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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

What It Really Means to Seize the Day

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What It Really Means to Seize the Day

“Carpe Diem – seize the day” is one of the oldest philosophical mottos in western history. This motto was said by the Roman poet Horace 2,000 years ago and it still resonates with us today—though, how we go about seizing the day is very different from how it was done in Horace’s time.

I was bought up on this mantra of seizing the day, and I still have this approach to my life. However, after reading Roman Krznaric’s book Carpe Diem Regained: The Vanishing Art of Seizing the Day, I was shocked to discover that meaning of Carpe Diem had been hijacked.

According to Krznaric, the advertising giants have turned Carpe Diem into a belief where life is short, time is running out, and we are living in the here and now so grab everything you can before it is too late. The overlying message we are consistently bombarded with is. “you don’t want to regret that you didn’t take action because you will lose out! You have not seized the moment and that’s bad!”

Seizing the day now brings up images of people taking what they can get, people who get things done, and people who just do it. Guess where Nike got their slogan from?

People are encouraged today to take charge and pursue their happiness right now, and this results in the consumption of products and services that reflect an instant gratification consumer culture that does not stop to smell the roses.

We hit the ground running to make the most of every minute because we may miss the opportunity of happiness if we don’t grab it now. What an exhausting way to live life!

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What Does It Mean to Seize the Day in 2020?

The good news is that the motto Carpe Diem is still great advice to follow if you want to lead a meaningful life today despite COVID-19.

Living with the disruption that COVID-19 has bought us, Carpe Diem reminds us to make the most of the present moment rather than angst about the uncertainty of the future. Being present in the moment gives us control over our situation, and we can then take action to seize the day in a way that enables us to face the uncertainty and the unknown from a place of strength and power.

The secret to taking action and fully embracing the concept of Carpe Diem is to spend time working out and getting very clear about what actions and thoughts define what it means for you.

For me, the original definition Carpe Diem from the poet Horaces “Seize the day, trusting little in the future” in these current times resonates with me. I now focus on NOT putting tasks or activities on hold until tomorrow. When I am thinking about a friend who I haven’t spoken to in a while, I immediately call them because I know that if I don’t, I will forget.

My future right now, like many of you, feels very uncertain. There is a lot of the unknown and to navigate my way through this, I need to focus on the present and what is happening right now in my life that is good. This means I have to commit to finding the space to spend more time smelling the roses and enjoying the precious moments in my life right now. That is what Carpe Diem means to me in 2020.

5 Ways to Seize the Day Right Now

Integrating the philosophy of Carpe Diem into your life does not happen overnight, especially when you have lived your life influenced by the advertising messages of self-gratification and living in the now. It takes time and when you take one step at a time, you will create and sustain transformational change in your life.

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There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says, “the journey of a thousand steps begins with a single one.” Follow this piece of advice because it is key to you embracing Carpe Diem into your life.

1. Get Clarity on What Is Important in Your Life

Clarity gives you peace of mind. When you know what is important in your life, you are less likely to be distracted or procrastinate. When you know what you want and have a sense of purpose, then you have direction and focus.

You are more likely to take action to attain those aspects of life that are important to you rather than ignore or put aside for another day. Clarity gives you the desire and the will to take action, which is aligned with the philosophy of Carpe Diem.

2. Let Go of Regrets and Move on

Focusing on all the mistakes or the things you could have, would have, or should have done creates inertia in your life. Carpe Diem is all about taking action and grabbing opportunity—the complete opposite of living your life in regret.

There is no action, no movement, and no energy when you live your life in regret. That is why it is so important to let your regrets go so that you can move and take action to seize the day!

3. Fix Your Priorities

Decide what activities or actions in your life are important to you. Create a space for you to spend the time to figure out what is important to you. What are the activities that bring you joy and energize you?

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Here are 3 simple steps to sort out your 4 top priorities:

  1. Divide an A4 piece of paper into 4 quarters and write down 4 things in your life that are most important to you. Once you have done this, have a look at the piece of paper then throw it away.
  2. Then get another A4 piece of paper and repeat the same exercise, BUT leave out Work and Relationships (Family). These elements of your life are with you all the time and are a top priority. They are non-negotiable. This exercise is about you finding out what the top 4 activities that are a priority in your life that bring you joy, such as exercise, creating, writing, volunteering, cooking, helping others, or spending time in nature.
  3. Once you have finished writing down 4 activities, reflect as to how you are spending your time with each of these 4 activities.

Are you doing things in your life right now that brings you joy and are important to you? If the answer is no, then go seize the day! Start taking action.

4. Set Personal Boundaries for Success

When you have no direction, it is hard to focus on what is important to you or what path you want to take in life. As result, you are more likely to procrastinate, be easily distracted, and have no personal boundaries in place that help you regulate your emotional and physical well-being.

