Playing your own game

Just the other day when I was going for a morning stroll along Tamaki Drive, I was stopped by a patient that I did not recognise. She mentioned how much my weekly blog has helped her changed her mindset towards life to a more optimistic one. On one hand, I’m very happy that people resonate with my thoughts and understanding about life. On the other, I’m very sad to see how many other people are disenchanted, nihilistic, anxious, depressed, and resentful.

From my observations over the years as a pharmacist, I found many people are generally hesitant about sharing both good and bad news about their life. Hence, I was really surprised that she so willingly shared the good news about her life with me. It’s a sad truth that society primes us into keeping things to ourselves. I guess as our society is becoming more complex, people are wearier about “sharing” because sharing your life usually involves exposing ourselves to others and immediately opens ourselves up for comparison and judgement. We need to be very careful about comparison and judgement. It often leads to a toxic cycle of jealousy. The person we usually compare ourselves to are mostly people we don’t know much about besides their shiny outside.  The truth is that we don’t really get to see the reality of their life.

I’m sure many of you living in St Heliers and Glendowie areas can relate to this. I often see someone revving up their engine and speeding along Tamaki Drive in a Porsche. I think to myself, “Oh man, What a lucky guy.” However, the truth of the matter is that he’s thinking about drifting his expensive car off the road and burring himself into the ocean on the next tight corner. You just can’t tell. People have hard lives, relatively privileged people have hard lives too. I have a friend who is always troubled by jealous thoughts and constantly compares himself to the other person that he is fixated on. The funny thing is that the person he compares himself to is not me. And I said to him, if you compare yourself to me then you’ll be a much happier person. The problem with him is that the ideal he is mirroring himself to that made him jealous and resentful is in reality merely an illusion that’s created by his own mind.

I am fortunate enough through the nature of my job to have known a diverse group of people. Some of them are unimaginably wealthy, and most of them made their money through their intelligence and hard work. When you get to know them better, you realise their burden and responsibility is so huge that would probably crush me and any other normal person. They are constantly working, easily 80 hours a week and they have hundreds and thousands of people dependent on them, they don’t take holidays. They certainly have their money and status. However, most people would jump to the conclusion that they are privileged without realising there is usually a price to pay for what they have. They usually don’t see their family often enough, and as a result, miss out on seeing their children grown up. Hence their relationships are usually compromised. We often don’t see the other side long enough before we start judging. If we were to know what is at stake, we would probably be more careful of who we are jealous of.

As I’ve recently been reflecting on my two years of continuous writing, documenting my life, and looking back at my younger self, I have grown and learned so much (particularly about myself) that I would not have if I haven’t started on this journey. My experience interacting with my patients, being a husband to my wife, a father to my son, and a son to my parents has taught me that everyone is different from other people in their unique way and you shouldn’t be comparing yourself to them because you are not like them. You are experiencing life differently. Writing a completely different book with a different storyline and characters. They don’t have the same experience as you and they certainly don’t have the same temperament as well. They don’t have your problems and your abilities to solve them. The only person that has those is you and that’s why a much better game to play is to compare yourself to the yesterday you rather than someone else today.

Focusing on other people’s games often leads to disappointment and that’s what I’m observing regularly when I’m interacting with people. On the contrary, a game you can win is your own game you have been playing since day one. Because you can be a little better than you were yesterday if you chose to.

Two years ago, I embark on his journey of writing my way to become a better version of myself because I took stock of where I was, my strengths and weaknesses, and where I wanted to be… I started with a little humility and projected myself on a path of incremental improvement to be the person I wanted to become. Two years is relatively short in the scheme of things, but I’ve seen myself come a long way and I’m on the right trajectory to leading a virtuous life.

Are you playing your own game?