Empowering Healthcare Grace Growth Happiness Healthy Living Parenting

Achieve Your Positive Potential


Our kids expect to be asked, “What do you want to be when you’ve grown up?”

In our first two decades, life is not just about being but becoming: learning, growing and anticipating new experiences. We recognize the constant change in ourselves and our horizons, both are ever expanding.

But at some point, most of us stop seeing perpetual personal growth and expanding horizons. We can settle in a habitual way of seeing our selves. Life becomes routine.

We can get so settled that we are startled by change: in school or work, relationships and health. We are surprised when we look in the mirror and notice that we’ve grown older or put on some weight.

Maybe after making the big choices in life – what to study, where to work, where to live and who to marry, we can settle into autopilot, and we do, until we are shaken awake by turbulence.

But in reality, we with everything around us are constantly changing. We remain in perpetual motion. If we don’t mind our bearings and keep our eyes on the horizon, we won’t notice that the landscape has changed and we can fly off course. We even forget that we can choose to change our destination.

The healthiest and happiest of my patients remain on course most of their lives. They’ve settled into good routines of eating healthy balanced diets, attending to their relationships and physical activity.

When their life situation changes, they adapt. They learn what changes they need to make to remain as healthy as possible. With a new diagnosis of high blood pressure, they reduce dietary sodium (salt) and lose extra body fat through a combination of exercise and healthy eating.

When they become bothered by degenerative arthritis (osteoarthritis) in their knees, they’ll adapt to more appropriate exercise (for example, changing from running and jumping activities to swimming or stationary cycling).

My most vibrant patients don’t wait for the signs of aging and chronic health conditions to tell them to change. Making positive changes is a way of life. They see their potentials in life as ever evolving. They set new challenges and goals, visualize the best they can be and take steps each day towards these new horizons.

You are always being and becoming. Regardless of your age and circumstances, consider your positive potential in the important areas of your life.

Do what my healthiest and happiest patients do each day. Check your bearings, take a look at the landscape and affirm your destination. Are you still on course? What are you doing each day to move you in the right direction? What are you doing that takes you off course?

If a relationship needs some work, visualize a more positive situation and come up with one or two things you could start doing to produce a positive change.

What is your positive potential for health? Make a few small changes in what you eat (or don’t eat).

What is your potential for fitness? What can you add to your daily exercise routine (a little more endurance activity, more resistance training or the commitment to do daily exercise)?

Don’t wait for the turbulence of life to force you to change. Choose your goals and move each day in the direction of your positive potential.\

On Thursday, September 10th, 2015 from 7 to 8:30 pm, I’ll present a free public presentation in the Visitor Centre at the VanDusen Botanical Garden (5251 Oak Street, Vancouver). As part of the Tapestry Foundations for Health Care’s Dialogue on Aging public presentation series, I’ll be talking about “Achieving Your Positive Potential at Any Age.” For information and registration, call (604) 806-9486 or check online at

Coping with Loss Growth Happiness Letting Go Love Relationships

A Hundred Days To Happiness: Regaining Happiness After Loss

“April is the cruelest month, ” said T.S. Eliot in The Wasteland.

Indeed it is a bittersweet month for me.

In early spring, cheery blossoms bloom from the dormant gloom of winter. April brings the tradition and symbolism of Easter – rebirth from death. Each day, the sun rises earlier and sets later, promising fuller brighter days.

In younger days, this brought the promise of fuller, happier days, continuous growth and boundless potential. Life just got better and better. My life continued happily until one weekend in April 2003.

I had a wonderful family with three great kids, I enjoyed fulfilling work as a family physician and I had great relationships with my parents. Life was close to perfect, until I received a call from my sister. Our previously healthy mom suddenly collapsed and died during an exercise class at the community centre. She received immediate CPR but she could not be revived.

Life is never the same after losing a parent even as an adult. For the first time, the person who knew me best and loved me unconditionally and who from the moment of my birth had always been an integral part of my life was no longer alive.

Nothing had ever seemed so startling, unbelievable and irreversible than this.

Gone were the expectations of my mother seeing my daughter and sons grow up, sharing their achievements and their joys, and sharing her abundant love, kindness and wisdom. A whole future of positive possibilities collapsed in a moment.

Life would never be the same. Life would never be perfect.

Eventually, it was possible to be happy again. I would remember my mom’s gentle words, generous spirit and kind acts and know that they made a difference – a positive impact on others and in my life. My daughter though not quite four remembered baking, shopping and playing with my mom. My sons remembered her warmth and care.

And I would find happiness giving forward to my children – and to others in my life – the love and kindness my mother so generously gave to me.

Happiness can be regained in acts of grace. I graciously accept the gift of my mom’s life and the love she gave. I graciously accept that our greatest gifts are not ours to hold forever – but to appreciate, let go and give forward in the cycles of life and nature.

We are connected through our memories and losses, suffering and joy, and in the love we accept and give forward. We can enjoy happiness, give it to others and give it back to the world.