How to Make Wise Choices in Life That Affect Your Future

Updated on July 20, 2020
Glenn Stok profile image

Glenn Stok has a Master of Science degree. He enjoys researching topics related to health, relationships, and emotional well-being.

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So you're finding yourself at a turning point. You have choices to make, and you don't know how to make that critical decision.

I'll guide you with the following plan of action:

  1. It will help if you start by thinking about the end goal.
  2. Set your priorities. You need to know what's important to you and what you want to accomplish.
  3. Think long-term. Changes you make have a way of evolving over time.
  4. Consider the benefits you expect from the choices you make.
  5. Be alert to the dangers of poor judgment. Knowing the value of your options will help you decide what's worthwhile doing.

Let's get down to business. Hopefully, something here will make an impression on your pattern of thinking.

How Can I Be Successful in the Future?

Visualize Your Future

  • Is your life turning out differently than you expected?
  • Are you feeling a sense of failure because you keep procrastinating?
  • Do you think you’ve taken the wrong road and wish you could get where you originally dreamed of being?

It's helpful to focus on the outcome you want to achieve. If you only dimly perceive where you want to go with your life, you will have little chance of getting there.

Lack of focus and foresight can hinder your progress. Begin by visualizing your future. Place yourself there in your mind. Focus on the way you feel about it. See what it's like. See how you feel with it. The trick is to imagine you are already there.1

Next thing you know, you’ll be on your way to reaching your goals and living your dreams.

How Do I Prepare for the Future?

Acknowledge Your Necessities and Desires

Many people overlook important things that are necessary and tend to focus on what they want instead. It's only natural because that’s what is enjoyable.

You would find it easier to make a choice if you recognize why your needs are important to you. First, let's understand the difference.

  • "Needs" are essential to living a healthy life. They sometimes tend to be dismissed or placed on a low priority, but they really should come first.
  • "Wants" are desires or cravings that are usually for enjoyment. They are on our mind more often than our needs.2

There is more to it, though. Your desires might be more necessary than just having them for pleasure. They could be important life plans, such as choosing a lifetime career, wanting to get married, raising a loving family, or buying a house in the country.

So, which is which? Are they needs or wants? Sure, you want them, but look at it this way:

  • A career might be a need because it sustains your future (sometimes).
  • Getting married and raising a family might be a need because it leads to happiness (hopefully).
  • Buying a house might be a need because it assures security (maybe).

Note that there are no guarantees in life. The best you can do to attain a future with a positive outcome is to focus on what's important.

Set Your Priorities With What's Important

Among the people I know, I've noticed that those who don't have their priorities set right end up not making the right decisions.

Take some time to think about the choices you have. Which is the most important? How would you feel if you can't achieve everything you want to do?

When you get in touch with your feelings, you'll be better at choosing the right goals and making the proper decisions to change what's important.

How Do I Know What's the Right Decision?

Visualize the Long-Term Benefits

Every decision you make has a tremendous effect on your future. One little change can create a new direction your life takes you. To give you an example, consider your choice of friends.

We spend days, years, maybe a lifetime with certain people we have accepted into our lives.

If we think about it, tracing back to who we met from whom, a friend of a friend who now became our friend, we realize that every decision had a turning point where we might have met someone else instead.

Then from that person, we would have met different people than those we know now. We would have had a completely different life at this juncture, knowing completely different people.

You may not have been aware of it, but every person you know, everyone you have been in contact with, has affected your life. One friend may have introduced you to a new venture that you followed. Another may have made a comment that caused you to change your direction in life.

You might have had a completely different life than you have now. Maybe better, maybe worse, maybe just something different.

I'm using friends as an example, but you can apply the same logic to the choice of a profession, or a social club you're thinking of joining, or the way you treat people.

Do the thought process yourself. As an example, in your mind, go back to a career choice you’ve made, and think about what opportunities you overlooked. At that time you might not have been aware of options you missed. But now, looking back, you can see it clearer. Consider what alternative life you might have had.

Imagine a Screenplay of Your Life

This thought process might be too overwhelming for you. But it's a useful exercise because it will help you realize that you have more power in making decisions.

Play it through as if you were writing a screenplay. See how different your life may have been.

For example, working in a different company or choosing a different profession might have caused you to relocate. Your whole life might be different, having lived in a different town—knowing other people and making other friends.

The conclusion you imagine might upset you. You might suddenly realize you made the wrong choices.

Nothing can be done about that now, but getting in touch with this vision of how life carries out can help you apply the same process to decision-making. This exercise can have long-term benefits.

"All too many of us only dimly perceive even where we want to go with our lives, much less how to get there."

— George L. Rogers, editor of Benjamin Franklin's The Art of Virtue³

Ask Yourself, "What’s The Point?"

While contemplating every decision, stop and ask yourself, "What's the point?" That will help you focus on your goal and the purpose of your decision, so that you won't waste time with the wrong choice.

