Every decision we make shapes our future in one way or another, but some decisions are more impactful than others.
For instance, what I eat for breakfast today may not affect me 50 years from now, but choosing whether to go bungee jumping or not holds significantly stronger gravitas (no pun intended).
The 10 fateful decisions below have the potential to shape your future – for better or worse – so consider them carefully.
1. Whether to be on or off social media.
Being active on various social media platforms seems to be an expectation these days, rather than a choice.
Most people meet new friends and partners on these media accounts, many folks look for work via LinkedIn, and get information from Twitter.
Those who aren’t on social media are often viewed with suspicion: others wonder if they’re Luddites, antisocial, or have something to hide. Meanwhile, those who prefer not to take part in social media do so for several different reasons.
The key is to determine whether social media is of benefit to you right now and whether it’ll benefit you in the future. Even though this decision seems insignificant, it may have far-reaching effects for better or worse.
If you aren’t on social media, you might miss out on job opportunities that could change your life or warnings about storms that could harm you and your family.
That said, being off social media may help you avoid empathy fatigue from too much exposure to awful images, or low self-esteem from comparing your life to other people’s.
2. The conscious decision of whether (or not) to have children.
The decision of whether to have children or not weighs heavily upon most people.
Both choices have lifelong repercussions, so it’s understandable why so many struggle with making one over the other.
Having kids can be a wonderful, fulfilling experience for many, but can also bring intense difficulty.
In an ideal world, you’d have a healthy child who would grow up to be a successful adult, and potentially take care of you when you get old.
In reality, though, your child may have additional needs, they may suffer serious illness, or they could grow into a troubled adult despite your best efforts.
Raising children is costly—not just to one’s wallet, but also to one’s body and mind. Pregnancy, chronic sleep deprivation, and stress wreak havoc on parents’ health.
On the other hand, there’s always the fear you might regret missing out on the opportunity to be a parent, especially if it means the end of your family line.
Depending on your culture, you may be the subject of scorn if you don’t have children.
This isn’t an easy decision to make but will shape the rest of your life.
3. Whether to fly by your pants financially or have contingency plans.
Or, to phrase it differently, whether to spend money when you have it or save it for a later date.
This is a tough one because you never know what tomorrow may hold.
People who perpetually put their plans on hold for some later date may experience things that prevent them from pursuing their dreams.
The person who wants to hike across Europe “someday” may get in an accident that leaves them paralyzed, for example. Had they taken the opportunity to do so when they had the money to do so, they’d have amazing memories to look back on rather than regrets and unrealized goals.
That said, spending wisely and saving where possible can mean the difference between comfort and destitution in your later years.
Those who blow their inheritance or life savings on travel or cool cars may end up living in their friends’ sheds when they’re older.
The key here is to determine what’s most important to you, and whether you feel that financial stability in the future is worth giving up on the dreams you have right now.
4. Whether to get a post-secondary education or not.
Few people end up in careers that they went to university for.
Most of the people you talk to will tell you that they either switched careers at least once or got degrees in subjects that have nothing to do with their current jobs.
Additionally, many of the most successful people you’ll meet didn’t go to college or university at all.
Some may have taken a few courses here and there, but a lot of them simply taught themselves the skills they needed to succeed.
There are pros and cons to post-secondary education, and it’s up to you to determine where you want to go in life.
If your heart is set on pursuing a particular career, then by all means—devote the time and money to getting an education that can help you get there.
In contrast, if you’re more interested in a creative career path or if you’d rather work “unskilled” jobs, then save your money and go for experience instead.
You may not have the same opportunities as someone who has at least one college degree, but your life may take you in other directions that are just as fulfilling.
A degree is no guarantee that you’ll get the job that you want, but the lack of one may close potential doors for you.
You might go into great debt for an education you’ll never use, or regret not pursuing a path that might have led you to great fulfillment. It’s a tough call.
5. Whether to work for money or passion.
Some people swear by the adage, “Do what you love and you won’t work a day in your life”.
That’s a lovely idea, but it may not be a reality for everyone—especially if the things a person loves don’t translate well to contemporary employment.
For example, you may be in love with swordsmanship or falconry, but opportunities to put those skills to use today are few and far between unless you want to be a permanent fixture at your local Renaissance festival.
In contrast, some people choose careers that they don’t give a damn about, but pay well.
This option offers more financial stability, but can also embody soul-sucking tedium. Very few people dream of an exciting career as a dental hygienist, but it’s steady, well-paying work that can help them buy a home and support their children.
