Seven Wellsprings of Inspiration

Each day, I work with patients coping with change. This includes expectant parents anticipating the birth of their babies with mothers experiencing profound changes in their bodies; adults accepting the physiologic changes of aging; patients diagnosed with chronic conditions such as diabetes and congestive heart failure; and those coping with pain and disability.

Change is inevitable though sometimes invisible.

Our bodies change from moment to moment. At every point in time, cells are dying and being replaced. Except in acute illness, we think of our bodies as stable, but we are constantly being refreshed.

So when you are turning 40, 60 or 80, consider your age to be an inaccurate number. The majority of the cells in your body are much younger. Some are under a day old. None of your red blood cells is over 3 months old.

So if you think you’re lying about your age, you’re really not.

Now if only we could teach those new hairs not to grow in grey and the fresh skin cells not to reform into wrinkles.

Acceptance is just one aspect of coping with change. The most important is the recognition of our personal ability to be agents of positive change. I spend much of my time guiding patients in gaining control over their lives.

Every journey begins with the first step, and every significant improvement in your life begins with one small change.

Most us have a pretty good idea about what we would like to improve in our health habits, perhaps becoming more active, trying a new sport, making better food choices, quitting smoking or reducing alcohol.

Some of us may even recognize that we should attend more to our relationships and stop repeating maladaptive patterns of behaviour.

Too often we hold back. We don’t take the first steps or we falter and give up before we make significant progress.

We all need the jumpstart of inspiration with fresh infusions to keep us moving towards living a more positive and healthy life.

Last week, we celebrated Inspiration Day at Century House in New Westminster. I invite you to celebrate your own Inspiration Week by reflecting on seven wellsprings of inspiration.

1. Heroes. Joseph Campbell, famed mythologist and author of ìThe Hero’s Journeyî recognized that the stories about the bigger-than-life characters of mythology and our great religions reflected the journey we all take in life. The challenges we face and the call to have courage and do the right thing are reflected in many of those stories.

2. Models of Human Achievement. Great figures in history have set the bar high and shown us what a human being can achieve. We remain in awe when listening to Beethoven, Mozart and Bach, read Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, and look upon great works of art.

3. Everyday Heroes. While the giants of the past may make us feel like puny underachievers, we have heroes among us each day. These are ordinary people like you and me who choose to do extraordinary things; they express courage and perseverance in the face of overwhelming adversity or perform acts of generosity and compassion.

4. The Inspiring People in Your Personal Life. Think about the special people from your past who have made a positive difference in your life. This may include your parents, teachers, mentors and friends. My best friends tell me the truth when I need to hear it and remind me of my greatest aspirations.

5. Those We Serve. My patients have made me a better doctor. Their trust and confidence inspired me to be the best physician I can be. My golden rule of medicine is to treat each patient with the care I would expect for my family.

My children have taught me humility and what matters most in life. Becoming a parent inspired me to be the best person I can be.

Teaching medical students and residents constantly renews my enthusiasm for our calling. While sharing both my knowledge and my enthusiasm, I benefit from their energy and envision a positive future for medicine.

6. Your Calling. Your calling is the intersection of your passions, talents, values and the needs of the world. Are you engaged in what you love to do? Are your actions, words and beliefs aligned? What can you do today to help someone else and make a positive difference in your world?

7. Love. Love, kindness, compassion and goodwill come in many forms. The most inspiring acts are borne of genuine unconditional love. I measure the success of the day by how well I have loved others. At the end of the day and at the end of life, that’s all that really matters.

In upcoming columns, I’ll explore each of these wellsprings of inspiration.Image

Compassion Friendship Growth Happiness Love Parenting Positive Change Positive Potential Purpose Relationships Uncategorized

We All Need Inspiration

We all need inspiration at different points in our lives – to get us through the day, to help us through the rough patches and to give us a fresh perspective on our lives.

Inspiration can help us see new possibilities in ourselves, in our relationships and in our world. It can help us visualize a positive future or bring recognition of the beauty that is already here all around us.

Inspiration can turn an okay day into a good one and a good life into a great one.

It can move us from just going through the motions of life to becoming fully engaged in a meaningful life infused with joy.

At the start of a new year, an infusion of inspiration can give energy and momentum to our unrealized resolutions to improve our lives and adopt healthy new habits.

Recently, a friend gave me a book that reminded me of the dreams of my youth. After a year of disappointments, bad luck, an accident and chronic pain, it was just what I needed to begin anew with positive energy and make 2014 a great year.

Other people can be sources of inspiration. Geniuses like Da Vinci, Mozart and Shakespeare can show us what a human being can create, and their work inspires us still. As a child, I was inspired by great writers and hoped one day to write to inspire others.

We have role models from history who move us with their great acts of compassion – Jesus of Nazareth and Mother Theresa. The Buddha having achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, committed the rest of his life to teaching others.

But look around. There are many others besides history’s saints and geniuses who can inspire us.

My parents were my role models for perseverance and hard work. Dad was born at the start of the Depression in Cumberland, mom in Vancouver. They both endured racism, poverty and the loss of parents in childhood.

My parents expected the best from me and encouraged me to achieve my positive potential. My brother was my role model for academic and athletic excellence. He showed me what was possible.

Being a father to my three children has inspired me to be my best – to demonstrate patience, integrity and love. My parents inspired me to give forward and to give more than I get.

Each day, walking among us are ordinary people doing extraordinary things – both random and pre-meditated acts of kindness great and small. They see a need in another and they do what they can to help through compassionate words and actions.

They begin each day with the question, “How can I make a positive difference?” and with open hearts, they answer with their actions.