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.
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.
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 someday, 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.
Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician and writer. His column appears regularly in this paper. You can read more about achieving your positive potential in life at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.