Choosing Your Life

In a world filled with endless choices and opportunities, the path to self-discovery and fulfillment begins with a single, profound decision – Choosing your life. Each day, we are presented with a multitude of choices, from the mundane to the life-altering. Like pieces of a puzzle, they come together to form the unique tapestry of our existence. How can we be sure that we are constantly making purposeful choices to earn a life that we truly want – and live it with passion and purpose?

Quick links

Choosing – or ‘Earning’ Your Life

When it comes to choosing your life, there is an interesting concept called living an “Earned life”. Introduced by world renowned executive coach – Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, it is the result of conscious choices we make to “visualize” the desired “us” that we long for. It stands in stark contrast to a “default” life, one where decisions are made by inertia or external forces, often leading to a sense of regret and unfulfillment.

According to Goldsmith, our choices play a vital role in shaping our fate. Life is not merely a series of events that happen to us; rather, it is a culmination of decisions we make that define who we become. His approach underscores the importance of actively choosing one’s own path, a journey that transcends mere existence and ultimately leads to a life well-lived.

Choosing Your Life

The Importance of Choosing Your Life

Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.

Paulo Coelho

When you earn the decision of choosing your own path, you are essentially taking control of your destiny. It’s your right to decide what kind of life you want to live – and what you want to achieve. This can be challenging, but also very rewarding – as you are living a life that is aligned with your values and empowering you to make a difference in the world.

On the other hand, if you don’t start thinking about your direction right now, you are likely to tread paths that deviate you away from opportunities to flourish. Worse, you have no right (nor does it do any good) to complain when things go wrong.

Now, let’s say you choose to study medicine just because your family members/ friends insist it’s the best career path for you – and totally abandon your love for arts. After a few years in medical school, you realized how much determination it required to follow this path, and you just can’t bear it. By then, you cannot blame anybody, even your mom, for what’s happening to you.

The best thing you can do right now is to start ‘choosing your life’ by asking yourself: “What do I want, and why?”

Choosing Your Life – The Every Breath Paradigm

Every breath I take is a new me.


Before diving deeper into how to choose your life, let’s talk about ‘The Every Breath Paradigm’ first. This term, mentioned by Marshall Goldsmith in his bestseller ‘The Earned Life‘, is a concept inspired by Buddhist philosophies, offering a profound way of understanding the impermanence of life. It invites us to recognize that with every inhale and exhale, life unfolds, and with each breath, the world is in constant flux. In other words, with every breath you take, a new you is born.

The Every Breath Paradigm encourages us to embrace the transitory nature of existence, acknowledging that nothing remains static. By observing the world’s impermanence within each breath, we gain deeper insights into the constantly changing nature of everything around us – from then, we are better equipped to live a more present and intentional life.

The main idea here is that we should learn to appreciate the beauty of the present moment – for each breath carries with it a unique experience that will never be replicated. Being fully present in every breath allows us to let go of attachments to the past and anxieties about the future. This mindfulness enables us to make conscious choices and savor the richness of life as it unfolds. It reminds us that the journey itself is as valuable as any destination – for this reason, one should always strive to fill their life with gratitude, awareness, and a profound sense of the interconnectedness of all things.

If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now.

What is Stopping You From Choosing Your Life?

  • Inertia

Inertia refers to a state of inactivity or resistance to change. An example is sticking to a job you dislike out of comfort and fear of the uncertainty of switching careers – as a result, you accept the current situation without embracing the new (yet unforeseeable) opportunities that will arise as you leave your job.

  • Programing

Our upbringing and societal conditioning play a significant part in shaping our beliefs. For instance, if someone was brought up being taught that pursuing a creative career is impractical, they are likely to refrain from exploring their artistic talents, locking themselves into a less fulfilling career.

For those who wish to tread the path of choosing your life, we must be very mindful of the settings that we received from previous generations – and to unlearn those that are no longer beneficial/ relevant.

  • Obligations

Obligations, such as family responsibilities, has long been a major hindrance to many people’s personal growth. We’ve all seen it before – people who delay pursuing higher education, because they feel obliged to financially support their family.

As human beings, we are naturally bound to our promise and responsibility with others. However, choosing your life requires you to unlearn this way of thinking, as it is not realistic at all. None of us can please everyone at all times – in all situations.

