We make little snap decisions every day – from deciding what to eat to taking a new route to work. Generally speaking, these small moments don’t have a huge impact on our lives. Every now and then, however, a seemingly insignificant choice can actually be life-changing. Check out these 11 decisions people made that seemed small at the time, but ended up shaping their entire future.
1. Rocket instinct
Several years ago, I was at a Math and Science summer camp where we made small toy rockets to launch in the field. The only catch is that we used actual oil and rocket fuel to launch them.
As we were getting ready to launch, I decided to move over under a different tree to get a better view. But a gust of wind blew by and gave me shivers, so I decided to go back to the tree where everyone else was standing.
As soon as the rocket launched, we knew something was wrong.
Little did I know that the rocket would crash land in a fiery explosion exactly where I had been standing before that gust of wind persuaded me to move to the other tree.
It taught me how fragile life is, and how it could very well have ended right there if I had not done something so insignificant as moving several feet to my left.
2. Party Hard
I was being young and stupid, driving a bunch of friends to a party.
I didn’t know one of the people in the car, and I was a little bit sketched out by him. He seemed rough around the edges and was acting strangely. But he was a friend of a friend.
A police car pulls up behind me. His lights flickered on, so I pulled over.
I gave them all my information. Then they asked to search the car. “Sure – no problem, sir.”
We all get out and stand on the sidewalk while the one officer starts questioning us.
I’m off to one side, watching as officers dig through my car. Although I had nothing to be nervous about, I still was.
Then I look over and one of the guys from the car is in handcuffs – the one I was sketched out about. Turns out he had a parole violation.
I thought, “Oh wonderful. This is escalating quickly.”
A few minutes later, an officer comes walking over to me. He holds up a glass pipe and asks, “Is this yours?”
Wide-eyed, I said, “No sir, it isn’t.”
I immediately recognized that it was a crack pipe.
“Sir, it isn’t mine. I swear.”
He replies, “Yeah yeah – heard it all before.”
At this point, I’m panicked. I could see my life evaporating before my eyes; my parents’ reaction to getting the phone call that a crack pipe was found in my car and that I need to be bailed out of jail; the court appearance where I would get a criminal record, ruining any chances at a good career.
The officer was still looking at me, standing only a couple feet away. He turned and started to walk back to his car when I heard myself speak.
“Sir – drug test me. I’m telling the truth. Test me right now. That pipe has been used. If I’ve used any drugs they would show in my system.”
Apparently, that was the only acceptable answer in that situation, because I could tell he believed me.
We all got to leave, except for the unknown guy, who eventually ‘fessed up to owning the pipe. He also had a gun on him.
Around that time I started rethinking the fun party-hard lifestyle I was living.
3. That’s deep
“I had a really good time tonight.”
“I did, too.”
“So we’ll do it again soon?”
We hugged, slightly longer than people typically do. When we let each other go, I felt slightly unsatisfied.
In one split second I reached my arm out to her waist right as she was about to turn towards her car, pulled her in, and kissed her.
Every hair on my body stood up. Standing in the parking lot as we kissed, I forgot that plenty of people were standing out in front of the bar, looking at us. When I realized that, I started to lean away, only to feel her pulling me back in.
What proceeded was no love story though, as the months for which we dated were relatively insignificant.
What changed was my outlook. It was a split-second decision that would follow me permanently. It was a split-second vow to not leave things in a way that leave me dissatisfied. It was a vow to follow what felt right when the choice was presented.
I would go for the kiss. I would not leave words unsaid. I would refuse to be passive about what I want, how I feel, and who I am.
It seemed small at the time, but the choice changed my life.
When I was in college, there was this girl I was really into. She was very sweet, and pretty, and outgoing, and (unfortunately) dating a friend of mine.
Then he broke up with her, and she started showing an interest in me. YESSSSSS!
One evening, myself, my sister, this girl, and a mutual friend were all traveling into town to hang out for the evening. Someone started talking about who they’d like to date.
The girl point-blank asked me, “Paul are you interested in dating anyone?”
My mouth opened up and vomited: “Nah, I don’t want to date anyone right now. I just want to stay single.”
PAUL, WHAT ARE YOU SAYING?? ARE YOU INSANE?!
I had no idea why I said it, but she immediately quit showing any interest in me. I was distraught for days.
As time went on, it became evident just how many dark skeletons that girl had in her closet. No wonder my friend broke up with her.
I firmly believe God took control of my mouth and kept me out of the dysfunctional craziness a relationship with her would have been.
5. Midnight Bathroom Run
I had just opened my eyes and felt the urge to pee. I noticed my then pregnant girlfriend wasn’t in bed with me. I was still exhausted. Should I get up to pee and risk not being able to fall back asleep, or should I sleep in discomfort? I decided to go pee.
I slowly made my way to the closed bathroom door. I opened the door and I faintly heard: “Nick I need help.”
