The Real Meaning of ‘Seize The Day’

“You seize the day when you can plan for how you are going to seize not just today but tomorrow as well.”

Seizing the day or ‘Carpe diem’ is an oft-quoted Latin phrase that has become as popular as often as it has been misunderstood. Seizing the day is definitely a principle that I stand by for a couple of reasons, but I don’t agree with people who say that seizing the day means to ignore the future or not to think past today’s goals or tasks. You seize the day when you can plan for how you are going to seize not just today but tomorrow as well.

Some people choose only to live in the present moment, and I think that is a fundamental misreading of what it means to really ‘seize the day’. You really have a bigger advantage when you plan ahead of time for what you should accomplish not just on the same day but in the weeks or months ahead. You won’t be able to make the most of each day if you do not know ahead of time what you need to get done or what is most important in your life to complete.

Living only for the day will keep you in a constant state of searching and jumping from activity to activity without planning how long you plan to study, work, explore, travel, or focus on. That is to say that life is nothing without a little spontaneity and that when a good opportunity or event pops up out of nowhere and this will be your only chance to experience it, then it would definitely be acceptable to ‘carpe diem.’ If it is truly a once-in-a-lifetime chance or a very rare opportunity that you would live to regret or would change your life, that is an opportune time to seize the day and chart a new course for yourself.

When you don’t plan for your day ahead, you will not be able to seize it as easily. You do not want to spend your days drifting about from idea to idea, opportunity to opportunity, place to place. Life inherently is not all about spontaneity and being in the moment at all times. You should try to plan ahead to some degree but also be open to changing your life course is a good enough lasting opportunity or change of plan comes around that would definitely benefit you in the long run.

Short-term pleasures, wins, and successes can be quite enjoyable especially when you seize them when they come but it’s the little victories over time that build up and lead you to a successful relationship, business, or career will pay off a lot more. You truly do seize the day when you are planning and doing something each day to push those long-term goals forward in some capacity. When you work towards your goals consistently each day and putting in the work each day, you’ll start to see your hard work come to fruition. That is what will truly go along with the phrase ‘seize the day’ when you make the most of each day to give yourself the highest life satisfaction.

Frittering your days away impulsively going from party to party, country to country, or job to job without a long-term plan can be ruinous to somebody. Seizing opportunities that come your way should be encouraged but not at the expense of having some long-term goal or dream in mind that would truly change your life for the better. Making the most of each day to reach your life goals or to do something meaningful whatever that may be should definitely be part of that famous saying of ‘carpe diem.’

‘Seizing the day’ is not just about working consistently to achieve goals and dreams but it’s also about taking care of both your mental and physical health and to take the necessary time out of a busy day to see a friend or a family member, to go on a bike ride, or to do another hobby like photography or hiking, which will make you feel more well-rounded and relaxed. Human being are not machines that can be constantly on the go and we need that time to reflect alone or socialize with others to improve our relationships as much as possible.

Another key thing to know about ‘seize the day’ is just showing up every day and doing your best. You may not get every opportunity that presents itself, you may not hit your goals each day, or you may not prioritize your relationships or hobbies as much as you want but the main thing is to just show up each and every day to work hard at what you have going on not just immediately but into the future.

As another popular saying goes, “showing up is just half the battle.” Putting yourself out there takes courage and grit, and some people today can’t even do that. Seizing the day is about putting yourself out there enough so you can attract those chances and opportunities that you wouldn’t have gotten ahold of had you not even made yourself available. When you stay at home, isolate yourself, and don’t try at all, you won’t get anywhere in one day or even in one year. If you don’t put in the effort each day, you won’t be able to seize anything of importance or value to make yourself that much more meaningful.

If you are reading this article, I hope you rethink the meaning of ‘carpe diem’ or ‘seize the day.’ It’s much more than just living in the moment and pursuing instant gratification in whatever form that may be. It’s about putting in the effort each day, consistently, in pursuit of a long-term opportunity or goal that isn’t handed to you automatically and which will often take more than one day to succeed at. Whether it’s competing for a championship, building a business, or planning out one-year of travel around the world, you seize the day by working towards these visions each and every day by putting yourself in front of those opportunities and doing your best to succeed at them with hard work, grit, and a little bit of luck too.

