We pay for our choices with the lives we lead

Do you pay for your choices? How do you habits show up in your daily life? What we do every day become our daily lives ... so let's choose accordingly. #selfdevelopment #selfhelp #habits #motivation #productivity


It’s 2004 and Chung Li, Taiwan is hot and muggy. As per the usual. I’m choosing to celebrate the weather by living in flip flops and sundresses. I’m swapping out my full-faced scooter helmet for something lighter and breezier and significantly, uh, less protective.

Meanwhile, the brakes on my scooter have been squeaking and requiring more squeezing than usual but I’m choosing to put off the repairs till my monthly paycheck comes through. My commute is short! I rarely drive faster than 15 mph! IT’S FINE.

I imagine, dear reader, you can see where this is going. Can you see me tootling along the street on my way to work, thinking about my lesson plans for the day? Can you see the black Mercedes cutting me off and me tumbling into the street in my cotton dress? Can you see the hospital and the stitches and the scar tissue?

Perhaps I should have chosen a different outfit. A different helmet. To get my brakes fixed.

Now it’s 2008 and I’m sitting in a basement apartment, squinting at blogger.com. I’m thinking about all the stories I want to tell, the ideas I want to share, and by god, the internet needs another space to discuss cat videos!

So I start Yes & Yes and every day, I choose to sit in my chair and write. When I can’t afford a computer of my own, I choose to stay late at work and write my blog posts there.

I choose to say “no thanks” to the occasional party or weekend away so I can learn glamorous things like SEO and email funnels. I choose to keep driving my 2003 Ford Focus and put my money towards a site redesign, an amazing assistant, and courses that help me grow my business.

Every day, in big and small ways, I choose myself and this weird internet writing career I’ve cobbled together. And those choices have lead to a life I love.

Daily choices add up to a life. We are what we do every day and we pay for our choices with the lives we lead. Share on XIf I choose to gossip about my friends, forget their birthdays, and skip their parties it’s unlikely that my life will be filled with supportive people and lifelong friendships.

If I choose to close my laptop at 7 pm, stop drinking coffee after lunch, and keep my phone and all its notifications far, far from my bed, my life will probably include eight hours of sleep. It will also probably include calmer mornings and a brighter, more alert mind.

If I choose to make a jillion impulse purchases at Target and use every blessed discount code Anthropologie sends my way, my life probably won’t have much in the way of retirement funds or vacations.

Obviously (obviously!) there are extenuating circumstances beyond our control and choices that we have no say in.

We didn’t choose the bodies or families we were born into. We didn’t choose the country we were born in or the political administration we were born under. It’s pretty hard to ‘choose’ your way out of oppression or inherited health issues or brain chemistry.

But there are so many things we have control over, such a huge number of choices we can make every single day.

If your health isn’t where you’d like it to be, you could choose to:

  • Finally make an appointment with a physician or therapist
  • Take a walk every day during your lunch hour
  • Remove things from your diet you know make you feel bad
  • Try a different medication or a new way of treating a nagging issue

If your social life isn’t where you’d like it to be, you could choose to:

  • Join a Meetup group for a hobby you love
  • Stop hanging out with that friend who makes you feel bad
  • Reach out to someone you haven’t seen in ages
  • Host a potluck – be the party you wish to see in the world 😉

If your relationship isn’t going particularly well, you could choose to:

  • Not do the thing you know your partner finds annoying
  • Say something loving, supportive, and honest every single day
  • Plan a date night
  • Text your partner a funny shared memory

When we make a choice we’re saying: “I want this in my life. This is what I believe I deserve.” Share on XWe’re telling our brains, our bodies, our bank accounts, and everyone around us that this is what’s important.

Friends, as terrifying as it is, let’s take a clear-eyed look at ourselves, our lives, and the choices we make every damn day. Which choices have led to the less awesome areas of our lives? Which ones have lead to successes?

I bet you know the answer to those questions. Choose accordingly.

I want to hear from you. What choices do you make every day that add to your life? If you’re being really honest, what choices have negatively affected your life? How can you change that?

P.S. If you need help making good choices more regularly, this will help! And it’s free!

photos by Arkady Lifshits and Igor Ovsyannykov // cc

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  1. Rebekah Jaunty

    You are twenty kinds of right. I’m clearly still benefitting from/suffering from decisions I made a looooong time ago. Tiny changes can go a long way.

    “You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
    “I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

    — Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I literally got goose bumps from that Dickens quote! So well said! <3

    • Sara

      Brilliant Quote here! Thank you.

  2. Debbie Keough

    Freakin amazing! I needed this kick in the butt today. Thank you for all your sacrifice to make such wonderful content.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      <3 <3

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Oh, thanks for the heads up!

  3. Katie

    I love this! It’s so true that the big changes stem from small adjustments in your daily grind, which can be a hard lesson to swallow. I’m in that oh-so-fun stage of your late twenties where you’re just in the middle of everything (like Jimmy Eat World sang) – in the middle of figuring out which friendships to keep and which to let go, in the middle of deciding if the job you’re in is going to be the lifetime career, in the middle of balancing fun night outs and financially smart decisions, etc., etc. etc.

