How to Carpe Diem Journal (The Morning Practice that’s Changing My Life)

I recorded a quick video to share the journaling practice I’ve been using every morning for over a year now.

It’s called the Carpe Diem Journal. 

When I start my day with this practice, I tend to:

  • Feel more clarity about what’s most important for me to do in the day.
  • ​Stay more consistent ​with my daily habits.
  • Feel more connected with the best version of myself, across different areas of life.
  • Be more productive with my work.
  • Have more energy throughout the day.
  • Feel more fulfilled and satisfied at the end of the day.

Generally, everything in my day is better. 😄 

Check out the video here:

And if you’d like to see the walkthrough in written form, keep reading below.

What is Carpe Diem Journaling?

It’s a morning journaling practice to help you make the most of every day.

The phrase “carpe diem” literally translates to “pluck the day.” (Though many people go with “seize the day” as well.)

In one of my favorite quotes of all time, Annie Dillard captures the essence of why seizing the day (carpe-ing the diem?) is so important.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

This quote has been guiding me for years. It was a key piece of inspiration for one of the first articles I ever wrote on Mindful Ambition. And it still hits home for me today.

Our lives our made up of individual days. So if we wanna make the most of our lives, we need to make the most of TODAY!

Hence, carpe diem. And the Carpe Diem Journal. 

The main structure of the Carpe Diem Journal practice is called The Big 3 (x2). Let’s dig into what that means, starting with the first “Big 3”, then moving into the second.

The Big 3: Energy, Work, and Love

The Big 3 is a simplified framework for thinking about our lives. As I mentioned in my 2019 Year in Review, The Big 3 comes from Brian at Optimize, and refers to Energy, Work, and Love.

  1. Energy is about our physical health, energetic aliveness, and overall zest for life.
  2. Work is about our career/profession/job/how we’re contributing to the world by giving our gifts in service to others.
  3. Love is about the relationships and connections we create with other people.

When we strive to intentionally live our best lives, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by how much there is to work on. We’ve got physical health, mental health, friendships, creativity, growth and learning, spirituality, family, intimate relationships, mindfulness, community service, play, rest, etc. 

The list gets way too long, way too quickly.

So instead of trying to do everything at once, we have the opportunity to focus on fewer, but more important ingredients in life.

From a high-level, the most essential elements of our humanness are Work and Love. But without Energy, we have a hard time showing up to those areas at our best. 

So the simplified life equation becomes = Energy * (Work + Love).

Ok, so that’s our first Big 3: Energy, Work, and Love

The second Big 3, which makes The Big 3 (x2), brings an additional layer of depth to how we approach each of those areas.

The Second Big 3: Identities, Virtues, and Behaviors

For the Carpe Diem Journal, we use Identity to frame a central inquiry: Who are you capable of being when you’re at your very bestEnergy-wise, at Work, and in your Loving relationships?

How would you characterize the version of you that shows up when you’re really at your best in these different areas?

For example…

  • Maybe you show up as an Athlete energetically. And the idea of acting like an Athlete is really inspiring to you. 
  • In Work, maybe you see yourself as a Leader, and that helps you connect with that best-version of you in that area.
  • And Love-wise, maybe you’re a Connecter, which inspires you to build better relationships.

My identities these days are:

  • Radiant World-Class Athlete for Energy.
  • Astonishing Catalytic Force for Work.
  • Patrick AF Patrick for Love.

Each of those are deeply inspiring to me for their own reasons, and help me get clear on who I want to be today.

So…How about for you? How do you show up when you’re at your very-best in Energy, Work, and Love? Take a few minutes to reflect on that.

Once you’ve got them, that’s your starting place for the Carpe Diem Journal.

Writing down the Identity that you want to express (today!) in each of those areas.

And then…we get to make those Identities a little more tangible. How does that best version of you show up? What Virtues/qualities do you embody and express when you are being that version of yourself?

An Athlete might be disciplined, consistent, and energized. A Leader might be confident, calm, and powerful. And a Connecter might be present, loving, and curious.

Again, these are just examples. What matters most is your reflection: What Virtues/qualities do you express when you’re at your best?

You might brainstorm with the following prompt: “When I’m being a [insert your identity here], I am…[a list of your best qualities.]”

And then from there, we make things even more tangible via an inquiry on Behavior: What’s the  #1 (or Top 3) most-important actions for you to take in order to be that version of yourself today?

Maybe the Athlete’s #1 is their Workout. Or getting to bed early for a full night of sleep. For the Leader, maybe their #1 is Deep Work on their most important project.  And maybe for the connector, their #1 is family dinner—being fully present and connecting with their family.

Recap: How to do the Carpe Diem Journal Practice

Now that you know all the pieces, here’s a quick recap of how to do the Carpe Diem Journal practice

  1. Create the structure. Make a 3×3 grid. Label the columns for Energy, Work, and Love. And if you want, label the rows Identities, Virtues, and Behaviors.
  2. Start with Who: Who am I committed to being today? Who am I when I show up at my very best—energetically, work-wise, and in my loving relationships?
  3. Make it more tangible with Virtue: How does that version of me show up? What virtues (or qualities) do they express/embody as they go throughout their day?
  4. Make it even more tangible with Behaviors: What’s the #1 (or Top 3) most important thing(s) for me to do in that area of my life, today, to express that best version of myself?

Doing this process breeds a tremendous amount of clarity. You’ve set yourself a direct target for how you want to show up today. 

In essence, you’ve clarified what would make today an amazing day! (You’d be hard-pressed to have a bad day when you’re clear on all of this and follow through on it.)

So, that’s the Carpe Diem Journal practice. Give it a go, and let me know how you dig it!

Big hugs + High-fives,

P.S. I also wanted to let you know that there’s still time to join 2020’s Optimize Coach program, where we go deep on this practice (and a ton of others) to help you show up at your best and make the most of life, one day at a time.