances. 

8 Prompts On essays about choice

Get creative with our list of prompts on choice:

essays about choice: The hardest but best choice in my life

What is now your best choice may have seemed a difficult one at first. So, talk about the situation where you had to make this hard decision. Then, lay down the lessons you have learned from analyzing the pros and cons of a situation and how you are now benefiting from this choice. Your scenarios can range from picking your school or course for college or dropping out some toxic friends or relatives. 

Making the right choice is a life skill, but it’s easier said than done. First, gather recent research studies that shed light on the various factors that affect how we come up with our choices. Then, look into the best practices to make good decisions based on what psychologists, therapists, and other experts recommend. Finally, to add a personal touch to your essay, describe how you make decisions that effectively result in positive outcomes.  

“My Body, My Choice” is a feminist slogan that refers to women’s right to choose what’s best for their bodies. The slogan aimed to resist the traditional practice of fixed marriages and fight for women’s reproductive rights, such as abortion. For this prompt, you may underscore the importance of listening to women when making policies and rules that involve their bodies and health. You may even discuss the controversial Roe v. Wade ruling and provide your insights on this landmark overturn of women’s rights to abortion.

Bad choices in major life decisions can lead to disastrous events. And we’ve all had our fair share of bad choices. So first, analyze why people tend to make bad decisions. Next, write about the common consequences students face when they fall into the trap of bad choices. Then, talk about an experience where your bad judgment led you to an undesirable situation. Finally, write the lessons you’ve learned from this experience and how this improved your life choices. 

How does a shopper’s mind work? Your essay can answer this through the lens of marketers. You can start by mapping out the stages consumers go through when choosing. Then, identify the fundamental principles that help marketers effectively drive more sales—finally, research how marketers are persuading their target audience through their branding imagery and emotional connection.

Behavioral economics combines the teaching of psychology and economics to study how humans arrive at their economic choices. The discipline challenges the fundamental principle in economic models, which assumes that humans make rational choices. First, provide a brief overview of behavioral economics and how it was born and evolved over the decades. Finally, offer insights on how you think behavioral economics can be adopted in private companies and government agencies to improve decision-making. 

First, define a moral choice. Then, enumerate the factors that can shape a moral choice, such as religion, ethics, culture, and gender. You can also zoom into a certain scenario that sparks debates on the morality of choice, such as in warfare when generals decide whether to drop a bomb or when to forge on or withdraw from a battle. Finally, you may also feature people in history who have managed to let their moral code prevail in their judgment and actions, even in the face of great danger.

Making choices and the opportunities one can miss out on are the central themes in this poem by Robert Frost. First, summarize the poem and analyze what the author says about making choices. Then, attempt to answer what the diverging roads represent and what taking the less traveled road signifies. Finally, narrate an event in your life when you made an unpopular choice. Share whether you regret the choice or ended up being satisfied with it.

If you are interested in learning more, check out our essay writing tips .

But if you’re still stuck, there’s no need to fret. Instead, check out our general resource of essay writing topics .

making decisions in life essay

Yna Lim is a communications specialist currently focused on policy advocacy. In her eight years of writing, she has been exposed to a variety of topics, including cryptocurrency, web hosting, agriculture, marketing, intellectual property, data privacy and international trade. A former journalist in one of the top business papers in the Philippines, Yna is currently pursuing her master's degree in economics and business.

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Decision Making in Life

Decision Making in Life

List of Essays

Personal decision making, defining our identities, charting life trajectories, embracing accountability, strategic planning, problem solving, risk management, the decision-making process.

  • The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Decision Makingt

Self-Regulation

Social awareness, conflict resolution.

Life is a series of decisions, some small and seemingly inconsequential, others monumental and life-altering. Whether we're selecting a career path, choosing a life partner, or merely deciding on dinner, each choice shapes our life's trajectory. In this "decision making in life" essay, we'll delve into the importance of making informed decisions, understanding our identities, and the role of emotional intelligence in shaping our choices.

Every person stands at the crossroads of multiple decisions daily. The essence of personal decision-making lies in understanding who we are, what drives us, and what we value. When we possess this knowledge, we can align our choices with our intrinsic motivations, ensuring that our decisions are authentic and fulfilling.

Our identities are a fusion of our experiences, beliefs, values, and aspirations. Every decision we make, whether consciously or subconsciously, is rooted in these facets of our identity. Recognizing the core elements of our identity empowers us to make choices that resonate with our true selves, leading to a more fulfilled life.

The decisions we make are like waypoints on a map, guiding us on our life's journey. With each choice, we determine our direction, sometimes altering our path dramatically or subtly refining our route. By making informed, deliberate choices, we can ensure that our trajectory aligns with our goals and aspirations.

