How To Live

I took pleasure when I could. I acted clearly and morally and without regret. — Jeanne Calment

Jeanne Calment died in 1997 at the age of 122 years, 164 days. I haven’t found the original source for this oft-quoted quote, though one website claims she said it about living to be 120.

Whether or not living Calment’s way can help us live to an overripe old age, this quote makes me happy.

“I took pleasure when I could.” That’s easy enough. You look for it, embrace it, and enjoy it when it is available to you. Life is difficult, so don’t ever run from pleasure if you don’t have to.  Things are bound to suck again, soon enough.

But the rest of the quote intrigues me more. Clearly, morally, and without regret. These seem such fine words for a life well-lived, so simple and unfussy. They are like cold, crisp, clean water.

But what do they mean, really?

Clearly, morally, and without regret.

To me, they mean acting with intention, acting consciously, making sure that you thoroughly think through decisions you make about life.

While certainly a topic open for debate (and feel free to go at it in the comments), I think moral behavior is subjective, at least at the individual level. Legislated morality is a collectivist decision and we must live by the laws of our nation, but even those are often open to legitimate debate (i.e. same-sex marriage).

For the individual, moral behavior requires weighing every choice, making the wisest and kindest decisions you can, and respecting your emotions while not allowing them to overrule reason. It is acting according to your own moral compass, not being swayed or bulled by others.

When you think your choices through, you can act clearly and with intention. You are less likely to waffle and stumble (though we all do some of that, we’re only human), more likely to follow through.

And in acting clearly, you are (one hopes) less likely to have regrets. You make conscious decisions rather than drifting or being swept into action. If it’s the wrong decision, as it sometimes will be, at least it was not foolish or impulsive. You can own it justify it, learn from it.

Clearly, morally, and without regret.

So simple. But at the same time, not so easy.

How To Live

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APA Reference
Dembling, S. (2012). How To Live. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 24, 2019, from


Last updated: 21 Aug 2012
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