18 Famous Poems About Making Life Choices

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Poets across the centuries have written about everything from the beauty of nature to the agony of making choices. Poetry often expresses what we only feel inside and rarely verbalize. 

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We face choices throughout our lives, from what to wear to what job to accept. Countless poets have chosen to share their wit, wisdom, humor, and sorrow over the choices life throws our way. 

Poems About Choices and Consequences

Poetry, like humor, might help you make a hard decision or figure out what to do in a sticky situation. Read on, take courage, and gather wisdom from these famous authors.

1. "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley

"Invictus" challenges the thinking that we don’t have any say in what happens to us in life. The lines, especially at the end, challenge us to take charge of our lives, make good decisions, and then own the decisions we make.

2. "Who Killed the Plan?" by Amos Russel Wells

We are always making plans, pushing forward, and striving to accomplish what we can. This poem talks about the things that could kill those plans and decisions. The consequences of laziness, procrastination, pride, and a lack of follow-through will always kill plans. Putting something in motion requires determination, endurance, and grit.

3. "The Door" by Jessie Belle Rittenhouse

Doors open for us all the time. If we ignore them, decide to go a different way, or try closed doors, it might not work out for us. This poem encourages us to walk through open doors rather than waiting too long to make a decision.

4. "Perseverance" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Perseverance," a poem about what it takes to make our dreams, goals, and ambitions come true in life, also details how you can't achieve greatness without first putting in the long hours and hard work. With hard work comes great reward.

5. "The Lesson" by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Life may throw us hardballs, disappointments, and discouragements, but we have the choice to take those things and learn from them. We also can use our sorrows to help other people going through difficult times and seasons.

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Poems About Making Hard Choices

Life introduces all sorts of hard choices and poets often reflect on a learning experience they had when making hard choices. Some sad poems would make excellent funeral poems for a deceased loved one well-versed in the art of making hard choices.

6. "My Treasure" by Arthur Weir

One of the biggest decisions we have to make in life involves our chief ambitions. Will we search for fame? Love? Something else? In this poem, those who come across the author's path get asked, “What do you gather?” After each person shares what they gather, the author concludes that all we need to do is make the hard choices in life so we can have a life we want to build.

7. "His Other Chance" by Edgar A. Guest

Sometimes we find ourselves knocked down by the consequences of our poor choices. As this author encourages, we then face the hardest choice of all — the choice to rise again, fix our mistakes, and make new decisions that will turn our life around.

8. "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost

When making decisions, we often face at least two distinct paths. By choosing one path, we eliminate the others. However, choosing the path to take amounts to a difficult decision. Frost encourages his readers to take the road less traveled rather than going down the easier path.

9. "The Hustling Pumpkin Vine" by Uncle Mose

Whether in elementary school, college, or the workplace, we have to make the hard choice to plow through difficult tasks, work on hard assignments, and get along with people that we may not click with. However, if you choose to keep pressing on, you’ll find that you conquer all the obstacles in your way and make your dreams come true.

10. "Keep A-Pluggin’ Away" by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Sometimes the hardest choice also involves the opportunity to “keep a-plugging away.” When everything seems particularly hard, we often feel like giving up. However, Paul Dunbar encourages his readers to make the hard choice to keep going on, climbing up, and pushing forward.

Poems About Making the Wrong Choices

It happens to all of us — we try our best but sometimes we still make the wrong choices. Those choices have consequences and we have to live with them. These poems speak about this phenomenon and provide encouragement. Some of these might even help you comfort a loved one in emotional pain.

11. "The Secret of It" by Amos Russel Wells

Whether we’ve made good choices or bad, we may live with the consequence of those choices for a long time. How do we respond to the life we live? Do we make the best of it or do we give up? The author of this poem encourages us to do the best with what we have, no matter our circumstances.

12. "How Did You Die?" by Edmund Vance Cooke

This particularly inspiring poem asks readers what they did with the time they were given. Whether you live high on a pinnacle or low in a valley, Cooks shares that it isn’t where you land that’s important, but how you got there and how you lived during the journey.

13. "The Two Kinds of People" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Many kinds of people make up humanity. This author highlights just two types — those who lift and those who lean. She encourages people everywhere to choose to be the kind of person who lifts others up. She also warns people from being the person who takes from others without giving back. 

14. "Your Mission" by Ellen H. Gates

Sometimes we don’t get to be what we dream of being in life. We may not become the president or the CEO of a company. We may never write a bestseller or save a thousand lives. But we do have the option to do something meaningful alongside those who accomplish great things. Gates urges her readers to not make the wrong choice to sit idly by and watch while everyone else accomplishes great things. Rather, she encourages her readers to do what they can to plan and help great things come to pass.

15. "The House by the Side of the Road" by Sam Walter Foss

In life, we all have the choice to live with those around us or live off alone. The author of this poem likens these choices to living in a house by the side of the road, near others, or living on a far-off hill where none exist. He encourages his readers to stay away from making the wrong choice to live as a hermit and instead “live by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”

Religious Poems About Choices

Many religious poems introduce a level of spirituality into the process of decision-making. Read through some of the best poems about choices that also add religion to the mix.

16. "Foreboding" by Ellen P. Allerton

You can either look at the good side of life or see all the ways things might go bad. This author encourages readers to see sunshine instead of clouds and look at the sunset rather than thinking of tomorrow’s storm.

17. "The Broken Pinion" by Hezekiah Butterworth

This poem describes a bird with a broken wing because of the poor choices it made. Though it was able to redeem the life it had by helping other birds make better choices than it made, it was never quite the same. In other words, help others make better choices than you.

18. "School" by Kate Louise Wheeler

Think of life as a school, with lessons to learn. The author encourages us to do our best and learn our lessons well so we can teach others about the wisdom we have gained. 

Oh, the Choices You’ll Make

We all make thousands of choices every day. While you can accomplish many of these without even thinking, some of them might change your life. Poems put words to universal human experiences that everyone lives but few talk about.

These poems may help you with your decision-making process.

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