Having healthy boundaries is also a great way for you to protect your emotional space. Your boundaries give you the physical and emotional control of your life. With boundaries, you know your limits and you can communicate these limits from a place of strength and emotional stability. These emotional foundations give you the energy and self-belief to go seize the day.

5. Invest in You and Create Space for You

Spend time creating the space for you to reflect, reboot, and re-energize. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You just need to commit to investing in yourself.

Simple things like turning off the television and your phone provide you with the space to relax and reflect. Go for a walk, take up yoga, or do any form of physical exercise that gets you out into nature. Take a vacation, practice gratitude daily, and focus on creating balance in your life.

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Don’t let the world pass you by because you are too busy working or focusing on tasks and activities that distract you away from your growth and wellbeing.

Final Thoughts

In the movie, Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams said to his students “Carpe Diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary”. This is the definition of Carpe Diem that I believe will inspire you to live your life to the fullest!

Life is too short for you to ignore the opportunity to seize the day!

More About Living Your Life to the Fullest

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Last Updated on October 7, 2021

How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

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How to Make a Change With the Four Quadrants of Change

Quitting smoking is the easiest thing in the world. Some people quit smoking a thousand times in their lives! Everyone knows someone with this mindset.

But this type of change is superficial. It doesn’t last. For real, lasting change to take place, we need to consider the quadrants of change.

Real change, the change that is fundamental, consistent, and longitudinal (lasting over time) has to happen in four quadrants of your life.

It doesn’t have to be quitting smoking; it can be any habit you want to break — drinking, biting your nails, overeating, playing video games, shopping, and more.

Most experts focus on only one area of change, some focus on two areas, but almost none focus on all four quadrants of change. That’s why much of change management fails.

Whether it is in the personal life of a single individual through actions and habits, or in a corporate environment, regarding the way they conduct their business, current change management strategies are lacking.

It all stems from ignoring at least one part of the equation.

So, today, we will cover all four quadrants of change and learn the formula for how to change fundamentally and never go back to your “old self.”

A word of warning: this is simple to do, but it’s not easy. Anyone who tells you that change is easy is either trying to sell you something, or they have no idea what they’re talking about.

Those who want an overnight solution have left the article now, so that leaves you, me, and the real process of change.

The Four Quadrants of Change

There are four areas, or quadrants, in which you need to make a change in order for it to stick. If you miss or ignore a single one of these, your change won’t stick, and you will go back to your previous behavior.

The four quadrants are:

  1. Internal individual – mindset
  2. External individual – behavior
  3. Internal collective – culture/support system
  4. External collective – laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

All four of these quadrants of change may sound like they could carry change all by themselves, but they can’t. So, be sure to implement your change in all four quadrants. Otherwise, it will all be in vain.

First Quadrant — Internal Individual

This quadrant focuses on the internal world of an individual, and it concerns itself with the mindset of a person.

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Our actions stem from our thoughts (most of the time), and if we change our mindset toward something, we will begin to process of changing the way we act.

People who use the law of attraction fall into this category, where they’ve recognized the strength of thoughts and how they make us change ourselves.

Even Lao Tzu had a great saying regarding this:

“Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything.” [1]

One of the most impactful ways you can make a change in this quadrant is to implement what James Clear calls identity-based habits. [2]

Instead of prioritizing the outcome of a change (ex.: I want to lose 20 pounds), you prioritize your identity as a person (I want to become/remain a healthy person).

Here are a couple of examples for you to see the strength of this kind of resolution:

I want to watch many movies = I am a cinema lover
I want to clean my apartment = I am a clean person
I want to harvest my crops = I am a harvester (farmer)
I want to swim = I am a swimmer

This quadrant is about changing the identity you attach to a certain action. Once you re-frame your thinking in this way, you will have completed the first of the quadrants of change.

Second Quadrant — External Individual

This quadrant focuses on the external world of an individual and concerns itself with the behavior of a person.

This is where people like Darren Hardy, the author of the Compound Effect reside. Hardy is about doing small, consistent actions that will create change in the long run (the compound effect).

You want to lose 30 pounds? Start by eating just 150 calories (approximately two slices of bread) less a day, and in two and a half years, you will have lost 30 pounds.

The same rules apply to business, investing, sports, and multiple other areas. Small, consistent actions can create big changes.

This works — I’ve read 20 extra pages a day for the past two years, and it accumulated into 90 books read in two years. [3]

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Here, you have two ways of dealing with change behaviorally: negative environmental design and positive environmental design.

Negative Environmental Design

This is when you eliminate the things from your environment that revert you to the old behavior. If you want to stop eating ice cream, you don’t keep it in your freezer.

If you want to stop watching TV, you remove the batteries from the remote and put them on the other side of the house (it works!).

