Carpe diem in your life

carpe diem in your life

At some point during secondary school, aged 12 or 13, I discovered the phrase carpe diem. There was something incredibly appealing about the idea of SEIZING THE DAY, doing what you want, not wasting time – and it was in Latin, giving the idea a certain gravitas! Somewhere along the way, though, carpe diem has become a cliché, an overused slogan that no longer makes you think about what it actual means.

This was the topic of the Sunday Sermon I went to at The School of Life last week. I’ve been following The School of Life for some time but it was the first event I went to: a talk by Roman Krznaric presenting the key ideas in his new book, Carpe Diem Regained: The Vanishing Art of Seizing the Day. I seized this opportunity, having read his book How to Find Fulfilling Work back in 2013 as I first started considering a career change.

Krznaric started by citing examples of carpe diem in modern culture: Judi Dench’s tattoo that she got on her wrist for her 81st birthday; the Metallica song Carpe Diem Baby; as well as the Nike slogan #justdoit and the more annoying YOLO (you only live once). Famously it’s also the rallying cry of Robin Williams and his classroom in Dead Poets Society, referring to the original source, Horace Odes 1.11, which ends:

Dum loquimur, fugerit invida aetas: carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.

‘Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in tomorrow.’

As I learned, carpe can also be translated into the less aggressive ‘harvest’, ‘enjoy’, ‘pluck’, suggesting a slightly different interpretation of the phrase, and in fact Krznaric proposes five different definitions. Here are the different ways in which we can carpe diem:

1. Opportunity

Probably most of us would think of this when we think of carpe diem, in the sense of jumping on an opportunity when it comes along, whatever your fears and the possible risks. Unfortunately, most of us are naturally risk averse, so we tend to focus more on everything that could go wrong than on all the things that could go right – thereby often missing out on something that could have been amazing.

2. Presence

The mindfulness movement would focus on this interpretation of being in the here and now, living in the present moment. However, Krznaric pointed to one of my long-time favourites, Viktor Frankl, and his book Man’s Search for Meaning in which he argues that it’s not enough to live for the moment but that you must live for the future, to strive for some greater meaning.

3. Spontaneity

This is a tricky one in a world in which we all suffer from busy syndrome, with packed schedules and inflexible deadlines. Krznaric pointed out, though, that this lack of spontaneity dates back as far as the Protestant Reformation – during which carnivals and summer fairs and public dancing were banned – as well as the Industrial Revolution, with its increasingly regimented life according to the factory clock. Funnily enough, Krznaric admitted that he has to plan spontaneity on Sunday afternoons – a contradiction in terms, perhaps, but also a smart way to leave some space for some spur-of-the-moment decisions and unexpected activities.

4. Hedonism

Carpe diem might also be said to support the case for indulgence, sensory pleasures, free love and gastronomic experiences. Here Krznaric referred to the puritanical streak that we see today in self-help books and a push for moderation and self-control, except perhaps in TV watching where we’re happy to binge watch Netflix with no holds barred.

5. Politics

Krznaric’s final interpretation of the phrase was in the realm of politics, where great change can be brought about not through institutional acts but via unpredictable and spontaneous action of the masses. As he said, this is the phrase in its plural form, carpamos diem (- I never studied Latin so I’m a touch fascinated and impressed by this kind of talk!).

Freedom – and death

Krznaric sees this desire to carpe diem as coming from the two existential drives of freedom and death – and this is consistent as much with my own thinking now about life and meaning that has emerged from my coaching work as with my scribbles on my notebook back at secondary school. There’s a strong human desire for freedom and the understanding that we are in control of our actions, our own destiny; but it’s the knowledge that we are going to die at some point that gives us a framework for that freedom, a sense of urgency and motivation.

In this context, Krznaric referred to the famous speech by Steve Jobs at Stanford back in 2005. If you haven’t seen it, and even if you have, I’d encourage you to watch the whole thing; the piece on death starts at 09:04.

Now, it’s not about living as if today would be your last – if you did that, you’d never work hard at anything, you’d never achieve any big and meaningful goals in your life. But remembering that life is fleeting, that, as Robin Williams’ English teacher in Dead Poets society would have it, “We are food for worms, lads,” is what helps you to focus your time and energy on what really matters.

So I leave you with the questions that Krznaric asked us:

  • When was the last time you truly seized (or plucked, or harvested) the day?
  • In which of the five areas above do you feel you might have a deficit?
  • And what actions could you take – today, tomorrow, next week – to do more seizing?

In my case, I’m more than happy to embrace my hedonistic side! And I’m already working on being more spontaneous and intuitive (yes, these things do tend to require a bit of practice and effort sometimes!).

There’s no better time to seize the day than now! Especially here in the northern hemisphere as the sun is coming out and we have an opportunity to go outdoors and see, feel and experience the gorgeous world out there.

So go forth and carpe that diem! Who knows what it will bring…

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin!”

– Mother Theresa


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You might also be interested in these articles

“Everything you’ve ever
wanted is one step outside
your comfort zone.”

Book a free consultation

Get on the phone with Anna to discuss your unique goals and situation to determine the best programme for you, so you can start taking action towards creating the business and lifestyle you desire.

Explore a broader definition of success

Download this free assessment to consider what ‘success’ means to you across different areas of your life, evaluate where you are today, and prioritise the right goals to get you to where you want to be.

