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Your Positive Potential: Notes from my keynote for Inspiration Day


Saturday, February 22nd, 2020 was Inspiration Day at Century House in New Westminster. Gracious members of the audience requested my speaking notes. Here they are.

I began with a brief introduction to my Empowering Patients public education program sponsored by the Burnaby Division of Family Practice. The purpose of my series of workshops, videos, posters and key points handouts is to provide everyone in our community with unbiased health and wellness information essential to live healthy, happy lives.

With respect to the things within your control, the best predictor of your future health are the habits you practice today.

Real healthcare is self-care as it is individuals – not professional healthcare providers – who provide over 90% of their healthcare.

The four foundations of self-care are: 1. what you eat (what you put into your body); 2. what you do (physical activity and rest); 3. how you feel (emotional wellbeing), and 4. how you connect (healthy relationships).

These are all key topics of my Empowering Patients talks. The slides and handouts are available in addition to videos on the public website for the Burnaby Division of Family Practice.

Upcoming 2020 Health Talks

Everyone is welcome to attend these no-cost talks, however registration is required as space is limited.

March 12, 7:00 – 8:30 PM – ‘Emotional Wellness’
Brentwood Community Resource Centre, 2055 Rosser Avenue, Burnaby
CLICK HERE to register.

March 31, 7:00 – 8:30 PM‘The Positive Potential of our Relationships’
Bonsor Recreation Complex, 6550 Bonsor Avenue, Burnaby
CLICK HERE to register.

April 8, 7:00 – 8:30 PM ‘Healthy Eating’
McGill Public Library, 4595 Albert Street, Burnaby
CLICK HERE to register.

May 14, 6:00 – 6:45 PM – ‘Healthy Physical Activity’ & Walk With Your Doc
Confederation Seniors Centre (4585 Albert Street, Burnaby)
CLICK HERE to register.

For more information, check out all Empowering Patients materials.


How we tell our stories affects how how we experience our lives.


The helplessness of the victim can feed anxiety.

If we can’t let go of anger, what we hold continues to harm us.

Remembering only loss and surrendering to hopelessness begets depression

With an attitude of entitlement, you will never be satisfied.

THE DEFAULT MODE NETWORK is the brain on autopilot creating stories. This typically happens when we are daydreaming, neither focussed on a specific task nor meditating. We can adopt unquestioned assumptions and core beliefs – many of them limiting beliefs, such as: “I have to be perfect to be loved.” “I can’t trust anyone.” “Life is unfair.” “I’m not good enough.” “I don’t deserve success, happiness or love.” “I am powerless.”

COGNITIVE BIASES are unconscious cognitive shortcuts with which we misinterpret reality. One such bias is the negativity bias. We notice more of what is wrong than what is right – with our partners, our situation and ourselves. To counter the negativity bias, we need to see (and hear) FIVE positives for every negative. This is a key principle for maintaining positivity in your most significant relationships and in creating a happy home for our children.

Actively see the positive in your life by the daily practice of gratitude. I start each day – before I even get out of bed, with a prayer of thankfulness for all the blessings in my life, beginning with the person lying next to me: my wife. This attitude primes the pump for noticing the positive aspects of all that I will see throughout the day. By days end, when I will reflect on the day with another prayer of thankfulness, my cup is overflowing.

I teach quality improvement to my physician colleagues to improve patient safety and health outcomes. When problems arise, we do a root cause analysis. This might include using the Five Whys. Ask at least 5 whys to get beyond the proximate or superficial causes of problems to get to the root cause.

I applied the Five Whys to every problem I could think of and found a single root cause for every problem in the world: a false sense of self.

We live with the illusion of separateness . . . and a life of competition.

There is the illusion of the Other . . . that engenders prejudice based on colour, gender, age, body shape, clothing, faith, language, accents and customs. The other may appear strange, different, less than, threatening or dangerous.

We went through an exercise in compassion to dissolve this false separation. I asked audience members to look at a person directly across the table from them. They were to look into each other’s eyes – not speak – but rather listen to these words. This person was once a baby, loves and held in the arms of parents . . .  just like you.

This person was once a child who laughed and cried, with big hopes and dreams . . . just like you.

This person has felt alone and sad, heartbroken and disappointed . . . just like you.

