Having enjoyed many summers and having reached the age of 74 years, I sometimes reflect on the life I have lived —what I have achieved, where I have failed, the love and joys and the hurts and pains over many years both in the workplace and at home.
I also think about what else I could have done to live life to the fullest whether as an infant, child, student, young and mature employee, and finally as a senior citizen and elderly person.
A fundamental realization is that each and every one of us has been blessed with life, but it is really up to us how we live that life…it could be squandered and wasted due to laziness, abuse, sense of entitlement…or it could be an inspiring story of rising above overwhelming obstacles and making important contributions to society. It is really up to us.
Together with the gift of life, we are blessed with time—years, days, minutes that we can never get back once they pass. Time is more precious than money. The time we have now is a gift. That’s why it is called the “present.” But puns aside, we should experience and enjoy every moment that we have and make the most of it. Bask in the good weather, breathe in the fresh air, play in the rain, laugh with our friends, enjoy and share the food, spend quality time with your loved ones, focus on the high impact priorities in life, and pursue your dreams. In any and every stage of life, old, mature, young adult or as a child, there is so much to do and enjoy, and it would be a terrible waste to let it pass.
Of course as children, we are highly dependent on our families and the circumstances around them. I have been fortunate to grow up in a loving and supportive environment, enjoying the major comforts of a middle-income family. We had food on the table, and I was able to get a quality education, find fulfilling employment and earn more than enough to take care of my wife and children. However, many less fortunate experience hunger, financial problems, and a lack of educational and employment opportunities. And some, regardless of income status, have to deal with broken families and other emotionally damaging conditions. Some may be strong enough to rise above their ill fortune, but many may feel stuck and remain in their situations, and may find it hard to find happiness.
Stephen Hawking is an excellent example of one who had the courage and strength to rise above his severe physical disabilities. In his early 20s, he developed Lou Gehrig’s disease, which eventually left him almost completely paralyzed and quadriplegic. Nevertheless, his mind remained very active, and he presented new theories and wrote many books on quantum physics. He became a celebrity and was even awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the US, before he passed away in March 2018 at the age of 76.
No matter what situation you are in, you can rise above it. Your future and your life depend on you and what you do or don’t do.
I have some tips you can “add” to your life so that you could make the most out of what you have. I call it PLUS.
As much as possible, be positive. Count your blessings because I am sure you are blessed—with love from family, friends or with a special talent. When you have a positive outlook, you may discover what truly makes you happy. Find your passion and your talents because these are also gifts from God. Treat your job or business as a blessing, because it is an opportunity for you to learn and grow. And another thing, don’t dwell too much on the past. You can’t change it. You can only learn from what happened before, and be a better version of yourself in the future. A positive outlook will also help you to manage the stresses of daily living.
When you are healthy, you can live a long, productive life and enjoy a lot of new and happy moments. So, eat healthier and try to avoid junk and unhealthy food, and eating in excess. Cut down on too much sugar and highly processed food. They lead to chronic diseases and life-threatening complications in the future. And don’t forget about getting the right amounts of vitamins and minerals. There are affordable quality food supplements out there, so you really don’t have an excuse not to get the daily dose of essential nutrients your body needs. Another thing is exercise. Get up and take your dog for a walk. Go and play in the park with your kids. Pick up an active hobby or sports. Exercise also stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine, which help improve mood, memory and brain health. And last, get enough sleep, at least six to eight hours a night. Just like your mobile phone, we also need to recharge.
Understand and pursue what you want in life.
We all have dreams. But you also need to wake up to make it happen. So think about it. What do you really want? What do you really want to do? Where do you want to go? Not many people can honestly answer that. And even more may have dreams, but don’t have the will power and determination to make it happen. My advice is—create a clear vision of what you want, then make concrete plans and action steps that would help you reach that goal. It can be a big dream like building your own business that will dramatically improve and disrupt an existing industry. Or you may want to devote your time and efforts to mentor and help others to become more successful and lead happier lives. It can also be building your dream house, taking a vacation to that faraway glamorous resort or buying that car you have always wanted.
Don’t worry if you don’t have it yet. Sometimes it may come later in life. Like myself for example. When I was about to retire from Ayala at the age of 60, a friend of mine, a French social worker here in the Philippines, proposed that we partner up and venture into the retail pharma industry and offer quality affordable generic medicines with superior customer service and a strong sense of social purpose. With no previous knowledge of pharma and retail, we had to learn the business from the bottom up. The biggest obstacle 15 years ago was the negative public perception and mistrust on generic medicine. Expensive branded medicines had a stranglehold on the local market then. It was an uphill and exhausting battle, and we had more than our share of struggles, but we were determined, made the necessary preparations and persisted. What kept me going was my father. I have always been inspired by my father who practiced as a primary care doctor in Zamboanga City until the age of 83. He would give special attention to indigent patients, and would charge them only P2 to P5 for many years as a way to help them out even when other doctors were collecting up to P200 as professional fee. I remembered him and I realized that I, too, wanted to help the poor, and I knew this was the way to go.
We need to have goals. We need to create our purpose in life. And it’s okay to make mistakes or even change your goal. If we stumble and fall, we just need to get up and move forward.
Say thanks and give back
Last, we should be thankful. Thankful for the blessings—big and small. And the best way to show our gratitude is to give back, share your blessings, pay it forward. You can start with your family. Be a role model, teach them the right values and support them. Don’t take them for granted. Spend time with them and make every moment count. I assure you that all of you will have happy memories that will be remembered forever.
Help others. Giving money to the poor is fine. But like the saying goes, “Give a man fish, and you feed him for the day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life.”
Be a mentor. Pass on the knowledge you have gained and share your experiences. Whether your expertise is in cooking, writing, music, being an entrepreneur or whatever it may be, you can help someone become better than he or she was yesterday.
Going the extra mile can create infinite possibilities for the ones you are helping. You may be surprised how far they are able to go because of your help.
Living life to the fullest is possible and most gratifying. The first step is to realize that every minute is precious, that it will pass quickly and that it is up to you to make the best use of it. The next big step is to find out what you really want to do with your life. Then finally you have to decide to do it, and to make the necessary sacrifices until you achieve your dream.
This is not going to be easy. It won’t fall on your lap. No one can do this for you. And it won’t happen overnight. It may be a long and hard journey before you reach the destination. You may have heard all of this before. But now might be the time for you to finally decide to do something about it. Take it from a man of many summers. It will be worth it.
Teodoro L. Ferrer or Ted is an advocate of health and wellness and the chairman of the Generika Group of Cos. After retiring in 2003, he and Julien Bello founded Generika Drugstore—the pioneer in the retail of generic medicine in the country. His advocacy of providing access to quality affordable generic medicine was inspired by his father, who was a doctor in Zamboanga and offered his services to both prominent families and the poor. Today, Generika Drugstore celebrates its 15th year, and the commitment to provide access to quality affordable health care lives on.