One of life’s greatest mysteries – and just about everyone’s goal – is how to live a happy, successful life. It’s a question we’ve all spend countless hours pondering over.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the current wealthiest men in the world, has his own thoughts on this age-old mystery. Even if you take away his impressive credentials, he’s definitely onto something.

During a commencement speech he gave at Princeton University in 2010, titled “We Are What We Choose,” he summed up his views:

When you are 80-years-old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made.

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Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.

Back when he was first toying with the idea of opening an online bookstore (Amazon), Bezos had to evaluate his risks: he had a good, stable job at the time, and starting a business meant leaving it behind and leaping into the unknown. “After much consideration, I took the less safe path to follow my passion,” he says, “and I’m proud of that choice.”

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

In life, we all have to make choices – and there will always be some choices that we regret. It’s important to realize, though, that failure can teach us some incredible lessons. “In the end, we are our choices,” says Bezos. “Build yourself a great story.”

In order to build that great story, here are the 12 questions that Bezos urges everyone to ask themselves regularly:

1. How will you use your gifts?

2. What choices will you make?

3. Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?

4. Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?

5. Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?

6. Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?

7. Will you bluff it out when you’re wrong, or will you apologize?

8. Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?

9. Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?

10. When it’s tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?

11. Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?

12. Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?

While there’s no such thing as a foolproof formula for a good life, taking the time to think deeply about these questions and really taking stock of your own values is a great step in the right direction.