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Shoulda, woulda, coulda

                                                     "Carpe Diem"- Horace, 68 BC

According to a 2009 report by the Social Issues Research Centre in Oxford, England, Horace actually said, "pluck the day, putting as little trust in tomorrow as possible!" The translation that has stuck over all these years is "seize the day."
    Seizing the day and avoiding regret are intimately related. At some point we have all wanted to seize the day and we have all experienced regret, either for an act we have done or one we haven't. Gilovich and Medvec (1995) report we are more likely to regret not seizing the moment—not taking action—versus regretting something that we did. While we may regret actions in the immediate aftermath, in the long run it is our inaction (what we didn't do) that we will likely live to regret.
    The phrase Carpe Diem comes to mind when we realize that there is no time like the present to take action. This simple advice came to my mind recently when, during a 10 day vacation, one friend died, another had urgent surgery to remove a tumor, and I learned a third has something going wrong in his kidney that has all his Doctors baffled. On top of that, me—Mr. I-don't-go-to-the-Doctor—was given unambiguous instructions by my daughter-in-law, a radiation therapist who works in a cancer clinic, to get the annoying little sore on the top of my head looked after now!
    Driving home after all this news, I had plenty of time to reflect. I enjoyed my drive, marvelled at the scenery, sang in the car, stayed positive and thought: Carpe Diem. So I seized the day and took action.
    I'd already missed the funeral, but I contacted the family. I went to visit my friend in the hospital as soon as I got home, and I visited the person with the kidney mystery. I also went to see the nurse practitioner when I returned to the land of free healthcare and she burned away the scaly little sore on the top of my head. I hope it stays away.
    In addition to that, I decided to drive to Toronto (5400 km round trip) to see my 8 year old grandson play in a hockey tournament. I'll pick up him and my son in Chicago and we'll go together. Normally, I might not have done that since I just returned from logging 5500 km. back and forth to Chicago. But—Carpe Diem—I may not get another opportunity.
    Few of us plan to get sick or die. But it happens, often unexpectedly. Armed with that knowledge, I don't have one good reason for not going to Toronto to watch my skilled little grandson work his magic on the ice. We've all experienced regret when we didn't do something we should have done. I've said for years, "Don't die wishin'."
    What reasons do you have to seize the day? Nearly one quarter of Brits in the Oxford study wished they had seized a different career opportunity. A quarter also regretted not making new friends. Twenty-five percent said they hadn't done anything different in over a year, and over fifteen percent of them said it was so long ago they couldn't remember. Fifty percent of them want to change their exercise regime and diet, but they don't. Over fifty percent want to explore new places or countries. Over forty percent want to re-connect with old friends, and almost forty percent want to learn a new skill. Hmmm, opportunities to Carpe Diem are all over the place.
Some of the top regrets in the Gilovich and Medvec study were not taking their education more seriously, not being more assertive, not taking more risks, and not spending more time with family.
    These are all reminders that our time to act is limited. They are also reminders that our biggest regrets are tied to inaction. So, redouble your effort to live without regret. Don't die wishin'. Don't miss doing what is important. Avoid shoulda, woulda, coulda, and live well between your ears.
    For a compilation of my earlier columns go to,, or, and search for my book, Live Well Between Your Ears. You can also click on the Buy Now tab on the right.