Each decision is paramount because it accumulates.

from The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes fiction ~2 min read

I found myself comparing my life against Adrian’s. The ability to see and examine himself; the ability to make moral decisions and act on them; the mental and physical courage of his suicide. ‘He took his own life’ is the phrase; but Adrian also took charge of his own life, he took command of it, he took it in his hands – and then out of them. How few of us – we that remain – can say that we have done the same? We muddle along, we let life happen to us, we gradually build up a store of memories. There is the question of accumulation, but not in the sense that Adrian meant, just the simple adding up and adding on of life. And as the poet pointed out, there is a difference between addition and increase.

Had my life increased, or merely added to itself? This was the question Adrian’s fragment set off in me. There had been addition – and subtraction – in my life, but how much multiplication? And this gave me a sense of unease, of unrest.

"So, for instance, if Tony …" These words had a local, textual meaning, specific to forty years ago; and I might at some point discover that they contained, or led to, a rebuke, a criticism from my old clear-seeing, self-seeing friend. But for the moment I heard them with a wider reference – to the whole of my life. "So, for instance, if Tony …" And in this register the words were practically complete in themselves and didn’t need an explanatory main clause to follow. Yes indeed, if Tony had seen more clearly, acted more decisively, held to truer moral values, settled less easily for a passive peaceableness which he first called happiness and later contentment. If Tony hadn’t been fearful, hadn’t counted on the approval of others for his own self-approval … and so on, through a succession of hypotheticals leading to the final one: so, for instance, if Tony hadn’t been Tony.

—Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending, p. -1