We go through life, continually making decisions, choosing one thing or another. Whatever we want, we are eliminating all other possibilities—and yet some of those options may have been better. However, we sometimes make hasty decisions because of limited time or lack of attention to detail.

Always consider if you are doing something meaningful that leads to the purpose you set out to accomplish.

Consider the Value of Your Choices

Most decisions we made throughout life had value. There was a reason we chose the friends we have, the job we perform, the person we married (or didn't marry).

Decisions were obvious at the time. We've made them for a reason, and that reason is for the sake of value. Even if we chose subconsciously or overlooked other options, our minds were made up for one reason or another.

Although we may make drastic mistakes in our judgment from time to time, the primary purpose of our choices is to improve our lives.

Just because some decisions we made in the past might seem to be poor judgment, it may very well have been what we wanted, and it had value to us at the time.

With that understanding, consider the value based on how important the decision is to you, not necessarily based on monetary value, but all other reasons. Don't forget to value your safety, your satisfaction, your health, and your comfort.

How to Develop Resilience to Adversity

Life isn’t always pleasant. We can experience catastrophes and misfortunes. Tragedy can strike anytime. It’s not easy to overcome adversity in life, and sometimes it’s impossible.

When you find yourself in the worst of times, and you know you need to find a way to pull through for survival, remember to stop and think of the options you may be overlooking.

When we become aware of the choices we have, it’s easier to develop resilience to adversity and deal with the trials and tribulations we encounter. Put a plan together that will get you to a better place. Visualizing the outcome will help arrive at the best decision.

How to Resolve Poor Judgment

I am sure we have all made mistakes with bad decisions that we later regret. I know I have. Many of these mistakes are minor and of little consequence. However, others may be life-changing.

We make mistakes in judgment when lacking correct information or when we aren't willing to do enough research to get the required information.

Wrong decisions can last a lifetime, but no matter where you are in life, you can try to change course. I'll tell you how.

Please understand that while you are involved in any endeavor, you are losing out on everything else that you could be doing. So at this stage, determine if your choices still have value to you. If not, consider making a change.

When we realize later that we made a bad choice, or had done something at the moment that turned out to affect our future, then we need to own up to it and make it work—or change it.

Few things in life are so strict that we can’t change it. Contracts, commitments, and caring for other people are things that we need to respect. Sometimes we just need to stick to it. However, when we find ourselves going in a direction that offers no benefit or value, we need to correct our path to where we're headed.

If we can catch our mistakes in time, before they have a significant effect on the outcome, we need to do whatever is necessary to correct it. The sooner this is done, the easier it will be to change, and the less negative effect will come from it.

To Summarize

Remember these points:

  1. Focus on the future and set your priorities.
  2. Make decisions based on the benefits you expect.
  3. Consider the value of your choices for the long term.
  4. Know what’s worthwhile doing and save your energy wasted on anything else.
  5. Separate necessities from desires when choosing from available options.

As long as you focus on the value and long-term benefits of your decisions, you'll be on the way to a better future.

References

  1. Aldo Civico Ph.D. (Sep 17, 2015). Champion Novak Djokovic Reveals the Power of Visualization. Psychology Today
  2. "Values and Goals; Needs vs. Wants" - University of Illinois
  3. George L. Rogers, editor (1996). Benjamin Franklin's The Art of Virtue: His Formula for Successful Living [Pg 14]. Eden Prairie, Minnesota: Acorn Publishing

© 2017 Glenn Stok

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    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      FlourishAnyway - That's a great idea to teach young people to study more than one field in college. We never know where our future interests lie until we are introduced to new things.

      When I started out I majored in mechanical engineering because as a kid I liked to build things. But then I learned about computers, changed my major, and never looked back.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      3 years ago from USA

      I'm big into what I call "option development" because like you said it allows you to be more adaptable, employable and resilient. I encourage the young people I interact with to try to double major in college in very different fields, if possible (e.g., Engineering and Psychology). It widens opportunities.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      MsDora - I'm glad you found that meaningful. I know it works for me. Every mistake we make is a lesson for improvement.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Glenn, your article is very insightful. Thanks for reminding us so powerfully that "Nothing can be done about that now, but getting in touch with this vision of how life carries out can help you . . ." Very meaningful to me.

    • Glenn Stok profile imageAUTHOR

      Glenn Stok 

      3 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Jodah - You got the point very well, and you brought up another useful tip that I use but didn't mention. When I have a serious problem that needs to be resolved, I sit down in a comfortable chair in my living room (I call it my thinking chair) and I contemplate the situation and figure out a solution. It funny, but I always seem to get good ideas in that chair. I'm sure it's just because I gave the issue my attention and thought it through.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very good advice here Glenn, and things we all need to take seriously. You don't always sit down and consider how different decisions, friends, acquaintances and situations could have changed your life so dramatically.

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