Did you win the lottery?

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I have a funny habit of buying the occasional lottery ticket and not checking the numbers, knowing full well that winning tickets are worthless after one year.

Lotteries foster magical thinking. We like to dream. What would you do with an extra $1000, $10,000 or $100,000? What would you do with a million dollars?

Those really big numbers both delight and confuse us. We forget about the teeny tiny numbers – like our odds of actually winning.

Lotteries can be a tax on the poor. As a kid, I remember seeing desperate looking people spending $20 or more for the improbable chance of winning big and improving their lives.

The feeling of imagining winning really is enjoyable and to some it can be an addiction. That magical feeling and the optimistic thinking that goes along with it instantly deflate when we’ve found out we’ve lost. That’s probably why I wasn’t keen on checking my soon to be unlucky numbers.

Even if you don’t buy lottery tickets, you’re still a player in the big lottery of life.

There’s the genetic lottery, the random mix up of genetic traits you acquired from your mom and dad. If your parents don’t look like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, you probably don’t look like either of them.

You got half your genes from each parent, but those genes were randomly distributed to you and any siblings. Nature may have thrown in a number of mutations, and this all makes you a complete individual.

Your unique genetic makeup, the events of your life, your childhood and your relationships are yours alone through chance, serendipity, karma or divine intervention. You may not think of these as prizes but they are.

If you knew you had just one year, one month or one week left of life, what would you do with this time? How would you use the gifts you have been given?

With your limited time remaining, who would you call? What would you say? Who would you spend time with? Where would you go? What would you do?

The reality is that our lives are limited. Though we live each day with an assumption of immortality, we won’t live forever, and because of this, we limit ourselves. We don’t take stock of what we have when we have it and this is what limits us most.

You have a unique potential in your life today. It is worth much more than the lottery ticket in your pocket and certainly more than the old ones in your drawer.

Life is a lottery but most of us don’t realize what we have won. Check your winnings now and spend them while you can. Look at your talents. What useful skills come easily to you? What can you improve and refine with practice?

Look at your relationships. What can you do to appreciate and strengthen those connections? Is there anything important left unsaid? In what ways can you express your love?

Look at the positive potential of each day. What small thing can you do to make someone else’s day? Who in need can you help? What great things can you do with your life?

You are already a winner. Share your special gifts with others.

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#49 Happy to be humble – the secrets of sane parenting

To find happiness as a parent requires the humility to learn from your children.

As a dad, I sometimes can’t tell if I’m parenting or being parented. At different stages of our relationships, it’s hard to tell who’s growing faster.

I fondly remember one fall evening soon after my two sons had moved to a new elementary school.  As I was rushing them to an evening concert, I told them, “I left my office early today, mom had dinner ready for us, but we’re still going to be late. So whose fault is that?”

“Kind of yours, Dad” said my older son. “Mom doesn’t drive this way to school.”

Parenting requires patience – with your children, your spouse and yourself. As young parents, we have total responsibility for a helpless newborn but we don’t start off as experts. As we gain experience, we can become more humble and continue to learn.

Each child is a unique combination of you and your spouse’s qualities. This can feed back on your own vanity. When my son was putting on muscle and pushing heavier weights than his football teammates, I realized that those were my genes he was expressing and I was inspired to work out even harder myself.

When one of my sons was especially set in his ways, I attributed his stubbornness to my wife. She blamed it on me. We finally agreed that he got a double dose.

I’ve come to realize that when one of my children is being especially infuriating, I might just be seeing a reflection of myself. Accepting your children can be like accepting yourself.

The learning never stops. It continues in both directions.

When I was driving my daughter to elementary school (She’s now in high school), I once told her, “You’re so lucky to be a kid.”

“You were a kid before” she answered.

She meant that I already had my turn to be a kid and have fun. It was her turn to enjoy being 12 years old. And my turn to enjoy being her dad.

Your happiness exercise for today: To be happy in life requires the humility to be forever learning from it. As long as we’re alive, we are changing, growing and learning. Think about this past week. What has life taught you? Be thankful for your teachers.

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A Hundred Days to Happiness #48: The best job in the world . . . being a parent

Early entry in Disneyland

On June 1st, 1992, my identity and my life changed forever – for the better.

