Emotions Grace Growth Happiness Healthy Living Letting Go Positive Potential

Getting Through Life’s Detours

I come from a family of overachievers. I thought it was because I was just trying to keep up with my older brother and my little sister in turn trying to keep up with both of us.

But when I became a father, I wanted my children to find happiness and fulfillment – to discover their own unique potential wherever that may lead. In fact, I told them not to count on awards or recognition for their happiness, and when my first son was born, I hid my box of high school trophies in the crawl space.

In spite of my best efforts, my sons have won enough awards to fill their own boxes.

Nevertheless, I’ve reminded them that life may seem unfair and they may be disappointed when they don’t get what they have expected. The mismatch between our expectations of life and what it delivers is a source of frustration and unhappiness.

When our life plans are sabotaged by accidents, bad luck, illness or relationship crises, we can be devastated. We react with anxiety (due to our loss of control), frustration (by the obstacles in our way and a sense of injustice) and sadness (with the loss of hope for our imagined future).

But that is the nature of life. It was not guaranteed to be fair. People become sick even if they live healthy lifestyles (Those who drink too much, abuse drugs, overeat and never exercise get sick faster).

And your life is not guaranteed to be perfect. No one’s is.

Next: Resolving to embrace our imperfect lives . . . and being happy today.

Coping with Loss Emotions Forgiveness Grace Growth Happiness Letting Go Love Positive Change Positive Potential Your Goals

Loving the Imperfect Moment

You will never find your life perfect until you accept its intrinsic imperfection and love it anyway. Life may give you everything you want – but it won’t be all at the same time. There was good and bad in the past as there are different aspects of the present that you like or don’t like. You will have a different set of cards in your hands tomorrow.

One guarantee in life is change. Another is death.

And the only time you are alive and can be happy is the present.

Don’t waste more than a moment of the precious present worrying about what you will lose. Live today or tomorrow you will ask yourself, “Why did I waste my time worrying instead of appreciating what I had?”

Between nostalgia for a golden past and anticipation for a better future lies the fulsome present – the realized dreams of yesterday and the memories of tomorrow.

Love and appreciate the special people in your life today. They will be gone tomorrow, your relationships will change, the rose will wither, and the sun will set. Make the most of each day, and with your intelligent human mind, look at all that is going well for you this day.

Emotions Grace Growth Happiness Healthy Living Letting Go Positive Potential Relationships Wisdom Your Calling Your Goals

Have We Evolved To Be Unhappy?

The greatest fools pine for what they have lost, crave what they do not have and fail to love what they have . . . while they have it. We are all great in this way; each of us has played the fool.

It is part of our nature. In many ways, it is a product of human evolution. Our brains remember the past vividly though not always accurately. Our memories are coloured by our emotions, and how we think of the past influences our capacity for happiness in the present.

Our human brains are also discriminating. We can tell if something is out of place or not quite right. This was essential when we lived in the wilderness and needed to distinguish the animals we were hunting from those that were hunting us.

But our discriminating minds can add to our unhappiness when we see that our cup is half full, cracked, dirty or leaking. If we look around, we realize that everything and everyone – including us – are imperfect, and this can feed dissatisfaction and negativity.

Another human quality is the drive to achieve. For some, it is the pursuit of new experiences or the acquisition of material things. For others, it is a pursuit of knowledge or self-improvement. Many seek money, power or recognition.

Next: My overachieving family.

Awareness Emotions Healthy Living Parenting Relationships

GIGO and Your Relationships

“Garbage in, garbage out” also applies to our relationships.

Your friends and family have a major influence on both your beliefs and your behaviour. Your conversations affect your opinions about others and feelings about yourself. They can shade the way you see the rest of the world.

This isn’t always positive. Friends can normalize unenlightened attitudes and unhealthy behaviour. Bigoted friends can narrow your perspective of others. Chauvinistic friends can foster negative attitudes towards the opposite sex.

If all your friends smoke, you are more likely to and it will be harder for you to quit.

Every week, at least one of my patients is surprised when I tell them that the healthy daily limit for alcohol is 2 standard drinks. A standard drink is 5 oz of wine (12% alcohol), 1.5 oz of spirits (40%) or 12 oz of beer (5%). Young people may be used to drinking a six-pack on a weekend not realizing that they are “binge drinkers.”

On the other hand, positive, active and health-conscious friends can lift us up and keep us company on hikes and bike rides. Open-minded friends can share different points of view and encourage us to discover new experiences.

Consider what you put into your relationships. We tend to take them for granted. How much do you contribute to the health of your communication? In your own mind and heart, how do you nurture positive thoughts and feelings about others? How do your words and actions affect others?

Healthy Living

Your Diet: Garbage In, Garbage Incorporated

The truism, “garbage in, garbage out” applies to what  we put in our mouths.

Your body is more complex than a computer or any other machine, and it is sensitive to what we consume. The healthy functioning of every system and every cell relies on what you put in your mouth.

A healthy diet is like premium fuel in your tank. What you eat serves as the building blocks of your cells. You really are what you eat. Garbage in, garbage incorporated.

Not one diet is perfect for everyone. A high fat diet should be avoided in those at risk for arterial disease, and a starchy, high glycemic index diet is inappropriate for those with diabetes. Sodium can raise the blood pressure of those who are salt-sensitive.

Although a diet high in fibre, fruits and vegetables with moderate amounts of fish and healthy nuts such as almonds is generally recommended, it may not be appropriate to an individual with specific food allergies.

Of course, street drugs and excessive alcohol have negative effects on both our bodies and brains.

We would all do well to be mindful of everything we put into our mouths.

Next: Your relationships.

