I suspect my son – like most working adults – counts the days to the weekend. Some days we just endure, and we’re glad to see them over. How can we make the most of each day, including those spacer days – school or workdays that get in the way of where and when we want to be?
These are the keys I use to unlock the good in each day – how you can make almost any day a great day.
Have Something To Look Forward To
Being a medical student on call was not always an enjoyable existence. We were nicknamed scut monkeys for the tedious tasks we were asked to perform by staffmen and residents. We didn’t know very much but sometimes we felt like the weight of an entire hospital of unstable patients rested on our shoulders. To get through some nights, I kept a list of my favourite activities – what I would do when I came off shift: a bike ride on the quiet streets of North Burnaby, a favourite meal at home, or a movie with friends.
Today, I still look forward to talking to good friends, coming home for dinner and seeing my daughter’s face.
Every day, I do something that sounds crazy to most people. I wake up at 5:15 am seven days a week and swim 2 km. It keeps me fit, I meet with friends and I’m mentally balanced for whatever the day may bring. If I’ve had a particularly rough morning, I do another crazy thing; I’ll swim another km at noon.
Do Something Meaningful
Set out to do something meaningful today or find meaning in your everyday activities. Dinnertime when the whole family is at the table is one of my day’s most significant moments.
Being mindful and focused in conversation can have the profound effect of infusing a sense of fullness and fulfillment. When we are distracted, talking and half-listening leave both parties feeling short-changed and unsettled. But when I’m looking in another person’s eyes, listening deeply, considering what is said and speaking thoughtfully, my minutes and hours are more satisfying and complete. There is no wasting of time.
My work, the one-on-one time with each patient, focused on that individual’s problems in the context of a unique life is innately meaningful. I am blessed with a profession, like teaching or ministry, which is by nature meaningful. I strive to earn the trust and confidence my patients confer on me. Any work where we can be of service to others can be meaningful to us. We each have to find meaning in what we do each day.
Make Someone’s Day
I’ve inherited from my mother a preoccupation with making the lives of others better. It makes my day to make someone else’s day. This can be an act of kindness – a not so random surprise, an act of generosity, or a kind and sincere word of praise or appreciation.
A specialist colleague retired from hospital call after countless thankless nights caring for the sickest patients in the hospital but I felt that he wasn’t appropriately acknowledged. I organized my Department of Family Practice to thank him with a well-deserved award.
We all need to feel appreciated, but most of us hold back too much. Who makes your life better? Who should you thank today?
I do a job that most people don’t think of as creative at least not like a full-time novelist, graphic artist or architect. But I seek the creative solution to my patient’s challenges. Medical knowledge is scientific. Its application to the complex needs of real people is an act of compassionate creativity.
Abraham Maslow, writing on self-actualization, said a painter has to paint and a writer has to write. To feel fulfilled, I have to draw, write, cycle, swim, play music, tell stories and play with children.
It’s human nature to take what we see each day for granted, but it’s a tragic delusion to believe that they are here forever. We take our loved ones for granted – those we see each day and those we haven’t called for a very long time. This neglect can take the form of not thinking about them or thinking about them but not enough to take the initiative to make a call. We take those we see every day for granted when we complain about their imperfections instead of offering appreciation. At the end of life, very few people can say that they loved too much and gave too much.
There are tasks we have to do each day to survive: eat, sleep, exercise, work or go to school. But there are important activities that can bring us joy, meaning, and fulfillment on any day. They make the difference between just living and being alive.
Ready to take a fresh look at life, question self-limiting beliefs and discover enduring happiness? Join me in “A Hundred Days to Happiness.” Since February 1st, I’ve been sharing insights I’ve learned from my patients, friends and family. Each day, I will post one new insight on facebook.com/davidicus.wong, twitter.com/DrDavidicusWong and my blog, davidicuswong.wordpress.com.