THE BLOG
06/23/2014 10:20 am ET | Updated Aug 23, 2014

Should I Stop and Smell the Roses or Seize the Day?

Kondoros Éva Katalin via Getty Images

At a time of my life when I was young and impressionable, I recall watching the Dead Poets Society, a movie circa 1989, where the fictional English professor John Keating tells his students: "Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary."

From that day on, Carpe Diem, otherwise known as seize the day, meant I needed to grab life by the horns and make things happen. I couldn't allow grass to grow beneath my feet. I couldn't stop and watch paint dry. I had to go out there and ride the bull of life with "joie de vivre" (another way of saying girls just wanna have fun)!

As life would go on, there were moments where I realized no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't seem to make things happen. I wasn't totally in control. The magic wand I had pulled out of my infinitely deep Mary Poppins bag seemed to have lost its magic. I guess it was time to take it back to the store for a refund. Or use the magical umbrella to sweep me off to a faraway land. It left me wondering if seizing the day were only part of the story. At some point, I felt like I was trying to squeeze blood out of a turnip, and that was exhausting. Or as the character Keating so aptly stated in the movie: "Sucking the marrow out of life doesn't mean choking on the bone."

I began to wonder if there was another way, a better way to live my life that wasn't so exhausting. Stopping to smell the roses was another wonderful philosophical approach to life -- taking time out of one's day to enjoy the beauty of life, the sacredness of nature, the gift of reflection. After all, one day we will all be gone, so wasn't it so critically important how we lived and enjoyed each day?

So I started to experiment with that. But I felt confused. Did stop to smell the roses mean I needed to eat the grilled fish and go to bed early? Or did it mean I should down that three olive martini and take an extra sniff at the garlic and basil pizza before taking a bite? And if I ever did figure out what it meant, how would I reconcile it with seizing the day?

And then, voilà, I had it! I could stop and seize the roses! That approach worked until my neighbors yelled at me for ripping up their garden, and boy oh boy, did those thorns hurt.

Then it hit me, I could make the most of each day, whatever that meant at the moment. Yes, I had a bigger, longer-term vision for my life, but we only live the dots of the big picture day to day. Some days, my approach to life meant working really, really hard. Other days, it meant taking time to interact with and gather knowledge from friends. Some days that meant taking a day away to reflect, to sleep or just take a break from the strict to-do list for a 24-hour period. Sometimes it meant spending time with my family, friends or loved ones. Other days, it meant taking time to nurture my own private needs.

I remember listening to Arianna Huffington speak at the California Women's Conference this past May in Long Beach, California. She said, "Life is part making things happen and part letting things happen." I thought that was such a great way to look at life. To remind the obnoxious, never satiated, type A part of my being that sometimes you just had to enjoy life and let the seeds you've planted circle back to you. Life couldn't be a constant push. It also had to involve the total immersion in experience, whether that be a hike, family time or just zoning out while doing the laundry and watching a Lifetime movie special.

So today, making the most of my life means an early glass of wine and a nap. I might go for a walk, or I might watch a movie, there is no obligatory agenda I must check off before going to bed tonight. My type A personality is on a field trip and the rest of me is just going to take it easy, for once.