Focus on the Best Decisions You Made This Year

Before we start looking ahead to the New Year, let's take some time to look back on this one.

Much too often, we live by default rather than design.  We're busy, and we get caught up in the tide of all the things we need to do and deal with.  This isn't horrible or evil, it's just the way we are.  Even when we try to look ahead and make plans, we worry about what might go wrong.  We go back to the tried-and-true because that feels safer.  And so a lot of what we do is on autopilot.  We blink, and a day has gone by.  A week.  A month.  And suddenly, it's next year already!

That's why it's good to take a moment and think about the decisions we've made consciously and then followed through on.  Let's remember the things we've committed to and then succeeded at that have helped us move closer to fulfilling our potential and/or living the life we desire. 

Where are you going?

Why we should reflect on our journey

When we don't become conscious of our direction, many of us will end up with regrets.

Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse from Australia, tended to those who were dying.  What she learned from talking and listening to her patients became a blog post and then a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.  (Sounds morbid, but it isn't.)  By applying the lessons she learned, she came to understand how anyone can die with confidence and peace that they have fulfilled their purpose.

What were the regrets that people nearing the end of life expressed most often to Ms. Ware?

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

Do you see yourself in any of these regrets?  

Perhaps you need to find a way to work fewer hours.  Maybe you need to pick up the phone and call a friend or family member (I do).  Maybe you need to take a chance on doing something that has seemed too impractical or too far outside the norm.

To the five regrets that Ware encountered most often, I'd add a few others I've heard expressed by people in their later years:

  • I wish I'd taken better care of my health instead of taking it for granted.
  • I wish I'd lived a little simpler if it meant I didn't have so much debt now.
  • I wish I'd paid more attention to my marriage/children/relationships.
  • I wish I had done more to make a positive difference in the world.
  • I wish I had forgiven him/her.

Do any of these regrets ring a bell for you?

How to avoid regret

There's good news.  You're reading this today, and you have time to make different decisions to direct your life in the way you want it to go.

It's important to accept that we will die, and we don't know when.  Our time here is limited, so now is the time to say "I love you," to do a kindness, to take a chance to enjoy life's little pleasures instead of focusing on daily stresses and chores.  End-of-life doula Maryanne O'Hara says, "We always think we have more time.  If we knew how quickly it was going to pass, we would savor it all more.  We would savor every delicious bit."

That's why I want you to think about the decisions you made this past year that you stuck with.  Can you think of three choices you made that moved your life in the direction you desire?

My 3 best decisions in 2023

I thought about this for a few days and this is what I realized:

1.  I decided to lower my sugar and carb intake.

Earlier this year, I was bordering on type 2 diabetes.  It runs in my mother's family, and I don't know of a single relative over 60 who didn't have it.  My brother and sister have also been diagnosed.  Well, my diabetes was still considered "diet controlled."  In other words, my numbers weren't so bad that I needed medication, but they were heading for the danger zone.

So I made several changes.  Without completely eliminating all sugar, but making it a once-in-a-while treat, and by cutting daily carb intake by about 30%, my most recent numbers are much lower and heading toward the normal range!  My doctor and I are both very pleased, and I feel hopeful that I can exercise control over my health in this way.

For decades I felt that I had no ability to permanently alter my diet, and now I see that by taking small steps in the right direction I can succeed.  I've always focused on the fact that I'm overweight, but now I'm focusing on health instead – with more success than ever.

2.  I decided to be more conscious and consistent about being kind.

It's much too easy to pay attention to disagreements and things I don't like about other people.  Even though I'm positive that gratitude is the door to a happy life, I'm far more likely to complain about what's wrong with the world than to notice and give thanks for the good things.

It's easy to watch the news or read social media and start feeling that people are mean, selfish, greedy, and stupid.  But that's because those outlets can get more attention and make more money by stoking outrage than by fostering empathy.

I was reminded recently that most people love to be helpful and kindI love to be helpful and kind!  It makes me feel useful, valuable, and more appreciative of all the beauty around me.  But when I get busy and preoccupied with my own plans and chores, I forget to be kind on purpose.  Deciding to add more kindness to my interactions makes every day better.

3.  I decided to create and publish five books in two months.

This was an audacious goal, even though I had already written (but not organized or edited) about half of the content.  By creating a series to help readers explore life with less clutter, busyness, and stress, outlining plenty of practical strategies along with "philosophy" (the whys, goals, and rationale for minimalism), I was challenging myself to curate and communicate the best of what I've learned from five years of blogging and more than 25 years of living.*

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

The project consumed me this summer, and I loved it!  I felt so much energy, and had so many ideas, that I surprised myself.  There were setbacks, but I can truthfully say I was never discouraged.  I looked forward to the work, and I'm very proud of the result.  I hope you've had a chance to explore at least some of it.

And so from August 9 to October 9, I published five books.  I would never have thought it possible if I hadn't challenged myself.

Your turn

All three of my decisions have helped me move closer to fulfilling my potential and living the life I desire.  They've kept me from proceeding on autopilot.  Of course, I wasn't absolutely sure I would succeed.  I felt some hesitation.  In fact, the process was often uneven, with mistakes and do-overs.

I'm glad I went ahead and tried.

So now it's your turn.  What are the best decisions you made this past year?  Make time to think about and answer this question, because you deserve to end with no regrets.


  1. I love this idea of reflecting on what I did accomplish this year. Thank you for a beautiful post.


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