This article originally appeared in the July/August, 2018 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.
The motto “carpe diem” (seize the day) was first uttered by the Roman poet Horace more than 2,000 years ago. The motto still resonates in popular culture today as evidenced by the band Metallica’s “Carpe Diem Baby,” movies such as Dead Poets Society… and actress Judi Dench having the motto tattooed on her wrist for her 81st birthday! In a nutshell, the phrase encourages making the most of today and attacking it with vigor and purpose.
Understanding and applying the concept of carpe diem can help us be more successful and benefit our teams as we model and pass on the importance to them both individually and collectively. Following are 10 ideas to help us better understand and benefit from embracing carpe diem.
1. Live with purpose and remember what’s important. What are the most important goals, priorities, and values in your life? Once we have defined these for ourselves, then we can live our lives accordingly. For example, one of my key purposes is to provide useful information to help people be even more successful in business and life. Based on that, I make it a priority to write, speak, and teach since these activities give me purpose.
Living with purpose and remembering what’s important applies to the teams we lead and influence, too. For example, recently a staff member had planned to do something that would have been easier for her — but would have been detrimental to customers. The supervisor had to remind her that we are here to serve our customers, not just serve ourselves.
2. Never stop dreaming — but live your dreams now. What dreams do you have? It is good for us to have dreams of future accomplishment, but we also need to take concrete actions now to make our dreams come true. As a long-time university instructor, I have been inspired by many students over the years who have not only dreamed about completing a degree, but have acted on it. For example, I had a student named Bob who had retired from his government job at age 62. Bob had always dreamed about earning an MBA and then becoming a consultant. So at age 62 Bob started his MBA and completed it at age 64! Inspiring … and shows it’s never too late to pursue our dreams!
3. Stop waiting. Start living. Braveheart said, “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” Why wait getting ready to live our best lives instead of living them now? Perhaps our biggest obstacle is procrastination. Procrastination is really the fear to start now, to start living. What have you been waiting for – getting a degree? Joining the board of your local PCC or MSMA chapter? Earning a professional certification? Writing a book? The time to start living is now.
4. Make the time. Charles Buxton observed, “You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it.” We all have the same 86,400 seconds every day. Truth is, we can make the time to do what is most important if we live intentionally by our purposes and priorities. I really appreciate and try to take to heart Stephen Covey’s four time quadrants. We need to maximize our time doing Quadrant Two activities (“not urgent, but important”) like learning, relationship building, physical, mental and spiritual exercise, and the like. To find the more time for Quadrant Two activities, we need to scale back on Quadrant Three (“urgent, not important”) and Quadrant Four (“not urgent, not important”) activities. Quadrant Three and Four activities include thing like watching TV, social media, some emails, online games, etc.
5. Just do it! Nike popularized the motto “Just do it!” and it’s one we can take to heart. There is a tendency many of us have to overthink things. Bruce Lee observed, “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” It is wise to do some due diligence before making important decisions, but there comes a point when we need to either move on or move forward.
6. Practice the “5 Second” rule. Popular motivational speaker and writer Mel Robbins promotes what she calls the “5 second rule.” She explains, “If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within five seconds or your brain will kill the idea.” Here is a simple example: I recently had a thought that I should send an appreciation email to a key staff member — like many, I often have these good intentions but don’t follow through. In this case, I got up and went to my computer and sent the email within seconds of having the thought.
7. Stop making excuses. It is human nature for us to make excuses why we can’t do something. Some of the most commonly heard ones are: I don’t have time. I can’t afford it. I’m not good enough. The list goes on and on. I suggest that instead of making excuses, we need to take responsibility and pursue what we know in our hearts would be good for us and those we are trying to serve and influence.
8. Be engaged — and do your best. Corenta Kent advised, “Life is a succession of moments. To live each one is to succeed.” Swami Sivananda adds, “Put your heart, mind, and soul into even the smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” Being engaged and doing our best at our current task is gratifying and rewarding to us; at the same time, other people will benefit from the fruit of our labors.
9. Develop and use your support team. No person is really successful on their own. Helen Keller was right when she said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Developing a personal support team is important for our long-term success. Who should be on our support team? Mentors, coaches, colleagues, teachers, and friends are all good candidates. I have benefited richly throughout my life from people who have supported and helped me achieve my goals, as I know you have too. I like the perspective shared by Billy Graham when he said, “God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with.”
10. Reward yourself. Sometimes we need incentives to help motivate us, and some of those incentives can be self-generated. Sometimes all we need are small incentives, such as enjoying a special food treat (I like dark chocolate!) after we complete the report or other task we need to do but don’t really feel like doing. For bigger goals, we may need bigger rewards. For example, I am now teaching the last class of a group of adult students about ready to graduate with their degrees. It’s exciting to hear of post-graduation rewards they are planning, such as special trips to fun places like Florida or Hawaii.
Now that you have a deeper understanding of carpe diem, what are you going to do about it? Is it time to start a degree program? Pursue a professional certification? Attend a conference like National Postal Forum or MAILCOM? Join your local PCC or MSMA chapter? Start volunteering at a local non-profit? Start a reading program? Lead your team to pursue a new initiative to better serve your customers or save money? Let me close with an inspiring quote from leadership expert John Addison. “Live every day like it’s your last. One of those days you’re going to be right!” Carpe Diem: Seize the Day!
Wes Friesen is a proven leader and developer of high performing teams. He is also an accomplished university instructor and speaker, and he is the President of Solomon Training and Development — which provides leadership, management, and team building training. His book, Your Team Can Soar! Powerful Lessons to Help You Lead and Develop High Performing Teams, has 42 valuable lessons that will inspire you, and give you practical pointers to help you — and your team — soar to new heights of performance. Your Team Can Soar! can be ordered from Xulonpress.com/bookstore or wesfriesen.com (under Book) or an online retailer like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Wes can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 971.806.0812.