Positive Environmental Design

This is when you put the things that you want to do withing reach — literally!

You want to learn how to play guitar? Put your guitar right next to your sofa. You want to head to the gym? Put the gym clothes in a backpack and put it on top of your shoes.

You want to read more books? Have a book on your nightstand, your kitchen table, and on the sofa.

You can even combine this last trick with my early advice about removing the batteries from your remote control, combining the negative and positive environmental designs for maximum effect.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

If you just change your behavior and leave your intentions (thoughts) intact, your discipline will fail you and the real change won’t happen.

You will simply revert back to the previous behavior because you haven’t changed the fundamental root of why this problem occurs in the first place.

That is why you need to create change both in the first quadrant (internal individual — mindset) and the second quadrant (external individual — behavior). These quadrants of change are two sides of the same coin.

Most change management would stop here, and that’s why most change management fails.

No matter how much you focus on yourself, there are things that affect our lives that are happening outside of us. That is the focus of the two remaining quadrants.

Third Quadrant — Internal Collective

This quadrant focuses on the internal world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the culture of that collective.

There are two different distinctions here: the Inner Ring and the Outer Ring.

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The Inner Ring

These are your friends and your family. The Inner Ring is the place where the social and cultural norms of your friends and family rule.

So, if everyone in your family is overweight and every lunch is 1,000 calories per person, then you can say goodbye to your idea of becoming healthy.

In this case, the culture of your group, the inner norms that guide the decisions, actions, thoughts, ideas, and patterns of behaviors are all focused on eating as much as possible. [4]

You need to have the support of your Inner Ring if you want to achieve change. If you don’t have this support, the the best way to proceed is by either changing your entire Inner Ring or distancing yourself from it.

Beware — most Inner Rings won’t accept the fact that you want to change and will undermine you on many occasions — some out of habit, some due to jealousy, and some because supporting you would mean that they have to change, too.

You don’t have to cut ties with people, but you can consciously decide to spend less time with them.

The Outer Ring

The Outer Ring consists of the culture of your company, community, county, region, and country. For example, it’s quite hard to be an open-minded person in North Nigeria, no matter how you, your friends, and your family think.

The Outer Ring is the reason why young people move to the places that share their value systems instead of staying in their current city, county, or country.

Sometimes, you need to change your Outer Ring as well because its culture is preventing you from changing.

I see this every single day in my country, where the culture can be so toxic that it doesn’t matter how great of a job you have or how great your life currently looks — the culture will change you, inch by inch, until you become like it.

Fourth Quadrant — External Collective

This quadrant focuses on the external world of the collective where the individual resides, and it concerns itself with the systems, teams, laws, and rules of that collective.

This quadrant is about the external manifestations of the collective culture. If the majority of the environment thinks in a certain way, they will create institutions that will implement that way of thinking.

The same rules apply to companies.

One example for companies would be those managers who think that employees are lazy, lack responsibility, and need constant supervision (or what is called Theory X in management).

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Then, those managers implement systems that reflect that kind of culture– no flexible work hours, strict rules about logging work, no remote work, etc.

Your thoughts, however, may be different. You might believe that people want responsibility, that they are capable of self-direction, that they can make good decisions, and that managers don’t need to stand on their necks if they want something done (this is called Theory Y in management).

Then, you would want to have flexible working hours, different ways of measuring your productivity (for example, not time on the job but work produced), and remote work, if possible for your profession.

This is when you enter into a conflict with the external collective quadrant. Here, you have four options: leave, persevere, neglect, and voice.

Leave

You can simply leave the company/organization/community/country and go to a different place. Most people decide to do this.

Persevere

This is when you see that the situation isn’t good, but you decide to stick at it and wait for the perfect time (or position) where you can implement change.

Neglect

This is where you give up on the change you want to see and just go with the flow, doing the minimal work necessary to keep the status quo.

These are the people who are disengaged at work and are doing just the bare minimum necessary (which, in the U.S. is around 65% of the workforce).

I did this only once, and it’s probably the only thing I regret doing in my life.

Voice

This is where you actively work on changing the situation, and the people in charge know that you want to create a change.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your company, community, or your country; you are actively calling for a change and will not stop until it’s implemented.

Putting It All Together

When you take it all into account, change is simple, in theory, but it isn’t easy to execute. It takes work in all four quadrants:

  1. Internal individual — mindset
  2. External individual — behavior
  3. Internal collective — culture/support system
  4. External collective — laws, rules, regulations, teams, systems, states

Some will require more work, some less, but you will need to create a change in all four of them.

But don’t let that discourage you because change is possible, and many people have done this. The best time to start changing was yesterday, but the second best time is today.

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Featured photo credit: Djim Loic via unsplash.com

Reference

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