Healthwise: Are you a winner in life's lottery?

I have a funny habit of buying the occasional lottery ticket and not checking the numbers, knowing full well that winning tickets are worthless after one year.

Lotteries foster magical thinking. We like to dream. What would you do with an extra $1,000, $10,000 or $100,000? What would you do with a million dollars?

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Those really big numbers both delight and confuse us. We forget about the teeny, tiny numbers – like our odds of actually winning.

Lotteries can be a tax on the poor. As a kid, I remember seeing desperate looking people spending $20 or more for the improbable chance of winning big and improving their lives.

The feeling of imagining winning really is enjoyable, and to some it can be an addiction. That magical feeling and the optimistic thinking that goes along with it instantly deflate when we’ve found out we’ve lost. That’s probably why I wasn’t keen on checking my soon-to-be unlucky numbers.

Even if you don’t buy lottery tickets, you’re still a player in the big lottery of life.

There’s the genetic lottery, the random mix up of genetic traits you acquired from your mom and dad. If your parents don’t look like Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie, you probably don’t look like either of them.

You got half your genes from each parent, but those genes were randomly distributed to you and any siblings. Nature may have thrown in a number of mutations, and this all makes you a complete individual.

Your unique genetic makeup, the events of your life, your childhood and your relationships are yours alone through chance, serendipity, karma or divine intervention. You may not think of these as prizes, but they are.

If you knew you had just one year, one month or one week left of life, what would you do with this time? How would you use the gifts you have been given?

With your limited time remaining, who would you call? What would you say? Who would you spend time with? Where would you go? What would you do?

The reality is that our lives are limited. Though we live each day with an assumption of immortality, we won’t live forever, and because of this, we limit ourselves. We don’t take stock of what we have when we have it and this is what limits us most.

You have a unique potential in your life today. It is worth much more than the lottery ticket in your pocket and certainly more than the old ones in your drawer.

Life is a lottery, but most of us don’t realize what we have won. Check your winnings now and spend them while you can. Look at your talents. What useful skills come easily to you? What can you improve and refine with practice?

Look at your relationships. What can you do to appreciate and strengthen those connections? Is there anything important left unsaid? In what ways can you express your love?

Look at the positive potential of each day. What small thing can you do to make someone else’s day? Who in need can you help? What great things can you do with your life?

You are already a winner. Share your special gifts with others.

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

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