This person just wants to be happy . . . just like you.

This person needs to be loved . . . just like you.

The inescapable truth: you are not a separate, independent individual. You are a global citizen interdependent with every other person on this planet. Your wellbeing is dependent on the wellbeing of others.

We are all a part of a greater whole, members of a family, supported by a network of friends, neighbours and peers.

We are part of a community, citizens of this country and members of humankind, connected to all living things, a part of nature and this planet.

This is your true identity.

You belong here.

Another exercise to foster unconditional love. Imagine in front of you, one whom you love naturally and easily. Someone who always brings warmth to your heart and a smile to your face.

Say these words to them: May you be happy, healthy, peaceful and safe.

Now imagine someone you have had a disagreement with in the past week.

And say those same words: May you be happy, healthy, peaceful and safe.

The big problems of our society and the world will never be solved by people looking out for themselves. When we realize our interdependence and connection with the global community and all life on this planet, we will see the positive evolution of humanity and life on Earth.

It begins with us.

Together let us be the change we wish to see.

What is your story?

Engaging with Life and Coping with Change

The reality of change. Change is the nature of all things. It is our very nature. It is futile to pursue and cling to that which does not last. Nothing lasts.

We must appreciate what we have when we have it.

Every gift is not ours to hold forever. We must love and appreciate others while we can and let go when we need to. Accept what you cannot change. Accept responsibility to change what you can.

Be an Agent of Positive Change

Be dynamically response to change. Seek out the positive potential of each moment. Be responsive not reactive.

The Science of Neuroplasticity

Though our habits of thought and behaviour seem hardwired, with effort and repetition, we can transform our own minds. Donald Hebb, Canadian neuropsychologist said, “Neurons that fire together wire together.” this is how we can adapt to our changing world. You can retell your life story . . . and see beyond the illusion of a separate smaller self.

Evolving into Our Positive Potential

Discovering your potential in life. Your calling is the intersection of four circles: your passions, your talents, your values and the needs of the world.

Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.” When you listen to life and rise up to meet the challenge, you will find meaning and purpose.

Heed the call which may change at different stages of your life. There is a potivie potential to be realized in each day. We must see, feel and act.

We are all a part of the Love Cycle. In our lives, we receive love in many forms. We give it forward. The giving of love does not diminish us but connects us and makes us stronger.

At the end of each day . . . and at the end of this life, you don’t want to regret having not given enough or loved enough. The greatest tragedy in life is that we may die not knowing how much we were loved.

Life is lived fully by loving without limit, giving all you’ve got and holding nothing back.

We are all human and imperfect but still deserving of love, beautiful and able to love.

You ARE good enough.

You ARE worthy of love.

You DESERVE to be happy.

You are BEAUTIFUL just as you are.

You belong here.

We are all interconnected in the Cycle of Love. When we realize our interdependence and connection with the global community and all life on this planet, we will see the positive evolution of humanity and life on Earth.

It begins with us.

We are part of a greater whole.

We are all Agents of Positive Change.

You are greater than you think. We can make a difference.

Together let us be the change we wish to see.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a physician and writer. 

Tapestry Talk

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Make Time for Your Bucket List

My community centre, gym and pool are busiest these first few weeks of the year.

It’s time to take up a sport, learn a new language or sign up for a course, and if you’ve enjoyed some extra calories over the holidays, you could start fresh with some healthy new habits.

My friend and med school classmate, John amazes me with his passion for lifelong learning. In recent years, he’s taken up dancing, public speaking, guitar and singing. Yesterday, he asked me what new challenges I’m planning for 2018.

We can all start with that personal Bucket List – the long or short list of incredible experiences we want to enjoy before we die but rarely get around to planning and doing.

If we’re more serious, we add them to the end of the To-do List. These are the important things we really intend to do but procrastinate. We get so caught up with all the urgent activities that occupy each day and week that after another year, many of the same items remain on that ever lengthening list. Sometimes, feeling guilty, we just give up and cross them off.

A proven strategy to eliminate the To-do List and accomplish the top ten of the Bucket List is to use the calendar. We can’t wait for a lottery win or retirement to find the time to accomplish what our hearts desire. We have to set a date, schedule the time and do what it takes to make things happen.

So what will you do with this year – and the precious time of your life?

