Life gives us many challenges. I'm sure there is a meaning to everything that happens, even if it feels hard, unfair, mean, and occurs for no apparent reason. My life has not always been easy, but still, I don't want anything left undone. What has happened in my life has probably made me a more humble, calmer, and more content man than I would have been otherwise.
"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 that 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 do it. Guess where Nike got their slogan from?
People are encouraged today to take charge and pursue their happiness right now, which results in consuming 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 for happiness if we don't grab it now. What an exhausting way to live life!
The good news is that the motto Carpe Diem is still great advice 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 at 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 activities and thoughts define what it means for you.
For me, the original definition of Carpe Diem comes from the poet Horaces, "Seize the day, trusting little in the future," these current times resonate with me. When I think about a friend I haven't spoken to in a while, I immediately call them because I know that if I don't, I will forget. I now focus on NOT putting tasks or activities on hold until tomorrow.
My future right now, like many of you, feel very uncertain. There is a lot of the unknown; to navigate 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 meant to me in 2020.
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 taking one step at a time will create and sustain transformational change in your life.
An ancient Chinese proverb says, "the journey of a thousand steps begins with a single one." Follow this advice because it is key to embracing Carpe Diem.
Clarity gives you peace of mind. You have direction, know what you want, and have a sense of purpose. Knowing what is essential in your life makes you less likely to be distracted or procrastinate.
You are more likely to take action to attain those aspects of life that are important to you rather than ignore them or put them aside for another day. Clarity gives you the desire and the will to take action, which aligns with Carpe Diem's philosophy.
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!
Decide what activities or actions in your life are essential to you. What are the activities that bring you joy and energize you? Create a space for you to spend the time to figure out what is important to you.
Here are three simple steps to sort out your 4 top priorities:
Divide an A4 piece of paper into four quarters and write down four things in your life that are most important to you. Once you have done this, look at the paper and throw it away.
This exercise is about you finding out 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.
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.
Once you have finished writing down four activities, reflect on how you spend time with each of these four activities.
Are you doing things that bring you joy and are important to you? If the answer is no, then seize the day! Start taking action.
When you have no direction, it is hard to focus on what is important to you or what path you want to take. As a result, you are more likely to procrastinate, be easily distracted, and have no personal boundaries to help you regulate your emotional and physical well-being.
Having healthy boundaries is also an excellent way to protect your emotional space. Your edges give you physical and dynamic control of your life. With borders, 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 seize the day.
Spend time creating the space for you to reflect, reboot, and re-energize. It doesn't have to be complicated. It would be best if you committed to investing in yourself.
Simple things like turning off the television and your phone give you 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.
Don't let the world pass you by because you are too busy working or focusing on tasks and activities that distract you from your growth and well-being.
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 beautiful adventure, he couldn't take it anymore by the film's end. It was too much.
This is when" no" comes to the stage. To say" yes" to the things you want, you must also be comfortable saying" no" to anything and everything else. You know better than I do what I am talking about, and I bet you can already think of a few examples. Here I include: that informal get-together, that wedding, that deadline no one asked if you could make it, that shopping list, and so on.
Need help in saying no? Leo Babauta has this advice: The Gentle Art of Saying No.
There is a reason why we are instructed to put our oxygen masks first in an emergency. If we don't, we can't function. If we're not able to perform, we cannot help others. During a typical 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 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 any time.
Try to recall a day when you didn't shower or change clothes, and your big plan was to stay in, watch TV, and indulge in 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 knew. But you did.
What happened then? You tried to hide behind the shelves. When that failed, you felt uncomfortable making eye contact and tried to shorten the conversation as much as possible so that you could return to the cave as fast as possible.
Now imagine the same interaction with you looking nice and smelling like someone who cares about themselves. Much better, right?
One of the best ways to seize the moment and enjoy your life more? Exercise!
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 many people who have turned their life around by finding a form of exercise they enjoy. I'm a pretty good example myself as well!
Finding a form of exercise I like (walking) has transformed my life. It has helped me cope with stress, anxiety, and boredom more often than I remember. It is both an outlet and a source of fulfillment for me, and I can't imagine my life without it.
I'd call myself a passionate hobbyist. I don't care about racing and competing on that level. I walk purely because it allows me to do one of the following:
So whenever I have a busy day at work, I walk and feel great.
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 unique experience you try. Be prepared that sometimes the lessons come from a" no-no" example.
You heard this one before. I know.
But let's try another exercise. Think about your life from the last months. I will share mine with you so I won't make any assumptions. I primarily work from home. My parents live in an apartment, and so are my friends. Sometimes I have meetings with others, usually at their office. 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 wouldn't say I like the heat, so I avoid it. During the winter, the city is primarily grey than white and unbelievably cold.
What do you think these items have in common? The fact that my average days are spent mostly inside. Even if I go to the theatre or concerts, most are organized under a roof.
All of us who live in the city lack sun exposure, some fresh air, and the peace that comes with it. Just make sure your days include some downtime 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 add up in the long run. Don't overlook them, and don't underestimate their power.
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. People spend more time online than interacting in person with each other, which has unprecedented adverse side effects on our happiness levels. The World Happiness Report that comes out every year backs it up.
The logic is simple. If you want to keep your happiness level up or boost it, you must go old school. Visit someone. 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.
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 have always wanted to cook better but don't have the time, energy, or skill to organize yourself, 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. We all wish to do something 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 than the present, no perfect time in the future.
You'll thank yourself and have some good stories to tell next time you chat with someone new in one of your adventures.
This is for you and 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 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, and you meet someone new. You don't wait, and you make it happen. You challenge yourself; you reward yourself.
In the movie, Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams said to his students:
"Carpe Diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary".
I believe this definition of Carpe Diem will inspire you to live your life to the fullest! Life is too short to ignore the opportunity to seize the day!
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