The Lie Behind Carpe Diem


There was an absolutely brilliant post by Glennon Melton about how hard it is to “seize the day” in an appreciative manner when you have a thousand other things going on. In her case, those things comprised of the insanity that is: child rearing. Having reproduced or not, you should just take a minute and read it.

I’m looking at seizing the day from the angle of completing a goal or living life to the fullest.

The Pressures of Now

Time is running out! This day is an empty canvas waiting for your paint brush. It’s slab of marble primed for the first blow of the chisel. Live everyday like it was your last!

The problem with the dramatic understanding of the saying is that you can’t live every day like it was your last one. That’s just stupid. If everyone lived their life like it was their last day on earth, society wouldn’t work because everyone would be skydiving, traveling, having sex with a stranger, quitting his job, not paying bills, and probably breaking stuff in some manner or another.

In reality, seizing the day is much less majestic because tomorrow almost always inevitably comes (for the vast majority of us) and life goes on. So how should we understand the saying when it comes to goals and attacking life with a purpose?

Slow And Steady

Seizing the day is about the work put in, not the end result. It is less about massive spikes of short term zest, and more about sustained, long-term effort than people are willing to realize. John Lees wrote a great post about the realities behind chasing a dream job and the work it takes that speaks well to this point.

The seizing should an IV drip, not an open flood gate. Maybe the phrase should be called:

Seize at least one moment, daily.

I know. Horace is rolling over in his grave, and you might hate it too. We sometimes want to think that our life can change on the turn of a dime if we simply chose to seize the day this one time. Well, the day is wily, it’s unpredictable and before we know it, the next day is here and it needs to be seized all over again. Are you ready for it? Do you have the energy to attack it with the same fervor as you did the day before?

Be careful what you wish for and be careful of your own expectations, lest your mental muscles…seize. It’s a battle. The day will fight back. Your viking grip is not strong enough to defeat it in one day.

Small Wins

Don’t put so much intense pressure on yourself when it comes to grappling with the day. Indeed, seize at least a part of it everyday if you can, but it’s about baby steps; small, but consistent bites towards something you believe in. Those bites will add up to something in the end: progress. Progress in something you believe in is quite possibly the greatest satisfaction one can feel when it comes to having a goal or trying to live life to the fullest.

So be sure to spread the carpe out over many diems. You’ll feel better about it.

What moment are you/did you seize today?

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