Begin with your values and where you find meaning.

To make this hit home, consider the hopefully distant future when you are lying down for your last nap or last sleep from which you will never awaken. Looking back on your life, ask: What did I enjoy the most? For what am I most grateful? What would I want to do at least one more time? With whom? What have I always wanted to do but always put off because I didn’t have the time or courage?

And very finally, ask yourself: How would I like to be remembered? Where did I commit my time and energy? When I am gone, what will be my legacy?

If it is a legacy of love and caring in which what you have given will be given forward to others in the future, that indeed would be gratifying.

So I’ll share John’s challenge with you. Make the most of this precious time of your life.

What are your greatest values? What do you need to do? Will you move it from the Bucket and To-Do Lists to your calendar this year?

Tapestry TalkTo buy yourself more time and delay the likelihood that your final big snooze will be anytime soon, make your health a priority. Life can be unpredictable but of the things under your control, the best predictors of your future health are the habits you practice today. I call them the four foundations of self-care: healthy eating (everything you put into your body including food and non-food substances), healthy physical activity, healthy relationships and emotional wellbeing.

I’ll be continuing my free public talks to help you with your own self-care. The Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients health education program will soon be expanding in different languages. Check our website for updates, access to practical health information and our YouTube videos

Dr. Davidicus Wong will be giving a free public talk, What You Should Know About Diabetes at the Tommy Douglas Branch of the Burnaby Public Library at 7311 Kingsway (near Edmonds) at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, January 16th, 2018. To reserve your spot, register in person, by phone (604 522 3971) or online For more on achieving your positive potential in life, read his blog at

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We All Need Inspiration

On Saturday, March 4th at 10 am, I am again honoured to celebrate Inspiration Day with Century House at 640 Eighth Street in the heart of New Westminster. Call (604) 519-1066 for advanced tickets. For only $6, you can enjoy a nice snack, a good laugh from the Laughter Zone 101 Senior Comics and a healthy dose of inspiration.



We each need inspiration to move us through this life – to awaken from routine, meet life’s challenges and reach for our potentials.

Inspiration gives us vision – opening windows to new possibilities: what you can do with this life. It is a lens that transforms what we see in the mirror, in the face of another and our hope for the future.

It can give us courage – to persevere in the face of illness, misfortune, failure and loss; and to do what we know to be right.

What would life be without inspiration?

Imagine childhood without magic, families without love, working without meaning and living without passion.

We’d be diminished by age with each passing year, surrender to illness, be defeated by disability and leave this life with a whisper.

There would be no path to follow, no beacon to guide us, and no hope to climb higher. There would be no reason to find that little extra within our hearts and give more of our selves to the rest of the world.

On Saturday, March 4th at 10 am, I am again honoured to celebrate Inspiration Day with Century House at 640 Eighth Street in the heart of New Westminster. Call (604) 519-1066 for advanced tickets. For only $6, you can enjoy a nice snack, a good laugh from the Laughter Zone 101 Senior Comics and a healthy dose of inspiration.

Even if you can’t make it, treat yourself to one of the seven wellsprings of inspiration.

  1. Heroes. Growing up, my role models were Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. Superheroes and the bigger than life characters of mythology and our great religions reflect the human journey through life. Their stories reflect the challenges we face and the call to have courage, find our unique voices and do what is right.
  2. Models of Human Achievement. During my school days, I spent many hours at the McGill branch of the Burnaby Public Library inspired by the great figures of history who showed us what a human being can achieve. The words and actions of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi continue to inspire generations.
  3. Everyday Heroes. Heroes walk among us. They are the ordinary people like you and me who choose to do extraordinary things; they express courage and perseverance in the face of overwhelming adversity and perform selfless acts of generosity and compassion.
  4. The Inspiring People in Your Personal Life. My greatest inspiration remains my mother. Though she passed away nearly 14 years ago, she continues to set my standards for morality and compassion.

She was literate, outgoing and kind. She was the most thoughtful person I have ever known. She not only looked after the needs of our family but she would be concerned with the wellbeing of every person she knew. She always gave more than she got.

She was the most honest person I have ever met. If given extra change, she would walk a mile back to the grocery store. She would always do what she knew to be right.

My mother taught me the importance of family. At age nine, she and her siblings were orphaned, and with both parents gone, the children decided to work hard to keep the younger ones fed and clothed until they had all finished school.