I look up and there is blood everywhere. “Oh my god, she’s miscarrying,” I muttered to myself. My girlfriend was too weak to stand up. I called her grandparents to come get us because I knew the ambulance would take half an hour to get there.
It was about 4 weeks before our due date. The doctor told us that everything was okay, but the baby was definitely coming. He said that, had we not got there as soon as we did, my daughter would’ve died for sure.
Basically, my split-second decision to pee that morning kept my girlfriend from miscarrying our child.
6. Keeping it in perspective
I was on the beach in Phuket, Thailand with my then-11 year old son on Boxing Day, 2004. That was the day of the big Indian Ocean tsunami. The first wave was the smallest and we managed to avoid getting dashed on the rocks by clinging to a seawall.
The second wave came in as we were running into our hotel, and swept us down the hallway and into a storeroom, where we were trapped in the pitch darkness as the water rose and debris banged about.
As that wave receded, thankfully before the room was flooded to the ceiling, we made our way back into the hallway and started up the stairs.
I noticed something warm against my leg, and looked down to see that my inner thigh was cut open and I was bleeding profusely. Oddly, there was no pain. We made it to the second floor, where my wife and mother were pulling people from the water onto our balcony.
I told them we had to get to higher ground NOW. We made it to our rental car and backed out onto the road. My wife asked which way we should go, left or right. I didn’t realize how important that decision would be.
The main town was to the left, where I knew I could get medical attention. The blood from my leg was now soaking through the bath towel I had wrapped around it. I was getting faint and knew I needed help fast. But that road was packed, and it dipped down for a bit before climbing up the hill on the other side.
I didn’t know what was to the right, but at least it didn’t seem to be going downhill. So I made my split-second, life-changing decision.
Within 10 seconds of us turning right, a huge wave, the biggest so far, crashed through the low part of the road to the left. The cars and people on the road were gone in an instant. We all would have drowned had we gone left, as more than 5,000 other people did in Thailand that day.
Luckily, there was a resort on higher ground to the right, where I received lifesaving first aid.
On days when things are not going my way, the memory of that day helps keep things in perspective. Every day since then has been a bonus.
7. Book fan
I was on an online dating website when I got a message. A blond-haired, blue eyed boy had asked me what my favorite book was. I had decided previously that anybody who asked me about books deserved a reply. Because books. Why would I not answer a question about my favorite subject?
So we began a conversation about books, fantasy specifically. This texting conversation led to a phone call which eventually led to a date. I am marrying the love of my life in a year.
He helps me with my depression and anxiety and I help him with his OCD and depression. A split-second decision to reply to a message online allowed me to meet my best friend, and to begin an adventure I never dreamed would exist for me.
April 12, 1996, 3:42pm. My car was speeding backwards at 70 mph, heading for a cliff after the tire blew out and spun the car around backwards. Should I go left, or right?
The week before, another driver made the wrong choice on the same curve and ended up driving off the 80 foot drop to his death. I was fortunate enough to make the right choice. I have two crushed vertebrae from it, but I’m lucky to be alive.
9. Ring ring, future calling
One day in high school, I decided to skip jazz band rehearsal. Instead of being at practice that afternoon I was home, watching Bugs Bunny, when the phone rang.
It was an adult from my church, asking if I’d be interested in going to Japan that summer to help represent the church at an international youth peace conference.
I’d never been out of the country before.
I said yes, and a few months later found myself, at age 16, the de facto leader of the American youth who attended this conference (as I was the oldest).
Those two weeks shaped the next 10 years of my life. I came home in love with Japan.
I started studying the language during night school at a local university, picked my colleges based on their Japanese study abroad programs, did my entire junior year at a Japanese university, and later worked for the Japanese government for a few years in Washington, DC.
None of this would have happened if I hadn’t randomly decided to skip jazz band that day and thus been home to answer that phone call.
10. Partying has its perks
One day, In the early nineties, I was delivering food around a downtown area. I bumped into a college friend who invited me to a house party.
It rocked. We had so much fun that we became good friends.
Later, he saw my sketchbook, and asked if he could share it with his father who was a physician. His father shared it with a fellow physician who was authoring a series of books relevant to MRI mapping.
The physicians invited me to another city 300 miles away and asked me if I could draw anatomical pictures and do body illustrations for them. I said, “Yes I could!” They asked me if I would like to do that full time as a profession, and I accepted.
All because I went to a very fun college party.
11. Squished Bug
When I was 17, two friends picked me up to go drinking at a bar across the state line, because it was known not to check IDs and we were too young to drink legally in our state.
We got about a mile from my house when I told them to turn around and take me back home. They were surprised, because we went out almost every night. But I had an overwhelming feeling that I wanted to go home. They called me a wimp and other names, but they dropped me off.
On the way home, long after midnight, they were hit from behind on the highway. They suffered no major injuries, but the VW bug they were driving was demolished. It was a rear engine vehicle, and the impact pushed the engine completely into the back seat – where I would have been sitting.
I have no explanation for my decision, but my life would have been changed forever if I hadn’t gone home that night.