Decision-making is an act of responsibility. Recognizing the importance of decision-making in life means accepting that our choices have consequences. Embracing this accountability can empower us to make more informed, thoughtful decisions, considering not only immediate implications but long-term effects as well.

Strategic planning involves looking ahead, setting goals, and determining the best course of action to achieve those objectives. By employing strategic thinking in our personal lives, we can anticipate potential challenges, optimize opportunities, and navigate the intricate maze of life with foresight and purpose.

Every decision stems from a desire to solve a problem or seize an opportunity. Effective problem-solving skills enable us to dissect issues, identify potential solutions, and select the optimal course of action.

Life is unpredictable. While we can't foresee every outcome, we can manage potential risks. Assessing the pros and cons of a decision and anticipating potential pitfalls is essential. Risk management doesn't mean avoiding risks but making informed decisions, understanding potential outcomes, and being prepared for them.

Making a decision is a systematic process, and understanding its stages can help us make more informed choices.

  • Identifying the Problem or Opportunity : Recognize the need for a decision. Is there a problem to solve or an opportunity to exploit?
  • Gathering Information : Equip yourself with relevant facts, data, and insights. The better informed you are, the clearer your perspective will be.
  • Evaluating Options : Weigh the pros and cons of each potential decision. Consider the implications of each choice and how they align with your values and goals.
  • Making the Decision : After thorough evaluation, choose the best course of action.
  • Reflecting and Learning : After a decision is made, assess the outcome. Were the results as expected? What lessons can be drawn for future decisions?

The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Decision Making

Emotional intelligence (EI) plays a pivotal role in shaping our decisions. Possessing a high EI means understanding and managing our emotions and recognizing those of others, facilitating better interpersonal interactions and informed personal decisions.

Individuals with a high EI can regulate their emotions, preventing them from making impulsive decisions. This self-regulation ensures that choices are based on logic and reason rather than fleeting emotions.

Understanding others' emotions and perspectives aids in making decisions that consider broader implications, especially when multiple parties are involved.

When faced with conflicting views or choices, those with high EI can navigate the situation, find common ground, and arrive at mutually beneficial decisions.

The "importance of decision making in life essay" cannot be understated, for it offers a window into the intricate web of choices that shape our existence. Through this essay on the importance of decision making, we comprehend the pivotal role these choices play in defining who we are and the paths we tread. The "importance of decision making in our life essay" lies not just in highlighting the weight of every choice, but in emphasizing the need for introspection, foresight, and emotional intelligence. To truly grasp the essence of this "essay on importance of decision making in life," one must reflect on one’s own life choices and their ramifications. For, as we come to understand the importance of decision making in our life essay, we learn to appreciate the delicate balance of logic, emotion, strategy, and instinct that drives each decision, large or small.

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How to Make Great Decisions, Quickly

  • Martin G. Moore

making decisions in life essay

It’s a skill that will set you apart.

As a new leader, learning to make good decisions without hesitation and procrastination is a capability that can set you apart from your peers. While others vacillate on tricky choices, your team could be hitting deadlines and producing the type of results that deliver true value. That’s something that will get you — and them — noticed. Here are a few of a great decision:

  • Great decisions are shaped by consideration of many different viewpoints. This doesn’t mean you should seek out everyone’s opinion. The right people with the relevant expertise need to clearly articulate their views to help you broaden your perspective and make the best choice.
  • Great decisions are made as close as possible to the action. Remember that the most powerful people at your company are rarely on the ground doing the hands-on work. Seek input and guidance from team members who are closest to the action.
  • Great decisions address the root cause, not just the symptoms. Although you may need to urgently address the symptoms, once this is done you should always develop a plan to fix the root cause, or else the problem is likely to repeat itself.
  • Great decisions balance short-term and long-term value. Finding the right balance between short-term and long-term risks and considerations is key to unlocking true value.
  • Great decisions are timely. If you consider all of the elements listed above, then it’s simply a matter of addressing each one with a heightened sense of urgency.

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Like many young leaders, early in my career, I thought a great decision was one that attracted widespread approval. When my colleagues smiled and nodded their collective heads, it reinforced (in my mind, at least) that I was an excellent decision maker.

making decisions in life essay

  • MM Martin G. Moore is the founder of Your CEO Mentor and author of No Bullsh!t Leadership and host of the No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast. His purpose is to improve the quality of leaders globally through practical, real world leadership content. For more information, please visit, www.martingmoore.com.

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Making Informed Choices: the Importance of Decision Making

  • Category: Life , Business , Education
  • Topic: Decision , Decision Making , Personal Statement

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