My mother had faith in me when I did not. She looked after me and encouraged me as I battled with rheumatoid arthritis. She believed I could do great things if I persevered. My mom and dad gave me freedom to discover my own talents and supported me in nurturing them.


My mom inspires me still with the selfless, unconditional love she gave me. It remains her legacy, and I aspire to give that same love forward to my own children and to evert human being I can touch.

  1. Those We Serve. My patients have made me a better doctor. Their trust and confidence in me 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.
  2. Your Calling. Joseph Campbell called this “following your bliss” and it is your gift to the world. Your calling is where your unique passions, talents and values intersect with the needs of the world.
  3. Love. Love, kindness, compassion and goodwill come in many forms. I measure success 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.
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Your Happiness and the Value of Goals


The stage of the musical, Frozen at Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim, California.

It’s the time of the year when I’ll be expecting patients coming in with new goals to improve their health. Many will be keen on starting a new exercise routine, eating a healthier diet, reducing alcohol or quitting smoking.

But for the rest of us, it will be business as usual. Most of the patients I care for will present one or more problems to be diagnosed, investigated or treated. These could be physical symptoms, relationship difficulties or challenges in their life circumstances.

Our brains are attuned to identifying problems. We see more of what’s wrong than what’s right. This negativity bias is part of our evolution. Our ancestors survived because they were able to detect problems and dangers early.

For most people today, our negativity bias is not such an advantage. In fact, it can lead to dissatisfaction and conflict in our relationships. Who wants to live with someone who can’t get anything right, and who can live with one who always finds fault?

Whereas appreciation and gratitude bring greater satisfaction and happiness, seeing the cup half full brings misery.

All of us want to be happy, but most of us look for it in the wrong places.

If your happiness depends on getting everything you want you may never find it or you won’t be able to keep it. The trick is to be happy with what you have and engaging with the world to achieve your positive potential.

In part, it is a way of being and seeing – being present and seeing with appreciation even that which does not last.

Consider the quick passage of the past year; life and all that we experience are fast and fleeting. Opportunities arise and pass away, and so do people, including our selves and those we love.

I love the work I do, helping my patients solve their problems, but my patients and I are most engaged when we turn those problems into goals. Problems can make us feel like helpless victims of life. When we transform them into our personal goals, instead of running from or struggling against what we don’t want, we move towards what we envision.

When a patient is struggling with anxiety, I may ask, “What is your goal? What does happiness look like to you?” “Is it seeing yourself managing and mastering the challenges of each day?” “Is it experiencing a sense of abiding peace and calm?”

When one is depressed, the goal may be to see one’s self and life with acceptance and gratitude, and to be engaged in meaningful activity.

Consider your values and your greatest virtues, and set your goals. Visualize with all your senses what success and happiness look like. Create a plan of action to get from here to there, and take at least one firm step each day in the direction of happiness.

As part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients I’ll be presenting a free talk on “Emotional Wellbeing” at 7 pm on Wednesday, January 11th, 2017 at the Confederation Community Centre in North Burnaby. Everyone of any age is welcome to attend. Please preregister by calling Leona Cullen at (604) 807-2372 or e-mail



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The Slogans You Live By: Are You Due for Rebranding?


Made to Move

In business, branding is everything.

A lot of thought goes into a company’s choice of name, trademark and slogan, and that slogan – the catchy way that it expresses its values, vision and purpose – influences how the organization is seen by its employees and customers.

Well-chosen slogans are sticky. We automatically associate them with the brand. Nike: Just do it. Kentucky Fried Chicken: Finger lickin’ good. Coke: It’s the real thing.

Those sticky ideas get into our heads – sometimes through creative commercials and advertising campaigns; often through shear repetition. They can have greater impact when spoken by charismatic or influential personalities.

Over time, we just accept them as part of our daily landscape, soundscape and mindscape. We eventually stop questioning their validity.

Therein lies the danger of slogans. We quickly adopt them as habits of thought. They shape our beliefs and influence how we see the world.

As children, memorable phrases can help us learn important rules and good behaviour. “I” before “e” except after “c”. Look both ways before you cross the street; use your eyes and use your ears, before you use your feet. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Through the power of habit, what we repeatedly think becomes our inclination. The connections between specific neurons are reinforced over time and like a well-travelled path become engrained.