    All of that said, I think looking at life from a daily decision perspective can definitely help pinpoint why you may be feeling stressed and confused but don’t know why. Always love your inspirational posts!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      So glad you found it helpful, Katie! <3

  4. Michelle

    Love this Sarah! So inspirational. I’ve made so many good life improving decisions and then there have been a few bad ones. But ultimately, it’s how we learn. We can’t judge ourselves badly for our decisions, the best thing we can do is learn from them and not do it again.
    Every day I make the choice to sit my butt in my chair and write or do something that will move me in the direction I want to go with life. I made the decision not to go back to corporate and that means every day I have to be working on my freelance career in some small way. If I only have an hour, I have to use it. If I have an entire day, I have to be productive.
    Procrastination has to be the most negative choice. Putting things off to the next day doesn’t get you far.
    A lot of my life decisions are based on one question I ask myself: “Will I regret not doing this?”
    If the answer is yes, well then I get my butt up and do whatever that is, or attend whatever event…I let very little stop me. Usually only major bodily harm stops me.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! Love that you’re going after what you want, Michelle!

  5. Renee

    I just wish you could come hang out with me! I love the balance between positivity and pragmatism that you share.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      <3 <3

  6. Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    Oh man, if I had to tell you everything I’m making the wrong decision for, the list would be endless. I’m glad I read this, it’s provided me with a little bit of motivation to at least make once change to my life!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  7. Abi

    I love to travel, and so I make choices with my lifestyle and budget everywhere else to be able to save money for traveling. It means sleeping on the couch while my room is being leased on AirBnb, not buying new clothes, budgeting / eating cheaply…. but it also means trips to Paris, London, Prague, Italy, Morocco, and more.

  8. Sandra, Italy

    This. Thank you Sarah, such wise words ❤ My difficulty lies in remembering that the smallest choices do make a difference in the long run. To let the laundry wait and instead load up my CV on that job site a friend recommended. And a thanks to Abi as well for the travel inspiration!

  9. Kathryn OHalloran

    About four years ago, my work contract ended and I decided to spend six months focused on my writing rather than looking for another job. After that six months, I was making enough money from writing to not have to look for another job.

    Then about two years ago, I decided to leave Australia and live a nomadic life. I’ve been travelling the world since.

    I guess they are pretty major decisions but there are a zillion minor ones that feed into it. If I’d spent those six months sitting around waiting for my *muse* to visit, I’d be back in a corporate job now. If I didn’t get organised and stay organised, I’d be a mess 🙂

    The most negative decision I make, and I make far too often, are food choices. I know if I avoid certain foods I’ll feel much better. I’ve just spend three days in agony because I decided to buy and eat a loaf of bread from the convenience store here in Tokyo (ie. the most processed white bread you can possibly get). Major regrets on that one!

  10. Sally

    One of the best decisions I made recently was quite a small one…
    I don’t check my work email after 8pm.
    To most people, that sounds crazy that I’d even consider it, but I have a particular job where there is some expectation to be “on” all the time. Plus my somewhat-crazy boss (who retires in 4 weeks! RESULT) is keen on sending 10pm emails that “must be answered immediately or else, but “else” is NEVER actually acted on”.
    The late night emails were stressing me out, ruining my nighttime routine, and I just couldn’t deal with it. So now I check my emails at 8pm on the dot, deal with anything that needs a response then. If there’s nothing, or nothing that can’t wait, that email account is Shut The Hell Down.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Good for you! And how great that your boss is about to retire!

  11. Indya | TheSmallAdventurer

    I love this post so much. Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve put so much time, effort and love into every aspect of it, and I have no regrets. Yes, that means giving some things up, but I never enjoyed going out to bars and clubs anyway.

    I’m sure my friends think I’m boring, or perhaps a little too invested in blogging, but they don’t understand how much I love it and want it to be my career one day. Every choice I make is for my future, and for my own personal and career development. I’m not going to feel embarrassed about being passionate and having big dreams.

    I just hope one day I can look back and say that I spent my time working towards a dream that became a reality. That would be amazing!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Good for you, Indya!

  12. Lisa Browne

    Another brilliant post! Love, Love, love this perspective and so right. It’s taken me some time but I’ve finally got it!
    “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll. I am the the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

    Invictus, William Ernest Henley

  13. Bun

    [Not as relevant as everyone else but: I too have a moped that I ride wearing full gear going 10 mph. I’m sure I look silly puttering down the bike paths slower than actual bike riders with a full face helmet on, but I enjoy it so much more because I feel safer. And I did have a minor crash – bounced a curb and spun out in someone’s lawn, but I did bonk my head on the ground – and I walked away with a few handlebar-on-leg bruises and a scrape on my nose instead of a head injury because of my goofy helmet. So high five from another helmet wearing slow rider!]

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