The Passage of Time

One of the consistencies of life that never changes is how much time there is in a day. You have 24 hours in a day to do everything that you need to do. You can also keep in mind the fact that there are seven days in a week, 52 weeks in a year. Any human being on the planet doesn’t know how much time they will be given because none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. You may be thinking that you’ll live to be 100 years old and get to accomplish everything you set out to do but life tends to get in the way of our preconceived plans.

All you really have when it comes to time is the here and now of living in the present. While it’s the law of science that we have 24 hours in a day here on planet Earth, as humans we’re really down to 16 hours a day or even less if you’re a deep sleeper. Then, you have to take into account that time you’ll need to put away for eating, drinking, commuting and working to make money, which are more necessities of life than things that we enjoy doing every day.

Based on how finite time really is in our lives, it becomes more impactful the older you get. A common theme that you hear from people especially in the 30’s and beyond is how fast time seems to fly by. I’m starting to think about that more and more as I head into my later 20’s about how the days, weeks, months and years are starting to go by quicker than I would like. It could be argued that after you enter your 20’s or after you leave college, time starts to pick up and you become more sensitive to its quickening pace. When I was in childhood, time felt like a limitless ocean and that my life would last forever. However, when you become a fully- grown adult, you realize just how naïve that childhood belief is. It also plays into the fact that we have much less responsibilities when we’re younger and have a lot more time to play, learn, and socially develop ourselves.

With adulthood, your conception of time does a complete 180 as you now have a lot of responsibilities based around earning a living, taking care of yourself, and maintaining your personal interests. You have much less time for play and a lot more time devoted to work. Because of the limited amount of time that we have in a day, you start to think more about what you should spend on it. Everybody is going to have different priorities with their time but the older you get, the more you realize that you want to spend it well because time is precious and fleeting.

A direct consequence of time passing is that you start to value certain things more and other things less. You have to be able to choose about who is worth your time and who is not worth your time. That’s a harsh truth but you cannot make time for everyone so you have to figure out who you are compatible with or what kind of activity or vocation is worth your effort. For example, I used to love playing video games when I was younger but as I got older, I realized there were other activities and hobbies that I was more interested in and would be worth more of my time. That’s why I’m writing this article for my audience instead of playing Grand Theft Auto V all night long (even though that’s a great game). Similar to one’s interests and hobbies, the way you use your time in your life is inevitably going to change.

Prioritizing who or what matters to you is a crucial part of being an adult and is also necessary for good time management. You may not see your parents as often as when you were a child so you’ll make the trip to visit them every Thanksgiving and/or Christmas even though you hate dealing with airport security and bad traffic. That’s why you’ll plan activities with friends a few weeks in advance because you don’t see them as often as you’d like because you’ve been busy working on a new business idea.

Because our time becomes more limited as we get older, you have to plan in advance and think deeply about what is worth your time. While time is limited, it’s always a good idea to try new things and be consistent about it. If you’re going to the gym in your spare time, make it a habit and even go a couple of times a week. When you’re not working, do those things that make you happy or that challenge you in some way. Spend time with those people who matter to you most and who treat you well.

You don’t have to plan your time down to the minute and it’s good to be spontaneous every now and then such as taking an impromptu vacation. However, you don’t want to spend time doing things you dislike or pass the time with people who you don’t like. In order to live a happier and healthier life, you’ll need to cut out the bad and keep the good. Doing work that is meaningful, enjoying activities with good friends, learning new things are all productive ways to spend your time. Also, you should try your best to balance your life out so that work isn’t taking up too much of your time where you don’t have enough time to pursue other interests.

Whatever you decide to do with your time, remember that it does not discriminate among people. It’s the same for everybody in the world. From when you wake up to when you go to sleep, that time is yours and yours alone. You alone have to make the choice of what to do with the time that is given to you. While there are obligations and commitments that we all have to fulfill, you have the power to use your time as you see fit.

You can’t get the time back so use it to the fullest and remember that it’s finite. While you shouldn’t overwhelm yourself with too many things taking up your time, remember that you shouldn’t put off possible interests, hobbies, or opportunities forever. You don’t want to wake up one day and realize you wasted too much time and didn’t get to do all of the things you wanted to do. Time is fleeting and you never know when it’s going to run out. As the Roman poet Horace once wrote in the year 23 BC, “Carpe diem”, which translates in English to mean “Seize the day.” I couldn’t agree more.

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