This is fine when those habitual thoughts are true and useful. Unfortunately, we all carry personal slogans adopted from the past. They may have been said first by influential people, like parents or teachers, or you may have come up with them through past experiences. They are reinforced by self-talk: what we say to ourselves that shapes our opinions, feelings and actions.

Negative self-slogans that are never totally true and don’t help anyone include: “I’ll never be happy.” “I can’t control myself.” “I’m a loser.” “I can’t win.” “I’m not good enough.” “There’s something wrong with me.” “Those people are different.”

Negative self-slogans can limit your thoughts, narrow your perspective, shape your emotions and keep you from trying.

What are your limiting beliefs about yourself and others? In what ways are you heeding the slogans of past advertising campaigns of companies long out of business? Some of the things we bring forward from the past no longer apply or may never have been true. If you need help identifying negative self-talk, do what businesses do. Put together a small focus group of your best friends. Ask them what negative phrases you regularly use.

Try out some new slogans. Here are some of mine. “Be an agent of positive change.” “We were made to move. When we don’t, our health suffers; when we do, we thrive.” “Of the things within your control, the best predictors of your future health are the habits you practice today.” “Help yourself to happiness by helping others.” “Give more than you get.”

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Find your inspiration!


To make the most of this life, we must make the most of each day.

What inspires you to rise out of bed each morning, do what needs to be done, pursue your goals and give the extra effort that makes a difference? What gets you through the in between times with a mountain range of challenges between you and your destination?

From an early age, I was hooked on reading. By grade 6, I had finished reading the World Book Encyclopedia and spent hours each week at the McGill Branch Public Library in North Burnaby. Like my mom, each week, I would borrow my limit of books.

I was inspired by Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence people and James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh. I learned much more from countless books, and my eyes opened to an expanding horizon of possibilities.

So enriched and moved by the writing of others, I imagined how wonderful it would be to help and inspire others with my own words some day.

For ten days in grade 6, I had a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis with rashes, fevers and painful joints. On Burnaby Hospital’s pediatric ward, I was cared for by my doctors and nurses who weren’t treating a disease but rather me as a whole person. I trusted them to do their best for me, and it was then that I decided to be a physician – to give forward the care that I had been given and to care for others when they are most in need.

An inspiration can get us started on a path, but what keeps us going?

We can be most inspired by those we serve. When I became a parent, the awesome responsibility of caring for a helpless baby, loving unconditionally and nurturing each of my children to their greatest potential was the greatest of callings.

I had to rise to this responsibility and strive to be my best to give my best. My children have made me a better person.

As a physician, I developed my golden rule of medicine: treat every patient with the same degree of care and consideration I would want for a best friend or family member. For any of my patients, I refer to the same colleagues and order the same tests in the same time frame that I would want for those in my personal life.

The needs of my patients have inspired me to be a better physician. I am inspired and supported by a few of my colleagues, including my classmate, Dr. John Law, who like me, commit to continuous quality improvement in their clinical skills and looking outside of the box, learn advanced techniques to meet the needs of our patients.

The most inspiring physicians learn from one another and from their patients.

In your personal life, whom do you serve? Look both inside and out of your own home, community and workplace. If there is a need, can you rise to meet it?

Each day presents us with infinite opportunities to make a difference big or small – to lift up the hearts of a few people and to live a meaningful life.

Celebrate Inspiration Day from 10:30 am to 1 pm on Saturday, February 6th at Century House at 620 Eight Street in New Westminster. I’ll be there to enjoy the entertainment of the Century House Singers and Comedians and give the keynote presentation. Admission is $5. Call (604) 519-1066 for more information.

Davidicus Wong is a family physician and his Healthwise columns appear regularly in the Burnaby Now, Royal City Record, Richmond News and Vancouver Courier. For more on achieving your positive potential in health, see his website at

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A Hundred Days to Happiness #26: The Call of This Day

Central Park, Burnaby
Central Park, Burnaby

In my last post, I wrote of the call to your life’s purpose as the intersection of your talents, your passions and the needs of the world. We often think of our life’s purpose as one overarching drive, and that often is the case.

