I am alive and awake right now and there are just a handful of hours before this day is through. This leaves me with two options to spend the rest of it: I can sit here and worry about all the things that may or may not happen, or I can go on ahead and ‘seize the day’ —here and now.
The right choice is obvious, but I find myself doing less of it lately.
The famous Latin phrase Carpe Diem, or “seize the day,” is from a poem written in 23 B.C. While I should take comfort in the fact that humanity has been struggling to follow this simple command since the beginning of time – there’s no doubt the ancients have been belligerent to strategize ways to overcome common lethargy much like I am today.
These are not magical solutions, but I hope they help. This is more of a reminder for myself than anything else.
Now seize the day can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people – but it is not to be confused with the millennial slang; ‘YOLO’ – which has more of an ‘anything goes’ mentality to it. Carpe Diem to me simply means living purposefully and resourcefully, so at the end of the day I feel fulfilled for having done something useful (although most days that may just be limited to me)
Get out of bed
A few years ago, when I was leading the marketing team at a tech start-up in Malaysia, we held a ‘wake-up call’ campaign during the holy month of Ramadan to help our customers rise before the break of dawn. There, one of the wake-up messages said, ‘If you want to make sure your dreams come true, the first thing you need to do is get out of bed’.
Dante had a similar line: “Beneath the blanket is no way to fame.”
It’s just so lovely to know that the great ancient poet was also reproaching himself for wanting to stay in bed —just like the rest of us. But we all know we can’t seize the day lying down. We have to get up. And, ideally, we have to get up early.
Getting up early gives you a win before you actually have to do anything. It also allows you to start working before the distractions of the day begins, which is what I have been struggling to do lately. But if you do find yourself out and about early enough in the day, you can count the rest of the day as a bonus.
Wherever you are – be there 100%
There is procrastination—the habit of putting things off till a mysterious later date—that plague the best of us. I mean the habit of telling myself, “Oh, I’m definitely going to do it tomorrow.” After which I kick back in the name of efficiency and tell myself I’ll do it later. The funny thing is I never say ‘I am never going to do it’ but instead just put it off till tomorrow (or till god knows when) and reassure myself that I might even be better prepared then. But I realised that pushing things off just increases my chances of not doing it at all.
You can’t predict later, so the present moment is your best opportunity to answer those emails, read that book, get in that workout. Don’t push it away.
Put my phone away
Lately, I find myself being careless with the one thing I can’t ever get back: time.
Back in 2016, I had written this line: ‘Life is long, so long as you know how to live it’. But today I find myself wasting a lot of it and am ashamed to admit that I spend, on average, about 2 hours per day on my phone – staring into an abyss of distraction.
So instead of spending endless hours staring at my phone, I started reaching out for a book or a journal or even a loved one. This habit hasn’t completely cemented yet, but imagine all the wonderful things we could all be doing if we spent less of it being distracted.
Don’t try to be perfect
I am a hypocrite when it comes to this – more often than not I find myself stuck because I hold myself to impossible standards. But as my dear Apa would always say, ‘keep moving forward’! So if you find obstructions on your path, dance around it or if you made a bad decision, acknowledge it and move on. The point is to keep moving, to start making progress.
Reminder to self: Don’t expect or demand flawless work from yourself — just demand work, period.
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live” – Albus Dumbledore (i.e. my dream dinner guest)
Whenever I tell people what I do, they always respond with something like. ‘I’ve always wanted to do something like that’ or mention that it’s their dream to start a business or be the master of their own schedule. To which I always tell them I did not win a special license to do what I do. No one gave me permission. I just did it.
If you want to have a different life, if you want to realize your dreams, you’re going to have to take action and accept change. If you want to travel, buy a ticket. If you want to own your own business, you have to quit your job. Not in the future. Not when someone takes care of all the details. Now.
Simplify your TO-DO list
We all find ourselves leaving something or the other hanging or half done. And the reason for this is we take on impossible tasks. But if you start living each day as a complete life – you start to make sure you only take on what you can do, and also prioritise your work.
The rule is to keep your to-do list short. I include only things I am likely to do, and I derive great satisfaction from tearing up a completed list at the end of the day. It also helps me manage my bigger endeavours. An enormous project can a lot more manageable when it is broken down into a series of smaller ones.
Demand the best of myself
‘How you do anything is how you do everything’
I love this quote because it dispenses with the lie that some tasks we set ourselves up for don’t matter, or that certain things are beneath us. If we have accepted to do something, it is important. And if we’re going to do it, we should do it right. The person who says, “I don’t care about this job,” is just making up an excuse for something he/she is not cut out to do.
The better approach is to be present and do your best at everything. If you’re not going to try hard right now, at this very moment, then what are you saving yourself for?
You can’t seize the day if you are scared all the time. You can’t get the most out of life if you are afraid of taking risks. All the good things you want in life — or today — are outside our comfort zone
Think about death
I read recently that the average Bhutanese spends about 5-6 times a day thinking about his own death. While I am definitely on the less morbid side of this spectrum, being aware of one’s existence matters because it gives us a deadline. Once the sand goes through the hourglass, we can’t put it back. Death gives our time on this planet meaning and urgency.
Thinking about life this way inspires me. It challenges me to be better and not to take tomorrow for granted, because it isn’t a given. It reminds me to put away my devices. It reminds me to take the task in front of me seriously, and to take on only those tasks which are important to me. It reminds me to demand the best of and for myself.
Because if not now, then when? If not you, then who?
OK, now time to get back to work!
(Picutre stolen from canva)