Awareness Emotions Happiness Healthy Living

Garbage In, Garbage Out: How It Applies To Your Life

GIGO is an acronym from the early days of computer science. “Garbage in, garbage out” refers to the truism that the quality of what a computer program produces is dependent on the quality of the data you input.

Erroneous or incomplete information will result in incorrect calculations, unreliable simulations, inaccurate predictions and misleading conclusions.

The same principle applies to our lives.

CONSIDER YOUR THOUGHTS   On both a conscious and unconscious level, our thoughts influence our emotions and our behaviour. Our thinking shades our interpretation of reality – our circumstances, our sense of self and the behaviour of others.

Have you ever had a dark day when everything seemed to go wrong and you couldn’t see the bright side of your situation?

Most people bounce back when their circumstances improve. Some people continue a dark cycle where cynical and pessimistic thoughts narrow their perspective and feed anger, frustration, anxiety and depression. Those negative emotions in turn influence behaviour and relationships – usually with more negative results.

Some people are more proactive. In the face of a challenging situation, they recognize their own resources and where they can be applied to improve their situation.

Next: You are what you eat.

Balance Growth Happiness Healthy Living Positive Change Positive Potential Your Calling Your Goals

Your Personal Vision

Most of us don’t run our lives like a business or a large organization. We have our hopes and dreams, and we do set goals – at least for the near future – with respect to our careers, our finances and our relationships.

But most days, we are occupied with the busyness of the day – we do what needs to be done right now, we get distracted by what’s new and novel, and we can be swept away by the drama and crises of our personal lives.

Sometimes, we can be too busy to think about anything other than getting through school, working to keep food on the table, maintaining a home and supporting our families.

No wonder we may find ourselves in unhappy places; we have strayed far from where we wanted to be. Perhaps we have outgrown our goals.

We may find we have neglected important aspects of our lives: our relationships, our health, our dreams. Our activities may no longer be aligned with our values.

It makes sense for each of us to step back and look forward.

What is your vision – for yourself and your world? What is your vision for a desirable future a year from now? Where would you like to be in 5 years . . . in 10? Projecting to the end of your life, what would you like to have achieved? What will bring you the most fulfillment and happiness?

Mission statements are not just for large organizations. They are crucial to long-term happiness and ongoing balance in your life. What do you believe in? What do you stand for? What gives your life meaning?

Consider taking the time to write your personal mission statement. Begin with your values. When you get it right – that is, right for you, your mission statement will resonate with you.

It will serve as your daily compass – to keep your words and actions aligned with your values. It will guide you in setting big and small goals in all the important areas of your life.

My personal mission is to achieve my positive potential in this life and to help others achieve theirs.

Balance Happiness Positive Change Positive Potential

What’s Your Mission?

I chair a non-profit organization, the Burnaby Division of Family Practice. It is supported by the General Practice Services Committee (GPSC) which is jointly run by the BCMA and the provincial Ministry of Health.

The members of the Burnaby Division are 125 family physicians who serve the patients of Burnaby. Our vision for the Burnaby community is patients and physicians achieving health and happiness. Our mission is to engage, support and mobilize family physicians in co-creating a network that will support the wellbeing of all members of the Burnaby community.

Mission and vision statements are essential to the foundation of all organizations. They articulate their ethos and raison d’etre.

To achieve our mission, the board must develop strategy and set short and long-term goals. The day-to-day business of the organization must be aligned with our vision and our values.

Next: Do you have a personal vision and mission?

Awareness Grace Happiness Letting Go

Endless Summers

When I was young – before starting school, when time was expanded – summer seemed to last forever.

At one point, I thought summer must last an entire year. That would be great for grownups – a one year sabbatical between every year of work. We may never need to retire.

Time would stand still as I would play in the field studying the grasshoppers, ladybugs and honeybees. I could climb a tree and stay there for hours looking at the big world of nature and people all around me.

Some evenings, Mom and Dad would pack us in the station wagon and take us to Deer Lake to feed the ducks. We would take turns paddling in the big canoe.

There was nothing to worry about. No school. No schedule. Maybe some swimming lessons . . . but they were fun. No work . . . except a bit of raking but when you’re a kid, that’s fun too.

Though I’m grown up and working, I still enjoy that warm, relaxed feeling inside when it’s sunny and hot outside. I’m happy that my wife (a school teacher) and my kids get to sleep in and don’t have to worry about homework.

I appreciate the quieter roads during rush hour.

I like seeing all the people out walking from dawn to dusk – without jackets or sweaters. Almost everyone looks more relaxed.

When summer is here, it seems to last forever.

In my own mind, it does.

Awareness Love Meditation

Where Do You See Beauty Today?

Some of us wait for a new life after death – in heaven – to be in the presence of God and to unite with the divine. In the meantime, we toil and sweat, suffer and crave, fight and love. We scurry mindlessly through our days occupied with the concerns of the present and the work of the day.

And we fail to see the beauty all around us.

From the Gospel of Thomas (discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945): “The kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it.

Meister Eckhart, the Christian mystic said, “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me, my eye and God’s eye are one.

Are we the eyes of God, created to bear witness to creation?

To see beauty is to see through the illusion of our separate selves – our own egos and the cloak of appearances – and to see the divine that shines through. And by recognizing that transcendent beauty, we allow it to shine through.

I remember my mother’s unconditional love for me. In spite of my very human imperfections, she always saw the best in me, and by seeing the best and believing in me, she brought out that best in me.

To love unconditionally and to see beauty in another is a spiritual experience. So it is to be loved unconditionally and to have beauty seen in you.

Look for beauty today – in the people you meet, in your world and in yourself.