  • The pace of change

As Goldsmith discussed in his bestseller, the pace of life we’re currently experiencing is the slowest it will ever be for the rest of our lives. In other words, we are constantly pressured to adapt to ongoing changes – falling behind in this race means missed opportunities and diminished quality of life.

To thrive amidst the current chaos, one must commit themselves to lifelong learning, and cultivate mindfulness as a powerful tool for navigating the whirlwind of change with clarity and grace.

  • Time

Time is an effective measurement – and yet, it is also a major blocking stone in our journey towards self mastery. Young adults enter life with full energy and, seemingly, an infinite amount of time in hand. No wonder why many tend to waste their time on meaningless tasks and temporary joy. On the contrary, those in the second half of their lives usually think they’ve worked enough, earned enough, and lived enough – this mindset discourages them from pursuing their dream.

Donald Trump became the president of the United States at the age of 70 – while Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta Platforms, became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire at the age of 23. Everyone has their own timeline; don’t let your age stop you from getting what you want.

You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream.

C. S. Lewis

Starting a new life

We Need to Follow Our Dreams

Following your heart and not letting others dictate your choices is the crucial component of a fulfilling and authentic life. The pursuit of dreams requires you to prioritize your own needs, passions, and values, rather than conforming to external expectations/ societal norms.

Various research has proven that those who follow their dreams often find more satisfaction and success in their careers – owing to the fact that they are doing what they really love. For example, a survey by Mashable found that only 22% of adults pursue their childhood dream jobs, but those who do report an overwhelmingly high level of job satisfaction (nearly 90%). Entrepreneurs who start businesses based on their passions are more likely to thrive – because their work is driven by genuine enthusiasm.

Moreover, following your desire is also vital to personal growth and self-discovery. It allows you to learn from experiences and make choices that align with your innermost convictions. While it is always recommended to seek advice from others, ultimately, you should trust your intuition and values when it comes to making significant decisions.

Remember that it’s your life – and making conscious choices is your responsibility to enjoy a better life.

Choosing Your Life – The 6 Requirements of an Earned Life

According to Dr. Goldsmith, when it comes to choosing your life, one must take into account the following considerations:

  1. Motivation

Motivation is the driving force behind our actions and decisions. It’s the inner spark that propels us toward our goals and aspirations.

Someone who is motivated to lead a healthier lifestyle may come up with fitness goals, such as running a marathon, and work diligently to achieve them. Their motivation stems from a desire for improved well-being – as well as the sense of accomplishment associated with completing the marathon.

  1. Ability

Ability encompasses the skills, knowledge, and competencies necessary to turn motivation into tangible results. It involves continuous learning, self-improvement, and acquiring the necessary tools to visualize success.

Continuing with the previous example, running a marathon requires physical stamina – plus the expertise necessary for long-distance running. For this purpose, one may seek guidance from a running coach and invest time in training and learning about nutrition.

  1. Understanding

Awareness of oneself and others is pivotal for personal growth and healthy relationships. Now, let’s say you decide to improve your leadership skills. In this case, you need to have a very clear understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses as a leader (self-awareness) and also empathize with the perspectives and needs of their team members (empathy) – so as to excel in leadership positions.

  1. Confidence

Confidence is the belief in one’s abilities to overcome challenges and visualize their goals. For instance, an entrepreneur launching a new startup venture must have unwavering faith in their vision and problem-solving skills. Additionally, they need the courage to take calculated risks, such as securing investors or entering new markets, even in the face of uncertainty.

  1. Support

In the journey of choosing your life, a support system is an extremely valuable asset. Your support group might include friends, family members, mentors, and colleagues – anyone who can provide encouragement, guidance, and a sense of belonging.

  1. Marketplace

The marketplace represents the external environment where people are able to apply their skills and seek opportunities. Among the current rapidly evolving job market, someone seeking career advancement must continually adapt to changing industry trends and technological advancements. To remain competitive, one must remind themselves to never stop acquiring new skills and pivoting their career path.

The Paradox of Choosing Your Life

The Paradox of Choice, a concept popularized by psychologist Barry Schwartz, highlights the dilemma posed by an abundance of choices in our modern world. Choice overload occurs when people are presented with an excessive number of choices – whether it’s in selecting a product, a career path, or even a life partner. In such situations, making a decision becomes a truly daunting task that leaves people struggling with anxiety and stress. The sheer volume of choices quite often results in a sense of paralysis, making it challenging to come up with a decision at all.