We will use and protect your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Explore a broader definition of success

Download this free assessment to consider what ‘success’ means to you across different areas of your life, evaluate where you are today, and prioritise the right goals to get you to where you want to be.

We will use and protect your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Download the brochure

Find out more about our flagship mentoring programme for experienced professionals who want to translate their skills and experience into a profitable business that brings them more freedom, flexibility, and fulfilment.

We will use and protect your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

Privacy Policy

This privacy policy sets out how One Step Outside uses and protects any information that you give One Step Outside when you use this website (

One Step Outside is committed to ensuring that your privacy is protected. Should we ask you to provide certain information by which you can be identified when using this website, then you can be assured that it will only be used in accordance with this privacy statement.

One Step Outside may change this policy from time to time by updating this page. You should check this page from time to time to ensure that you are happy with any changes.

What information we collect and why

We only ever collect the information that we need in order to serve you.

Generally, this just means collecting your first name and email address that you enter, for example, when you request a resource, register for a webinar, or submit a message via a contact form.

If you are a paying customer, we also collect your billing information including your last name and your postal address.


When visitors leave comments on the site we collect the data shown in the comments form, and also the visitor’s IP address and browser user agent string to help spam detection.

An anonymised string created from your email address (also called a hash) may be provided to the Gravatar service to see if you are using it. The Gravatar service privacy policy is available here: After approval of your comment, your profile picture is visible to the public in the context of your comment.

Contact forms

We use Gravity Forms to allow you to contact us via the website. We will use the information you submit for the sole purpose of that specific form and will explicitly ask you to provide your consent to allow us to do so.

Embedded content from other websites

Articles on this site may include embedded content (e.g. videos, images, articles, etc.). Embedded content from other websites behaves in the exact same way as if the visitor has visited the other website.

These websites may collect data about you, use cookies, embed additional third-party tracking, and monitor your interaction with that embedded content, including tracking your interaction with the embedded content if you have an account and are logged in to that website.

Advertising and Analytics


We use Google Analytics to track and optimise performance on this site as well as embedding video content from YouTube, and this means that your web browser automatically sends certain information to Google. This includes the URL of the page that you’re visiting and your IP address. Google may also set cookies on your browser or read cookies that are already there. Apps that use Google advertising services also share information with Google, such as the name of the app and a unique identifier for advertising.

Google uses the information shared by sites and apps to deliver our services, maintain and improve them, develop new services, measure the effectiveness of advertising, protect against fraud and abuse and personalise content and ads that you see on Google and on our partners’ sites and apps. See their Privacy Policy to learn more about how they process data for each of these purposes, and their Advertising page for more about Google ads, how your information is used in the context of advertising and how long Google stores this information.


We use the conversion tracking and custom audiences via the Facebook pixel on our website. This allows user behaviour to be tracked after they have been redirected to our website by clicking on a Facebook ad and enables us to measure the effectiveness of our Facebook ads. The data collected in this way is anonymous to us, i.e. we do not see the personal data of individual users. However, this data is stored and processed by Facebook, who may link this information to your Facebook account and also use it for its own promotional purposes, in accordance with Facebook’s Data Usage Policy

You can allow Facebook and its partners to place ads on and off Facebook. A cookie may also be stored on your computer for these purposes. You can revoke your permission directly on Facebook here: For more guidance on opting out you can also consult

Who we share your data with

We use a number of third parties to provide us with services which are necessary to run our business or to assist us with running our business and who process your information for us on our behalf. These include a hosting and email provider (Siteground), mailing list provider (GetResponse), and a payment provider (Stripe).

Your information will be shared with these service providers only where necessary to enable us to run our business.

How long we maintain your data

If you leave a comment, the comment and its metadata are retained indefinitely. This is so we can recognise and approve any follow-up comments automatically instead of holding them in a moderation queue.

For users that register on our website, we also store the personal information they provide in their user profile. All users can see, edit, or delete their personal information at any time (except they cannot change their username). Website administrators can also see and edit that information.

The main reason for collecting this information is to be able to send you resources, updates and, sometimes, information and products and services, as well as for internal record keeping.

The rights you have over your data

If you have an account on this site, or have left comments, you can request to receive an exported file of the personal data we hold about you, including any data you have provided to us. You can also request that we erase any personal data we hold about you. This does not include any data we are obliged to keep for administrative, legal, or security purposes.

How we protect your data

We are committed to ensuring that your information is secure.

Where we have given you (or where you have chosen) a password that lets you access certain parts of our site, you are responsible for keeping this password confidential and we ask you not to share a password with anyone.

Unfortunately, the transmission of information via the internet is not completely secure. Although we will do our best to protect your personal data, we cannot guarantee the security of your data transmitted to our site; any transmission is at your own risk. Once we have received your information, we will use strict procedures and security features to try to prevent unauthorised access.

Links to other websites

Our website contains links to other websites. This privacy policy only applies to this website so once you have used these links to leave our site, you should note that we do not have any control over that other website. You should exercise caution and look at the privacy statement applicable to the website in question.

Changes to our privacy policy

We keep our privacy policy under regular review. Initially created on 18th November 2016, it was last updated on 23rd May 2018 to be compliant with GDPR.

Contact information

If you have any questions or concerns related to your privacy, you can get in touch here >>