My first child was born and I became a father. I instantly understood unconditional love and was responsible for the care of someone whose wellbeing was more important than my own.

When our children are still toddlers, we imagine their unlimited potential. What will they learn? What talents will they discover? What will they create?

As my children learned and grew, I learned and grew with them. As they discovered the world, I rediscovered it through their bright and curious eyes. The universe and life itself had become more wondrous to me.

My children taught me the most about giving out and giving forward without expectation. They taught me how to love more fully and unconditionally, and they taught me how to forgive.

They may not realize that it was they who helped me through the loss of my mother. They  embodied my mother’s legacy. The love my mother gave to me in our life together was the love I now give to each of my children and the love that they will give forward to others.

Now 23 years old, my son is a popular, talented and caring young man with a bold and bright future ahead of him. I am proud of the choices he has made and who he has become, but even if he was not all these things, I would still love him just the same because each of my children have taught me how to love.

As I raised them, my children have raised me up and made me a better person.

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A Hundred Days to Happiness #46: What I Learn From My Dad

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My dad has taught me the most about the art of living, and even though I think I’m grown up, he continues to teach me how to be a better father and how to be happy.

My dad never ever lectured me. In fact, every time he tried to tell us a story, we couldn’t resist asking him to get on with it. So he didn’t bother giving me the talk about the birds and the bees. Instead, Mom and Dad left adequate reading material in the house, and I didn’t have any questions left to ask.

Dad did teach me the manly arts of changing tires, putting on chains, replacing engine oil, using every tool in the workshop and doing the yard work, but he taught me the most important things by example.

My dad only made me feel guilty by being the better man. When my son put a dent in my car, I couldn’t allow myself to get mad, because when I rolled and totaled my first car, all my dad cared about was that my girlfriend and I were alright.

When my kids need my help at an inconvenient time, I never complain because Dad never did.

Be present for your wife and family. Growing up, I always knew where my dad was. He was either at his office or at home. He was never out with the boys. He didn’t drink, smoke, gamble or do anything he wouldn’t want us to do.

He did everything with us. He was always available to talk or to help. He would drop everything to give us a ride.

Live according to your values. My dad always said what he meant. He would ask us to return gifts he didn’t need. This made him the hardest person for whom to buy a present, but we’d always know the truth.

My parents didn’t tell me to what to do for a living. They just wanted us to do honest work.

Enjoy the simple pleasures in life. My dad continued to enjoy fireworks, parades and the PNE long after we became teenagers and lost interest. He still loves those simple pleasures.

My dad continues to enjoy a good meal. He still shares the details of his best meals – from 60 years ago to yesterday. He still enjoys every bite.

Don’t act your age. My dad never profiled or pidgeon-holed other people. He doesn’t judge others by their age, education or appearance, and he never used age as a reason to be any different or act any different from who he is.

He told me that we should keep on working as long as we’re having fun. Though he was still having fun, he had to retire two years ago when his office lease expired. Some landlords can be such party poopers.

Remember the positive. My grandfather died when my dad was a toddler. Dad grew up during the depression in the poverty of Cumberland’s Chinatown in an age of racism, but whenever he spoke of the past, there was never bitterness.

He remembers happiness: the joys of his childhood, good times with old friends, the kindness of others and his love with my mom.

Work hard but be generous. My dad worked hard. He worked to support his mom and family, to pay for his mechanics courses, and to pay for his university education. He taught us to work hard and to do our best by example.

With my mom, dad gave me a gift that he wasn’t given: a home full of music, humour, literature and love. It’s a legacy that I strive to pass on to my children.

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#47 Centre Your Day on the Balancing Points

7 Mantras (Davidicus Wong)

7 Mantras (Davidicus Wong)

I call my personal meditation method, 7 Questions/7 Mantras.

I use it at specific points in each day I choose as balancing points: (1) at the moment of awakening, before I even rise from my bed (so of course the answer to the first question may be a full bladder or the emotional remnants of a vaguely remembered dream), (2) soon after getting into the rhythm of my morning swim, (3) at my midday meditation break also known as lunch time, (4) at the close of my work day, and (5) at night as I again lie on my bed.

