When I first began to photograph digitally, I was hearing everyone talk with fear about clipping their highlights, getting "blinkies" on their LCD on the camera, etc., so, not understanding alot of what this was all about, I just exposed so that my highlights were well within the histogram graph. I learned the hard way that this was not the correct way to expose, but managed to save many of the pictures as I was not that far off!
In the 2 years that I've been photographing digitally, and teaching students about digital exposures, I am amazed to still hear people a little panicked about getting ANY highlights blinking. But think about it for a minute: if you have a scene of sparkling highlights on water, and the highlights are overexposed, it may not be an issue. If those highlights are tiny in the overall picture, as sun sparkles usually are, then it may not be a big deal that they are blinking - or overexposed. Likewise, if you are including the sun in your picture, say of a silhouetted lobster buoys and hillside as seen here, the sun will NEVER be properly exposed unless the rest of the picture is also very dark. Since there's no detail in the sun, who cares?
This may seem a little oversimplified, but in essence, you have to decide what is critical for exposure in your picture. In this case, I knew the water had to be properly exposed, as did the sky around the sun, but I also knew that the sun might overexpose and cause loss of detail. I was lucky - it rose in a bank of haze enough that I didn't lose much - even though you still can't see detail in that yellow ball of light! If your shadows or your highlights are small, it may not be a big deal if they go off the graph of the histogram a little. You just need to be sure you are checking the histogram and understanding what it is in the scene that's probably off the charts.
While I try to keep everything within the range of the histogram, I realize that it's not always possible and so I make my decision of how I'll expose by looking at my scene, assessing the range, and making sure I keep the details in the area that is most important without losing any highlight detail if possible. But if the water drops on a plant are reflecting pinpoints of overexposed light, it will not be an issue even in a large print.
So don't be too scared of the highlights, so that you err like I did and expose too much 'to the left' on the histogram. But pay attention to them just the same, so you'll be sure that if they are important, you'll have them properly exposed.
If you want to learn more about your histogram, take Ellen Anon's course on What the Histogram Tells You here at Betterphoto, or Tim Cooper's course on Understanding Natural Light, where he goes into detail about the histogram for digital photographers.
Have a great week of photography!