You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. – Mae West


Most people believe that the journey of life is pre-determined and we are destined already. However, it is a wrong concept because, as humans, we have been given the choice to choose the right path or the wrong path to lead our lives. Sometimes, what we feel is right is not actually right. Instead, we need to look around us and see if our life is as per the right standards or not. Many are scared of living their own life to please the society. This creates a societal imbalance as well. Mae West says “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough”. 

Mae West

Who was Mae West?

Mae West was an American celebrity born on 17th August 1893 and died on 22nd November 1980. During her life, she worked as a stage actress, film star, screenwriter, and singer, and even worked as a sex symbol. The primary reason for the exceptional success of Mae West was her effort towards making the conventional movies into comedy, particularly in the time when the depression era was at its peak. The career of Mae West extended for up to 7 decades during which her work was admired globally and she attained several awards for her outstanding performances as well.  

In 1999, The American Film Institute voted Mae West as the greatest female screen legend of classic American Cinema. For her exceptional moves in the industry as well as rapid sexual independence, she was often considered a bold star. For the same reason, she faced several problems associated with censorship. Even one of her movies faced several controversies on account of censorship issues. However, she was always advancing out and going ahead in the direction she felt was right. For this reason, her quote “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough” becomes quite relevant to her personality. 

Origin of this Quote

The 20th-century actress said this quote during one of her interviews where she was asked questions about life and her career. Mae West was facing many controversies because she was the “Naughty girl of Hollywood”. With this one quote, she gave everyone a shut-up call by telling people that she has only one life and she is going to do what she finds right in this. She does not want to be bothered by people or their opinions in any way. Her quote became a source of inspiration for many. It was also shortened to the word YOLO meaning You Only Live Once. 

Meaning of this Quote

The quote highlights several ideologies towards life and indicates how one can live life in a way that they don’t have regrets about it. 

Live Life Right

The foremost meaning of this quote is to live life in the right way. Many people indulge themselves in activities during their life that they regret later on. For example, if a person gets addicted to drugs, or alcohol, and is involved in some sort of crime, he is going to have major regrets in his life. People who spend time in jails or rehab centers always wonder why they did something that they are being punished for now. Even if he does not get caught, he will have evolved into a personality that he would not like as he gets older and older. A person automatically realizes when they are on the wrong path. 

It is essential to understand that people could live a life that they feel is cool and all. They can show off their belongings to others and boast about their life. However, if they have not earned all of that in the right ways, they will not be internally satisfied with it. Instead, they might develop different types of personality complexes. The gut feeling will be bothering them even if they have all the wealth in the world. 

This brings us to the point that one should live life in the right way. They should be having good behavior with others and live life in a righteous manner. People should abstain from wrong behavior and not make the life of others difficult in any way. Live your life in a way that you know that what you are doing is right.

Your actions must not hinder the life of others. They shouldn’t be causing pain for others. Even if others stand up to you, it shouldn’t be any of your personal habits directly bothering them.  Mae West also faced much resistance during her lifetime for her adult content but because she was not directly asking anyone to watch the content or spread negativity; she stuck to it by suggesting that she wasn’t bothering people in any way. 

Live Life Right

Do What You Love

One of the most important lessons given in this quote is about doing what you love. Many people feel that living life the way others want it to be is the right way to live life. However, it actually harms you and leaves you with plenty of regrets later on. The society has set up very abnormal standards. If someone does not follow them, he is not considered ideal by the society. However, if something bad happens, nobody comes up on your back and tells you that they are with you for what they taught you. This is a big problem. However, we only realize it until we are way past a certain point in our lives. 

Take this as an example. Many people have an interest in fine arts such as music, painting, writing, etc. However, they hold themselves back from choosing this as a career because society does not accept it as much of a good career. Many people might hear that they are just pursuing a hobby while others might get taunted for not being serious about their life. The world will not take it as a career. They would want that a man should be having a proper job, a proper educational degree, and a “respectable” profession. 

This is just one example. Modern-day society has increased this pressure on almost everything we face. Very few people get the support they want to get to a dream point. For this reason, very few are successful while others just follow the ways set by the society. 

One study showed that patients who were on their death beds said that they had regrets about following the wrong patterns of society and not following what they really liked. Many people said that they regretted following others and losing their own identity in the entire process. 

Live a legacy

Live a Legacy Others Remember

There are many people we see in our historical context who have been an inspiration to us. We can take the example of Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, and several other important philosophers as well. These people lived a difficult life but on the principle of following their rights only. Despite the many difficulties, they still remained steadfast and followed the right path. These people lived their whole lives spreading positivity and fighting for the rights of people. They always tried to bring peace and harmony to society without considering any of their personal benefits. 

These people had an option to live an easy life and not stand up for what was right. They could have easily given up on the difficult life as they had sufficient money and resources for their personal living. However, they focused on the fact that “if you do it right, once is enough”. 

History remembers these people in golden words. They have left a legacy for others to follow. They have set certain standards in the form of right paths. People like to follow them because they have taught the various ways in which this one life can be lived in the most suitable manner. The lives of many influential people and motivational speakers are an inspiration for all of us. 


This quote by Mae West is one of the most important ones with regards to living life. Most people today feel that the life they are living is the right life. They don’t understand the difference between right and wrong. They don’t realize that not everything good you do has to be done as a duty rather some things need to be done out of consideration and ethical aspects as well. The above-mentioned themes of this quote will help you understand the quote better and incorporate useful changes to your life as well. 


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