One significant consequence of choice overload is decision fatigue. This phenomenon occurs when the mental effort required for making numerous decisions depletes our cognitive resources. As a result, our decision-making abilities deteriorate, leading to poorer-quality choices – as well as leaving us drained and dissatisfied with the outcomes of our decisions.

To combat the negative effects of choice overload and make more meaningful choices, one may take into consideration the following strategies:

  • Defining personal values and priorities

When you have a strong sense of what truly matters to you, it becomes easier to filter through the myriad of options – and select those that truly align with your core values. This not only streamlines decision-making, but also ensures that everything you do resonates with your authentic self.

  • Setting clear decision criteria

Establishing specific guidelines or criteria allows you to evaluate options more objectively. This helps in reducing the feeling of being overwhelmed by choices, and allows you to make decisions that are more aligned with your goals and desires.

  • Practicing gratitude

Instead of dwelling on the potential regret of not choosing other options, focus on appreciating what you have selected. Gratitude is crucial to enhancing overall satisfaction with your decisions – and contributing to a sense of contentment, even if the choices were challenging.

  • Accepting imperfections

Life is not really having a good hand – it’s playing a poor hand very well.

Robert Louis Stevenson

We all need to understand that there is no perfect choice – every decision comes with its own set of pros and cons. Learning from your experiences, even if they don’t turn out as expected, is a key part of personal growth and development. It’s about embracing the learning process and understanding that making mistakes is an integral part of life.

  • Avoiding decisions for minor or inconsequential matters

By simplifying or automating routine choices, one may conserve their mental energy for more significant life decisions. The conscious choice to let go of small decisions is a really effective way to save cognitive resources for bigger, more important things in life – ultimately reducing stress and increasing overall well-being.

Life is about choices. Some we regret, some we’re proud of. Some will haunt us forever. The message: we are what we chose to be.

Graham Brown

Choosing Your Life

The Triple A’s to Define Your Chosen Life

“The Triple A’s” concept by Dr. Goldsmith offers valuable insights into shaping one’s life successfully. It comprises Action, Ambition, and Aspiration, each playing a crucial role in defining your chosen path.

  • Action

The first A represents what we are doing in the present – including the choices and actions we take daily, which are influenced by both risk and opportunity. They are the tangible steps we undertake to move towards our goals and desires. As such, actions are the building blocks of the life we want to create.

  • Ambition

Ambition focuses on what we want to achieve in the future. It involves setting clear goals and aspirations, whether in our personal or professional lives.

Ambition drives us to strive for success, pushing the boundaries of our capabilities to reach new heights. It’s about having a vision and taking purposeful steps to turn that vision into reality.

  • Aspiration

Aspiration delves into who we want to become as individuals. Unlike Ambition – which often has specific goals or endpoints, Aspiration is an ongoing, continuous process with an infinite time horizon. It’s about personal growth, self-discovery, and the journey of self-improvement.

Aspirations are not limited by achievements; instead, they revolve around becoming the best version of ourselves, embracing lifelong learning and development.

These three dimensions, when integrated successfully into one’s life, shape what is referred to as “the earned life.” It’s a life where our actions align with our ambitions, and our aspirations guide our choices. This balance establishes the foundation for a more fulfilling, purpose-driven life.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

Steve Jobs

Choosing Your Life Quotes

It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.

Paulo Coelho

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.

Amelia Earhart

You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.

Dr. Seuss

The most important thing is to enjoy your life – to be happy – it’s all that matters.

Audrey Hepburn

Final Thoughts

As we conclude our exploration of “Choosing your life”, it becomes abundantly clear that the choices we make shape not only our present – but also our future. Each decision, no matter how trivial it seems, has the potential to either lead us toward our dreams or away from them. The art of conscious choice is a lifelong endeavor, a symphony of decisions that compose the melody of our existence. So, as you navigate the intricate web of choices before you, remember that your life is the canvas – and your choices are the brushstrokes that create a masterpiece.

Other resources you might be interested in:

ITD Vietnam is part of ITD World – a top ranked provider of Talent & Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Corporate Training & Consulting services.

ITD Vietnam




Let's see how our coaching, training & leadership development solutions may bring a difference to you and your organization.

Let's keep in touch

Stay up to date with the latest insights into Coaching, Leadership & HR Management - as well as with ITD's upcoming leadership training programs and workshops.

Latest posts