6. Whether to travel or not.
Travelling can have a lot of positive aspects ranging from magnificent memories to harrowing cautionary tales, depending on where you go.
If you don’t travel, you may miss out on intense cultural enrichment, amazing personal experiences, great learning opportunities, breathtakingly beautiful views, and even the potential to fall in love.
There are very few people in the world who regret their travel experiences, but countless folks who regret never leaving their home state or country.
There are downsides to traveling as well, of course. Unexpected situations may result in you spending more money than you expected, putting you in debt or stranding you in questionable circumstances.
Another aspect of travel to consider is the health and safety risks. Depending on where you travel to, you could be at risk of contracting some rather hideous diseases, getting kidnapped, or worse.
7. Whether to care for dependent family members or ensure they are taken care of by others.
This isn’t a topic that many people like to think about, but it’s an important one to contemplate.
People who have siblings with additional needs or elderly parents often feel obligated to care for them on their own, whether they’re equipped to do so or not.
Some are perfectly happy and able to do so while others are resentful about the burden this poses, but the decision as to whether to continue their care or find them a place in a care facility is an intense one to navigate.
There’s a lot of negative stigma associated with “abandoning” family members to be cared for by strangers.
Many people will feel immense guilt at doing so, even if they do not have the capacity to be able to care for them on their own—either for financial or personal reasons.
Taking on this care yourself can result in intense emotional and financial strain, whereas placing them in a facility can also be costly to one’s bank account and mental health.
8. Whether to spend valuable time developing skills peripheral to your current lifestyle, but which may prove integral should the need arise.
Several skills that people used to have by default have fallen out of favor in recent years.
These skills require time to cultivate and thus aren’t generally prioritized in our frenetic modern lives.
Interestingly enough, it’s these very skills that may keep you alive if the SHTF.
For example, if you work in IT or marketing, you may not learn the essentials of growing food in your backyard. Should infrastructure collapse, however, this is a vital skill to know for your own survival.
The same goes for skills like sailing (if you live by the sea), piloting an aircraft, blacksmithing, animal husbandry, textile arts, basic electrical and plumbing skills, first aid/basic medical care, and outdoorsmanship.
You might feel like a Luddite devoting what you consider to be precious free time to skills that your great-grandparents last used, especially when you could be spending that time watching Netflix or going clubbing, but these skill trees are potential life savers if and when things get rough.
9. Whether to reduce everyday toxins or to stick with unhealthy conveniences.
A great deal of emphasis is placed on removing emotional toxicity from our lives rather than physical.
This is likely because it’s much easier to block someone online who’s harshing your mellow than to reduce overall toxicity in your day-to-day life choices.
For example, consider how many of us eat convenience foods rather than cooking nutritious food with organic ingredients.
It can take a lot of time, effort, and money to cook meals from scratch, but we are what we eat: we either put the effort into eating well now or risk serious health issues down the line.
That said, to make the time to cook and eat well, we have to sacrifice other priorities.
Frozen or instant food is cheap and takes minutes to prepare, whereas a meal from scratch can be expensive, and will take hours to cook—and that’s time taken from potential work, family time, socializing, etc.
The same goes for the convenience of fast fashion made from recycled plastics rather than natural fibers, or cheap pharmacy body care products instead of natural, artisanal items.
Natural products cost more and may not look as trendy, but it is healthier for our bodies (and the planet) than the cheaper, artificial options.
Where your priorities lie will largely be influenced by the resources available to you, but it’s a decision worth considering.
10. Whether to live in a city or move to a rural location.
Herein are the pros and cons: moving to an area with a good climate, plenty of clean water, and the ability to grow food, or having the convenience of city life.
Cities are convenient as they offer resources that can benefit you and your family.
In a city, you have your pick of schools, medical care, and job opportunities, and you can order falafels or Thai food at 3 a.m. if the whim strikes.
That said, you also have to deal with questionable water and air quality, noise pollution, and spiking crime rates.
It’s up to you to determine what you and your family need more: the convenience of city life, or the (often frustrating) peace of the countryside.
Rural living has its own challenges such as limited job prospects and amenities, but the slower pace and fewer toxins can be a draw.
That said, people in rural areas often feel isolated from friends and family and may have to deal with factors such as inclement weather and wild animals.
As with all the other decisions on this list, weigh the pros and cons to determine which will serve you best in the long run. If the pros outweigh the cons, then you’ll have a clearer path ahead of you.