But in our lives, we have different priorities and goals at each age. The needs of the young are not the same as the needs of our elders. That’s why parents can give advice to their adolescents, but the lessons aren’t fully learned without the experience of years. With the cycles of life, parents must be patient with their children just as their children may one day need to be patient with them.

Your calling as a child is to establish a sense of your self and your self-worth as a human being worthy of respect and love. You discover your talents, learning in school and from life. Your parents play a pivotal role in helping you establish your self-concept and your perspective on the world.

As a teen you have to cope with your emotions, your relationships with your peers and your role in society. You tread the line between independence and dependence on your parents.

In young adulthood, the focus may be on your career, making a living, establishing your own place and finding a significant other. As a parent, you are focussed on your children: the joys and challenges of parenting.

In midlife we look back at our lives, re-evaluate our goals and priorities. For some, it is a reaffirmation of our calling. For others, it can be an about face when we realize that we have not been true to our deepest values and passions.

The golden years is a time of looking back, taking stock of our lives and making sense of it all. It can be a time of generativity, giving to future generations, sharing what we have learned and accomplished over a lifetime.

But in every day of your life, there are many calls, and in an ordinary life, they are often missed. As you go about the busyness of your day, it is natural to miss the many opportunities to make a difference in your world and in particular, the lives of people around you.

I remember as a child shopping with my parents at a downtown department store. Maybe it was Woodward’s or The Bay. I had to go to the washroom . . . badly. I didn’t have a dime to get into a toilet stall. A kindly man noting my distress saved my day by giving me the dime that I needed.

Sometimes you can do something that may seem small to you but can make a big difference for someone else, but to do that small kindness requires a kind and open heart and the will to do what needs to be done.

You and I are capable of these small, significant acts each and every day. We just have to look for them.

So to answer the call – where your talents and passions meet the needs before you – does not have to wait for your work of a lifetime. You can answer the call every day, even many times throughout a day.

Your happiness exercise for today (and every day): Look for an opportunity to do what you can to help others in need, and answer the call by seizing that opportunity. You will discover that in the process, you will meet your own need to make a positive difference in our world.

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#24 Discovering your purpose in life

Sunset in La Puerta, Mexico by Nicole Kinnear
Sunset in La Puerta, Mexico by Nicole Kinnear

When I talk to my kids about their future careers, I know that what they decide to do with their lives will be shaped by their life experiences. Though they may have passion in a number of areas today, they will discover more of themselves as their lives unfold.

I draw for them three large circles analogous to the model used in the business classic, “From Good to Great”. In that book, Jim Collins asserted that great companies chose as their business the intersection of three great circles representing (1) what they did better than any other company, (2) what they were passionate about, and (3) the needs of the world.

I see potential in each of us, and when I look at my kids and talk to patients, both adolescents and adults at a crossroads in their lives, I draw them those three large circles.

The first circle represents your passions. What do you love to do? What would you be willing to do for free? What could you do for hours at a time and instead of feeling exhausted, you feel energized?

The second circle represents your talents. What do you do better than anyone else? What comes easiest to you? In what area of your life can you become great if you had the right training and put in enough practice?

The third circle represents the needs of the world. How can you use your talent and passion to meet the needs of others?

The intersection of these three circles – your passions, your talents and the needs of the world – is your calling – what you need to do. Your calling is not icing on the cake when the rest of your life is looked after. It is the purpose of your life. It is your gift to the world.

Your happiness exercise for the day: Try this exercise today. Take a blank piece of paper and draw three intersecting circles. In the first, write what you are passionate about. In the second, what you do better than anyone else (your friends and family may help you here). In the third, look for the needs of your world.

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A Hundred Days to Happiness #23: Finding Your Calling


My mom, Ina

Sometimes if you’re lucky, life takes you in the direction of your calling – the place you call home, when you are engaged and empowered by a sense of purpose greater than yourself. More often, however, you can lose your way with endless detours. Some of those detours can be meaningful; some may be distractions.

If you’re fortunate, the circumstances of your life may seem perfect and sufficient to make you happy. But sometimes having a good marriage, well-behaved kids, a comfortable home and enough food is not enough. Without a deep sense of purpose, you may still feel incomplete.

