Seize the Day   Leave a comment

Inspired by a quote from a movie released during my early adulthood, Dead Poets’ Society, I have long loved the simple phrase “carpe’ diem”. In the movie it is quoted by John Keating as played by Robin Williams:

“…Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

The quote is actually taken from a poem written by the Roman Poet, Horace, between 23-13 BC.  The full quotation in the original Latin is “Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.” The best translation that I have found is “Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future”.

I was recently doing an activity in my Road to Recovery class, and the question was asked, “If you had a slogan for your life, what would it be?”

 My answer was easy for me, as it is the statement that I have as a part of my signature on my work e-mail account:

Carpe’ Diem

Remember Yesterday, Hope for Tomorrow

LIVE Today!

 So, why am I making such a big deal out of this little phrase that was not even written in English and is over 2000 years old? Because I believe this simple quote has some very valuable inspiration for us as we proceed along this journey. To start, lets look again at Harace’s original quote,

 “Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future.”

 One definition that I read actually translated Carpe’ as “to pick, pluck, pluck off, cull, crop, gather.”  What I envision is a farmer harvesting the bounty of his labors.

 We must take time to savor, and enjoy the goodness in our lives. Borrowing another well known quote, “Stop and smell the roses.” For some of us this may not be an easy thing to do.  We find ourselves with very little positive to enjoy. In that case, you may have to look a little deeper or wider, but no matter what our current circumstances, there is something positive in our lives, even if is as simple as taking another breath, having clothes on our back or being loved.

For others we have a lot of positives in our lives, but we are SO busy going here, doing that….

There is neither time nor energy to slow down and enjoy or savor even our own successes. Often time, we are over obligated simply because we are trying to take care of everyone else and “keep them happy”. The only way that we feel fulfilled and valuable is in our ability to keep everyone else happy thus, very often ignoring our own needs. We have to learn to say that magically, yet difficult word, “NO”. Many of us treat the word “no” like it is a four-letter word, and will not use it even to our own demise. It is a necessity that we re-evaluate our obligations and priorities and do some proverbial house cleaning, making hard choices and decreasing the number of activities and obligations that we have on our plate.

 The most widely accepted and used translation for carpe’ is “seize”, and connotes a more military or aggressive action.


  1. To take hold of suddenly or forcibly; grasp: to seize a weapon.
  2. To grasp mentally; understand clearly and completely: to seize an idea.
  3. To take possession of by force or at will: to seize enemy ships.
  4. To take possession or control of as if by suddenly laying hold: Panic seized the crowd.

Thus, another way of looking at this simple word and apply it to our lives and recovery is this:

I make a choice by an act of my will that I am going to forcibly take control of my life, my recovery and my destiny.

I take responsibility for my feelings, thoughts, choices, and behaviors. Yes, I may have a mental illness or struggle with an addiction, but they are simple a part of who I am, they do not and will not control the direction of my life.

 I had a college professor once that provided this analogy. Imagine that your life is a book, and everything that has or will happen to you is written in that book. Many of us allow other people, our “issues”, our addiction / mental illness, situations to be the author of our destinies.  Or on the other hand, we can take the pen in our own hand, become the author of our own stories and destiny by choosing to be responsible and be proactive in the direction of our lives rather than being at the mercy of ebbs of our circumstances and the flow of others opinions.

 That brings me to my next thought regarding this quote, specifically the final phrase:

“quam minimum credula postero” or  “trusting as little as possible in the future”.

 Too many people, whether they are in recovery or not, spend useless energy and time “Worrying” about tomorrow and obsessing in their minds over all of the “What ifs”.

 Luke 12:25-26 (NIV): Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

 I agree with the words of Jesus, worrying and stressing over things to come can not add to our life or provide any other benefit to our lives. I would actually contend that it has the potential to do exactly the opposite.  It does this both in the here and now, because every minute that I spend in worry is a minute that I have given away and it can not use to enjoy and savor the goodness of that moment. On the other hand, it will steal time from the end of our lives as well. Due to the physiological effects of chronic stress on our bodies it can actually steal away time from the end of our lives as the result of developed related medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, etc.  Please do not misunderstand me; I am NOT saying that we should live life up to the fullest with no concern for the future. I believe we must prepare and plan and establish goals that we are striving towards. However, we can not be so focused on worrying about what could happen between now and then we loose focus and are unable to do what is necessary today to insure that we are in a position to accomplish that goal that we have set for ourselves.

Tomorrow will have its trials and its victories, but I can assure that I am prepared for them if I will simply focus on today’s issues and face them head on as they come. Though this is the most difficult part of “seizing” each day, it is likely the most important.  If I deny a given problem or run from it, I am setting myself of for more pain and suffering in the future when it comes back around again, and it will! So, if there is an issue, a conflict, a problem that has been troubling you, DEAL WITH IT! Here again seize control of your life and do not allow this troubling issue to continue to steal your fruit.

In closing I again say to you, “Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero.”  Stop, enjoy, savor, and harvest the goodness that TODAY has to offer, taking responsibility and control of your life, your recovery and your destiny with hope and a plan for the future, but not allowing yourself to worry about what tomorrow holds. 

TODAY is your day to LIVE and take control of where you are going rather than simply following where the road takes you! 



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