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Last Updated on March 17, 2022

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!

What Does It Mean to Seize the Day?

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

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.

13 Ways to Seize the Moment

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.

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.

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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?

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.

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.

6. Say Yes and Say No

Both are equally important.

First, saying ”yes” more often can expose you to tremendous new experiences. You can think big – like finally taking that trip, or more local – like going to an improv show. Both are equally effective in transporting yourself to new states of mind.

The other side of the always saying ”yes” coin tells a different story. You know what I’m talking about. The one that Jim Carrey got himself into in the movie ”Yes Man”. While at first saying ”yes” transformed his life in this wonderful adventure, by the end of the film, he couldn’t take it anymore. It was too much.

This is when ”no” comes to stage. In order to be able to say ”yes” to the things you want, you must also be comfortable saying ”no” to anything and everything else. Here I include: that informal get together, that wedding, that deadline no one asked if you can make it, that shopping list and so on. You know better than I do what I am talking about and I bet you can already think of a few examples.

Need help in saying no? Leo Babauta has this advice: The Gentle Art of Saying No

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7. Take Care of Yourself

There is a reason why we are instructed to put our oxygen masks first in case of an emergency. If we don’t, we can’t function. If we’re not able to function, we cannot help others. During a normal week, helping others can translate to doing your job or going on with your day.

This tip goes even further. Think about it. When you take care of yourself, you feel good. You feel good about yourself and about the day ahead. You feel like you can take on any challenge that might come your way.

Try to look like you care about yourself.

The quote above is from a 90s TV show. Just start there. Clean yourself up, put fresh clothing on, comb your hair and that’s it. You are ready to face the world.

Do this every day and you’ll be ready for anything at anytime.

Try to recall a day when you didn’t shower, didn’t change clothes and your big plan was to stay in, watch TV and indulge in some junk food. The only problem was that you needed something from the store, so you left the house looking like a mess, secretly hoping you won’t bump into anyone you know. But you did.

What happened then? You tried to hide behind the shelves. When that failed, you felt uncomfortable even making eye contact and you tried to shorten the conversation as much as possible, so you could return back to the cave as fast as possible.

Now imagine the exact same interaction with you looking nice and smelling like someone who cares about themselves. Much better, right?

If you need more advice on how to take better care of yourself, here it is: 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit

8. Find a Form of Exercising That You Enjoy

One of the best ways to seize the moment and to enjoy your life more? Exercise!

Now, I’m sure you’ve already read this tip before, probably a gazillion times. But you have to know that it’s simply true. I’ve met so many people who have turned their life around by finding a form of exercising they enjoy. I’m a pretty good example myself as well!

Finding a form of exercising that I like (running) has transformed my life. It has helped me cope with stress, anxiety and boredom more often than I can remember. It is both an outlet and a source of fulfillment for me, and I can’t imagine my life without it.

And I’m not even that good of a runner! I’d call myself a passionate hobbyist. I don’t really care about racing and being the fastest, because I’m obviously not able to compete on that level. I mean, I have a friend who runs 15K in under an hour and I still find it hard to believe that such speeds are possible. I run purely because it allows me to do one of the following:

  • Feel good about myself
  • Challenge my body
  • Meditate
  • To blow off steam when stressed
  • To burn calories (I would probably be obese if I didn’t run, considering the amount of food I consume)

So whenever I have a busy day at work, I go for a run afterwards and feel great.

Feeling bored? I go for a run and feel energized again! Feeling energized and want to feel good about myself? I go for a run!

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Simply put, running always has a positive effect on my happiness. That’s why exercising is ALWAYS featured in guides on how to be happy![1]

Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

9. Go off Your Usual Path

There is nothing more simple than this.

Think about changing your route to work and back home from time to time. Think about trying that food on the menu you don’t even know what it is. Think about getting that new soda flavor. Think about listening to people you usually dodge.

Everyone has a story to tell and most have mind-blowing ones to share. You can learn something new from every person you meet and every single new experience you try. Be prepared that sometimes the lessons come in the form of a ”no-no” example.

10. Spend Time Outside

You heard this one before. I know.

But let’s try another exercise. Think about your life from the last months. I will share with you mine, so I won’t make any assumptions. I mostly work from home. Sometimes I have meetings with others, usually at their office. My parents live in an apartment, so are my friends. I shop at the mall, because I find everything I need in one place. During the summer, the days are so hot where I live that I can not stand the heat, so I avoid it. During the winter, the city is mostly grey than white, and unbelievably cold.

What do you think these items have in common? The fact that my normal days are spent mostly inside. Even if I go to the theatre or to concerts, most are organized under a roof.

All of us who live in the city are lacking sun exposure, some fresh air and the peace that comes with it. Just make sure your days include some down time in the sun.

If you say it can’t be done because of your busy schedule, try walking more from one building to the other. Or just going outside while taking those short breaks from work.

Little moments like these count and they add up in the long run. Don’t overlook them and don’t underestimate their power.

11. Ditch the Digital

Hear me out. I’m not saying to go completely off-grid. I do benefit from the advantages technology has to offer too. But I keep it under control.

The studies are clear on this. The World Happiness Report that comes out every year backs it up. People spend more time online than interacting in person with each other, which has unprecedented negative side effects on our happiness levels[2]

The logic is simple. If you want to keep your happiness level up or to give it a boost, all you have to do is go old-school. Pay someone a visit. Read a magazine. Instead of watching a movie at home, look for an art exhibition. Possibilities are endless once you focus on the little things.

Try these 5 Simple Ways to Unplug and Be More Mindful In Your Life.

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12. Learn Something New Continuously

Don’t get comfortable in your ways. ”You don’t know where the rabbit is jumping from” is a saying in my country, referring to the fact that we don’t know where or when the next opportunity will show itself.

If you always wanted to cook better, but don’t have the time, the energy, or the skill to organize yourself to do so, look for a cooking class. You don’t know where the rabbit is jumping from and maybe you’ll meet someone who will change your life.

Don’t wait for others to do things. I know we all wish to do things with our friends, but sometimes they don’t share the same interests. Don’t let that stop you. And remember, there’s no better time like the present, no perfect time in the future.

You’ll thank yourself and you’ll have some good stories to tell next time you chat with someone new in one of your adventures.

Some inspirations for you: How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart

13. Reward Yourself

This is for you and for you only.

Reward yourself for every little thing you do the way you want. You had a good work day when everything you planned was done? Buy yourself an ice cream.

Rewards have double powers. First, the more obvious one – you give yourself a moment, be it in the form of an ice cream, a new pair of shoes you had your eyes on, or movie tickets.

The second power of a reward is that it acts as a motivation.

Everything on this list is connected. You try something new, you meet someone new. You don’t wait, you make it happen. You challenge yourself, you reward yourself.

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!

Featured photo credit: Xavier Mouton Photographie via unsplash.com

Reference

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Kathryn Sandford

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

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