For most of us, life isn’t perfect. Sometimes, events don’t go our way. Relationships are rarely maintenance-free. Kids will go through difficult phases. Yet if we have an abiding sense of purpose, it can give us the strength to endure the challenges of our lives and still be happy.

Your calling may not necessarily be your original career choice. It becomes obvious sooner or later when your work is aligned with your deepest passions. In spite of success and promotions, if what you do every day does not engage your true self, you will feel unfulfilled and incomplete. Despite outward success, happiness may still elude you.

As a child growing up in Vancouver, my mother was very bright, and she hoped one day to go to university. I remember my mom’s gift with words and her love of books. I would go to the Burnaby Public Library with her as a child, and we would both reach our limit on the number of books we could borrow at one time. In an alternate universe, I believe my mom would have been a writer.

But tragedy intervened. By age nine, my mom lost both her parents, and in order for her brothers and sisters to stay together, they all had to work to support the family. The older siblings worked to support the younger ones still in school. My mom studied to do secretarial work.

My mom found her calling in her devotion to family – originally in her family of origin and later the family she nurtured with my dad. She always impressed upon me the enduring value of family, especially when I was a teen and thought friends and girlfriends were more important.

When her three children were grown up, my mom’s sense of family and friendship expanded. Her circle of concern and care expanded into the community, and her time and energy were devoted to making the world a little kinder and happier for others.

I wonder if I would have discovered my calling without the devotion of my mother. She gave me a love of books and of writing. She nurtured my creativity. She modelled care and concern beyond my own self-interests and beyond family. She inspired me to do my part to make the world a better place for others.

Your calling isn’t always what you first choose. Life can intervene but when it does and you listen, you may hear a deeper meaning – perhaps a still small voice that will empower you to live your life’s potential and allow you to discover ever greater happiness.

Today’s happiness exercise:  Ask yourself today, “Have I discovered my calling, and am I answering it in what I do today?”  If not, reflect on your life so far. What were your passions and talents as a child? What has life taught you? What is it telling you now?

Grace Happiness Parenting Positive Change Positive Potential Purpose Relationships Wisdom Your Calling Your Goals

The measure of your day

The Pool at Central Park, Burnaby
The Pool at Central Park, Burnaby

Is today just another day?

And tonight after it has passed, will it be forgotten?

Is it a day in the way? That’s a countdown day that you just want to get through because it stands between you and what you anticipate – a special day in the future, a holiday or the weekend.

In the trance of everyday life, we can get caught up with nonstop activity, endless goals and distractions. We lose sight of what matters most, and we can forget a simple truth.

Every moment is precious and every day a gift.

When they were young, I taught my children to frame each day.

Before they rolled out of bed, I asked them to say a prayer of thanks, considering all the good in their lives, especially the people they loved. By beginning the day with their cups half full, they would be more inclined to see the positive throughout each day, and when their cups were full, they would be more likely to share and give.

Again at the end of each day, at suppertime and at bedtime, they would recall the gifts of the day: what they enjoyed, what they received and what they gave.

This summer, my kids are asleep when I leave the house and they’re awake when I go to bed. I no longer keep track of their prayers, and I wonder if they like most grownups and teens have become too busy to frame their days and measure their moments day by day.

Most physicians experience a nearly constant pressure of time. While looking after our patients, there are always competing demands on our time. And outside of clinical time, we may be on call, attending endless committee meetings or managing a perpetual pile of forms and reports.

I must confess that every one of my days – like an overstuffed suitcase – is packed with activity. I sometimes judge the day by how much I have accomplished: A good day is a productive day.

But none of us should wait until the next holiday, retirement, or the end of life, to wake up and live each day.

We should begin – and continue – with the end in mind.

To not waste a day does not mean to pack it full of activity.

We waste this day by not being fully awake.

What gives your life meaning? Are you awake to the experience of being alive – tasting, touching, breathing, feeling?

What are your greatest goals? What are you doing with your time?

What are you doing this day to take one small step in the direction of your dreams?

Today are you talking to the people who matter most? Are you fully present in the presence of others?

The measure of each day is like the measure of our lives, and the unit of measure is love.

How have you shared love this day? Be gracious when receiving it. Be generous in expressing it.

How were you helped in big and small ways, and how are you helping others?

Don’t let this day slip by as another blur of time, another square on the calendar or another countdown day.

Make it count.