I also ask the seven questions and invoke the seven mantras when I am awakened by the “meditation gongs” of daily life: a page or a telephone call, an emotional reaction in myself, any interpersonal conflict or anything that may surprise me. Wherever I am and whatever I may be doing, they allow me to re-centre.

The seven questions bring to greater consciousness different aspects of my consciousness in the present moment. What am I feeling? What am I thinking? What am I doing? What am I saying? What do I see? How am I relating? Who am I?

The seven mantras reaffirm – and if I have strayed, realign me with – my true self and my ultimate goals. Each is my answer to the corresponding question.

What am I feeling?  Feel my breath.

What am I thinking?  Think on peace.

What am I doing?  Walk in grace.

What am I saying? Speak the truth.

What do I see?  See beauty.

How am I relating?  Express love.

Who am I?  Experience wonder.

At this site, I’ll be posting further instructions on my personal approach to meditation – a method to align your outer and inner selves and discover peace, personal meaning and authentic happiness.

Your happiness exercise for today: Choose your balance points for today. At these times, stop whatever you are doing and ask the seven questions of yourself. Is what you feel, think, say and do aligned with your true self?

Don’t be hard on yourself but be honest.

You’re greater happiness requires both self-awareness and self-acceptance.

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A Hundred Days to Happiness #44: Happy Humpday!

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For the majority with a Monday to Friday work or school week, midweek can be a low point. We find ourselves slogging our way until the weekend, and by Wednesday morning, we’re not even halfway there.

Is Wednesday your Humpday?

A lot of us live and work for our holidays, vacations and weekends. Those brief stretches of fun pass too quickly. The rest of the time is just filler.

Now that’s depressing.

We can all do better than that. In every day, in every school and in almost every work place, we can find something to make us and others happy. We just have to seek and see, improvise and follow through.

It helps to have a naturally gratifying job like mine. Though some of my workdays have stretched to 24 hours and I can work 12 days straight without a weekend break, I find every patient encounter meaningful. If I do my best, I can make a positive difference in every patient’s life.

But you don’t have to be a doctor to find meaning in your work. My favourite people do more than their job descriptions. They put a positive personal touch in all that they do, and by creating happiness for others, they are happier themselves. These people can put a positive spin on almost any job and change the tone of any workplace.

Find meaning in your work. If you can’t, what work should you be doing?

Don’t wait for weekends and holidays to take breaks. Build them into every day. Though I might look after as many as 40 patients in a day, I wouldn’t be doing my best if I didn’t take breaks when I needed them.

I begin each day with a 2000 metre swim. It serves as a meditation and a workout before I become a doctor for the rest of the day. I make enough time to eat a healthy breakfast and to touch bases with everyone at home before they’re off off to school.

Even in the middle of the busiest mornings, I’ll take a minute or two at the office for a cup of tea, an apple or an orange. Yesterday, my schedule was fully booked before the day started. However, two patients didn’t show up just before my lunch break. Instead of wasting a moment frustrated for the other patients who needed an appointment but couldn’t get in on such late notice, I grabbed my swimming gear and dashed back to the pool for another 30 lengths.

Schedule and seize your breaks when you can!

Your happiness exercise for today: Tomorrow is Wednesday – Humpday unless your workday doesn’t start on Monday or your work week extends to 12 days. Plan something so fun, enjoyable and rejuvenating that you’ll look forward to Wednesday arriving.

To double or triple your potential happiness, plan it with others at home, school or work. Imagine waking up tomorrow, saying “Thank God it’s Wednesday!” and greeting everyone with “Happy Humpday!”

You might have so much fun that you’ll want to plan something bigger each week.

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A Hundred Days to Happiness #45: Creating More Happiness Today

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Unless you make happiness a priority, the rest of your life can take over.

As you go through this day, be mindful of your words and actions, and as you reflect on your choices, ask, “Does this contribute to the happiness of myself and others?”

When we’re busy or distracted, it’s easy to deny our impact on those around us. There are many ways to give feedback. If we aren’t mindful of our tone and choice of words, we can create more unhappiness for our loved ones, friends and peers.

If we don’t look for them, we can miss many opportunities to help and encourage the people in our lives. And even if we do see them, we don’t always follow through.

Your happiness exercise for today: Regardless of the competing priorities of your day, make it your purpose to create more happiness for yourself and others.

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