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One Day, or Day One: How to Embrace Carpe Diem



“The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.” ~Charles Du Bos

What do you want to become? What do you want to achieve? Whatever it is, it will require sacrifice. The first sacrifice is time. You will have to decide between two contrasting options: One day, or day one. Will today be “day one,” or will you put it off until “one day” in the future?

Settling on “one day” leaves your life up to others and to fate. Deciding on “day one” gives you a little leverage, a little say so in the process. With “one day,” the day seizes you, and you’re powerless and left at the mercy of circumstance. With “day one,” you seize the day, and you’re empowered to make the best of circumstance. As Epictetus said, “Circumstances don’t make the man; they only reveal him to himself.” Don’t settle for “one day.” Cultivate the mettle for “day one” instead.

Whatever it is: writing a novel, starting a band, traveling the world, getting a PhD. Make today “day one” of that process. There will be challenges. There will be setbacks. There will be obstacles that seem almost impossible to pass. Don’t wait until you’re “ready.” Because what if you’re never ready? Fear not. Embrace the fear and begin. Use fear as a diving board and dive into your passion.

If you worry too much about what could go wrong, you’ll slip back into a “one day” mentality. If you wait until you’re ready, “one day” will consume your life. And that’s no place to be when you’re on the path toward something great. Don’t make excuses. Excuses are just you getting in the way of what you want to achieve. Get out of your own way and seize the day.

Of course, “day one” is itself a series of moments. So, seizing the moment must come first. Carpe punctum (seize the moment) leads to carpe diem (seize the day) leads to carpe vita (seize the life). Let’s break it down.

Carpe punctum (seize the moment):

“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: Not going all the way, and not starting.” ~The Buddha

Here’s the thing: you have from this moment until the day you die (which could be tomorrow or eighty years from now) to live the life you want to live. But it all starts with this moment. Right now. What are you going to do? The same thing you’ve been doing, or will you try something new? Will you just keep pushing the broom of procrastination into the abyss of “one day” or will you seize the moment, toss the broom into the abyss, make today “day one” and get busy cultivating your passion?

Your goals, your dreams, your aspirations, they all begin right now. They may or may not come to fruition sometime in the future, but their seeds must be planted now. They may not grow the way you want them to grow, but you’ll never know if you don’t plant them now. They might mutate or grow awry or become a hybrid with a seed someone else planted, but you’ll never know if you don’t get busy planting.

Seizing the moment is all about embracing your inner gardener. Your seeds represent what you wish to become, or what you wish to achieve. The soil is fate, which you do not have control over. But that’s okay, because there are things that you do have control over. Like how much you water your seeds. But right now, even that is irrelevant.

Don’t worry about if the seed will take root or not. Don’t worry about if it may possibly get dug up by unforeseen circumstance. Don’t worry about if there will or will not be enough rain to help it grow. That’s neither here or nor there. Right now, it’s all about planting the seed. The action of planting the seed trumps what becomes of the seed.

Human flourishing, Eudaimonia, doesn’t just happen. It takes work. It takes perseverance. It takes blood, sweat, and tears. But it doesn’t have to be a daunting prospect. Just take small bites. Take it inch by inch. Or millimeter by millimeter, if need be. Either way it begins right now, in this moment. This is the first second, in a series of seconds, that has the potential to lead to your own human flourishing.

Carpe diem (seize the day):

“Seize the day, and put the least possible trust in tomorrow.” ~Horace

Life is a series of moments. So even when you’re seizing the day, you’re still seizing the moment. The only thing that changes is that you are collecting each moment into a series of moments that are all about the cultivation of your own personal flourishing.

Where seizing the moment was a declaration against time itself, seizing the day is a declaration against that which seeks to suck up your time. It can be as simple as taking a day off from work to cultivate your garden and water your seeds, or getting away from the things of man and seeking out meditation and solitude in Nature. Or it can be as extreme as giving your boss the finger and quitting your J.O.B. to become a starving artist, or selling all your worldly possessions and striking out on a life-changing trip around the world.

Whatever it is, it’s collecting all those moments in your day and then aiming them at a particular target. It’s harnessing their collective power and then focusing that power into a leap of courage. It’s using those precious moments to turn the sound down on your life so that you can finally hear the call to adventure. It’s channeling the power of those moments and focusing them on taking a strategic risk or crossing a dangerous threshold. It’s concentrating all the moments that comprise a day and fixing them on taking the next daring step, striving for the next rung on the precarious ladder toward Eudaimonia.

Seizing the day is the proactive task of watering the precious seeds of each fleeting moment. Because sometimes you cannot wait for the rain to come. Sometimes you’ve got to risk looking foolish in your Rain Dance. Indeed. Sometimes seizing the day is literally bringing water to the wasteland.

Carpe vita (seize the life):

“Life has to be given a meaning because of the obvious fact that it has no meaning.” ~Henry Miller

Seizing the life is embracing the journey. It’s allowing the journey to be the thing. There are still the precious fleeting moments to be mindful of, and there are still days in which you’ll have to collect those moments and transform them into courageous acts, but seizing the life is having a bird’s eye view of it all. It’s a big picture perspective that trumps the small picture perspective that trips so many people up.

Seizing the life is injecting meaning into your life. It’s collecting all the moments and all the days, and seeing them as an interconnected whole –the fractal construct of your life. It’s embracing your unique-as-your-own-fingerprint life task (or Immortality Project, as Ernest Becker calls it).

With a bird’s eye view and high humor in your heart, your big picture perspective oversees the tiny goings-on of the small mind and laughs at its need for attachment and inability to seize the moment. At this point, you’ve mastered the art of sacred humor. Your disposition is flexible yet robust. You’re able to forgive yourself, realizing, as Lily Tomlin did: “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”

Your third eye is a cosmic owl, the symbolic overseer of your human flourishing, perched upon the high limb of the universe, putting your entire life into perspective. You see how it’s all connected like a giant web (or Indra’s Net), stretched like gossamer across all the moments and all the days that you’ve seized. The “one day” of yesterday is dust in the wind, ashes leftover from the fire of having seized all the moments and all the days of your life and declaring to the gods, “Today is day one of the life I genuinely want to live.” As Voltaire profoundly stated, “God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.”

Image: everst/Shutterstock.

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