Carpe Diem1147 words • 6 minute read
If one believes that every generation has its respective task, then my generation’s task is most probably to choose between the myriad of opportunities that never ceases to blindfold us in our lives. Looking forward, I learned to realize the importance of focusing on only a small subset of opportunities.
The more I live and think about it, the more I feel that our only true commodities in life are our time, energy, and health. We can choose what we exchange these for. The hardest thing to fathom is that with every second, we are continuously exchanging all of these for things we feel matter and bring us closer to the life we imagine for ourselves. There is no stop to this, no pause button. And most importantly: no undos.
There is a motivational saying that there are only two people you have to make proud: not your friends, not your boss, not your parents, and not your partner. There are only two people you can’t let down in life: your 8 and your 80-year-old self. It sounds cliché, but this thought resonated with me when I heard it. If you accomplish to do this, the rest should follow automatically.
Trying to make the right decisions in life, we often end up with purpose- and value-driven decisions, drawing on some fundamental, underlying set of values we build our lives upon – knowingly or even unknowingly. Laying down a foundation of principles and values through which you can comprehend the world around you, strips away many headaches and simplifies many seemingly difficult decisions. It becomes easy to reason about the choices we make, and why we are leading a good life. Unless of course, someone proves that our underlying values are bad or false. That is dangerous.
An abstract model strips away components of an incomprehensibly large system, arriving at a simpler one, where it’s easier to make decisions and arrive at solutions. The real purpose of an abstract system however is to still keep the ability to infer solutions and reason about the much bigger, hard-to-understand system.
It’s much easier to answer questions in this stripped-down, much more abstract world. Wherever and whoever you might be, concentrating on what matters, and hiding away what matters not is a kind of really nice superpower to have. Being a crew member on a ship at sea, an accountant in an office, a PhD student working on a submission to a big conference, or just someone trying to find their next job, it’s of utmost importance (and also difficulty) to have a framework through which to analyze options and respond to the world.
Hiding away unnecessary details is something we do all the time. It can benefit us a great deal, but at the same time, it can also handicap us and lead us astray.
Throughout history, humans at large kept (and still keep) developing these frameworks. Religion, politics (at least in its ideal form), thinking about your children, or just simply finding what brings you joy in its most bare form helps you create a framework for yourself. One could even say that our brain evolved to help us focus on what’s important, and strip away the rest.
I often struggled to decide which opportunities to pursue, and what to focus on amongst the seemingly unending wave of opportunities that present themselves every hour of every day. In a world of companies and (political) powers fighting for my attention with more and more sophisticated (and sometimes frightening) techniques, it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. The most important and successful companies on the planet at the moment are all about data, and information presented to (or sometimes rather forced onto) you.
One of the hardest things in life for me so far has been saying no to opportunities. It was especially not easy, as I didn’t know what I’d like to do with my life, and where I’d like to lead it. I had all these opportunities, accomplishing most of the things I set out to do so far. At the same time, the things I didn’t set out to do might have been some of the very things I should have been spending time on. I would have hated to let a door close on me, so I left as many paths available ahead as possible, analyzing the optimal way to navigate the sea of life. Still, one of the things I didn’t know how to accomplish is to lead a life that would make my 8 and 80-year-old selves both proud. What is the framework through which I can even comprehend reasoning about this? I know that my two-year-old self absolutely loved climbing trees, and I’m also pretty sure my eighty-year-old self would love to bring me to a nearby park full of beautiful, climbable trees. The old man would sit down on a bench reading a nice book he has putting off for some time, and glancing up, he would marvel at the carefree youngster roaming up and down with a smile on his face, happy to be exactly where he is. At least, that’s the way I imagine it.
One thing is for sure. I have only so many hours in only so many days on this Earth, about a quarter of which is already spent in my case. I can always get more money, but the one thing I can never get back are these past almost 23 years.
The best answer I was able to present myself with so far has been Carpe Diem – seize the day. Not to do something, because of a future I imagine for myself, or because of something that happened in the past – good or bad it may be. We have to live in the present, because there is no other place to live in.
Of course, one always walks a fine line between extremities with everything we do. Focusing only on the present has to be handled with care, because the overdose of it is hedonism. Still, it by no means necessitates being selfish or not caring about the future. Ideally, as in everything, the golden middle way should guide our steps forward in realizing the true value of Now.
It’s not without reason this became one of the most famous sayings and advice in the world. But as with many often-quoted concise sayings, it’s not easy to actually unravel the mysteries and what it is saying to us, personally. It’s great food for thought.
This is my current understanding of trying to live in the present. I wonder what I’ll think further down the line, and I’m also much interested in your feedback after reading this (or any other) blog post of mine. Please free to reach out to me with any thoughts you have.
Until later, wish you a great life!