I was talking to a very prominent and successful businessman today and the conversation veered into a few lessons in life he wanted to share with me. This gentlemen is much older and in his mid 60s and had some advice for me. At his age, he looked pretty healthy, physically fit, attractive, healthy and sociable but he told me he can be a bit board at times. He also told me that he has a pretty good life, exercises, loves his family and support his local community. He has also held important political positions in the past and continues to give back through consultations, advocacy and political discussions/reforms.

Despite this, he had the following advice for me and would love to share:

  1. Anytime someone complains about life, I should ask them to visit a local hospice or palliative care unit or facility. He said, he was involved in a motor vehicle accident when he was a young teenager and nearly committed suicide but a visit to a another young person with muscular sclerosis (MS) completely changed his mind and attitude.
  2. I should treat work as work and within the systems’ constraints and limitations as well as my own limits. That I sould not carry the world’s problems on my shoulders because there’s only so much I could do. I should go home knowing I have given out my best to those I serve.
  3. I should be aware of my attitudes. To him, our attitudes can make a huge difference in any situation we find ourselves. Our attitudes determine our ability to emphasize, treatment of others, work ethics, willingness to give back to society and how we perceive our situations or circumstances. Based on our attitudes, we can be miserable, put our experiences into perspective, pick up the pieces and keep going. Our attitudes also affect our health according to him.
  4. Eat healthy: a balanced diet consistently including fiber, veggies, fruits and refrain from smoking and alcohol consumption (unhealthy drinking).
  5. Exercise often.
  6. Be educated

Together he summed his advice in an acronym:
E-eat healthy

In his mind, these factors shape our life course, whether we maintain a healthy life, live longer, have a better quality of life, cope better with life challenges or capitalize on opportunities to advance our lives.

What do I think of all of this?
I tended to agree with most of his stipulations. I am a pragmatist and a realist. Our worldviews, mindsets, attitudes and lifestyles have significant impacts on how we see life, perceive problems or challenges or how we relate to others.

In Ghana, most people treat regular life issues as good or bad, from “God” or the “devil”. Instead of assessing the root causes of their problems to prevent future occurrences most people believe they played no role or have no control. They blame the “devil”, “satan”, “witches” or simply attribute good experiences to God.

Normal illnesses, disabilities, unemployment, injuries, addictions, alcoholism and deaths which are all part of human experiences are perceived very differently by Ghanaians. Whatever the misfortune to a person must have been caused by the bad deeds of the person, someone from his/her family or some unknown spirit. No self assessment, reflection or personal responsibility as to the mistakes, personal choices or lifestyle that could have contributed to failures to hold onto a job, stay in school, maintain a good grade or caused his/her diabetes, stroke or addiction.

People born of deformity get attributed to spirits also without considering environmental, genetic or psycho-medical, and socioeconomic factors.

Even blatant mistakes, poor choices or bad conducts causing marital problems are attributed to some unknown persons or spirits.

Many people choose to only look at life’s problems instead of the many blessings. Others always complain about 10% negatives and ignore the 90% good experiences or fortunes. Many live in fear, and spend so much time worrying about things that haven’t even happened instead of being thankful for the moment.

People choose to criticize others always instead of correcting or helping them improve. Backbiting, backstabbing, gossiping and badmouthing others instead of encouraging, motivating or lifting them up. Some choose anger and hate over love, care and smile. Many choose to complain and remain bystanders instead of stepping to help or solve any problems.

Many fail to recognize and use their capacities but sit as helpless individuals waiting for redeemers. Many make poor choices instead of learning to make informed decisions.

In my mind, many of us have more capacities than we recognize. We can change our situations by making responsible choices. For situations or events beyond our control, a modification of our attitudes could make all the difference. Whatever your situation is, someone is worse off or yours could have been much worse than you may be experiencing.

I certainly learned so much from this gentleman as I have always done with so many others. I am hoping you learned something too.

Keep this advice in mind and apply to your circumstances and see whether it can change your perspective on life.

Best wishes,

Akosua G
Ontario, Canada
January 22, 2020