Why it’s so important to focus on what we have, not what we don’t have.
BY GREG DOLMAN
My spelling of GR8FUL originated when I was playing around on the Personalised Plates website some years ago. I was looking at the possibility of obtaining 4TUNE8 number plates, but they were already gone. Then GR8FUL popped into my head. They were available, so I purchased them, and they are still mine to this day!
My GR8FUL journey began around 12 years ago. I was just living my life, a pretty good existence (or so I thought). Then I took a phone call from my father in November 2003 that pulled my head into gear and made me review a fair portion of my life.
My father had been having some health issues with his breath. Dad was a builder, divorced from my mum for some years. He was always a pretty physical guy who looked after himself by moving his body with his fairly heavy physical workload and by eating a balanced diet.
The first sign of any breathing issue was about six months before our November phone call when he was walking to the shops to get some groceries. It was an uphill 25-minute walk, and Dad had to stop for a breather. Strange, he thought at the time, but after a short rest, he continued his journey to the shops and back home without any drama.
Another couple of months later, Dad was pulled over by a random breath test unit and instructed to blow into the breath analyser three times. The testing officer told Dad to blow harder, to which he responded, “I am blowing as hard as I can!” Finally, on the fourth go, Dad got a reading.
This experience proved that something wasn’t right. Dad did the appropriate tests over the next couple of weeks, and the end result was that he had mesothelioma or asbestos poisoning. Two-thirds of his left lung was already taken over by this aggressive disease.
His doctor told him that he had 12 months or so left. My dad lasted six months, and to watch a man who weighed around 90 kilograms for as long as I had known him to seemingly disappear to under 70 kilograms was very hard.
The mortality rate of this disease is very high. There are some who have survived a period of time with mesothelioma (up to nine years), but for most it is a very quick and ugly race to their death.
It was from this point on that my life took a really drastic turn to being GR8FUL for what I have and not worrying about what I don’t have.
At that time, I was training pretty hard at the gym with weights, and if I had an expectation of doing a particular exercise with a certain weight, I was expected to do it. If I didn’t do it, then I would drag myself across the coals for not doing it.
Throughout my dad’s illness, especially when he was in hospital, I was in the company of many other cancer sufferers. I met people younger than me, the same age as me and older than me. The thing that they all spoke about was everything they wished they had done more of during their times of good health. Things such as spending more time with loved ones, whether it be family or friends.
Dad said to me, “You have a bucket load of health and you take it for granted.” And he was right! Here I was kicking myself over not being able to do a particular exercise with a particular weight, and the guy in the hospital room next door to my dad’s couldn’t get out of bed. I felt like I’d had a big slap across my face with a bloody big fish. It was what I needed.
When I was talking to these people who had days or weeks left to live, it was the simple things that brought them joy. Things such as sitting in the sun, just talking to loved ones or getting out of bed, to name a few. These people, along with my dad, all made me realise that I was taking everything for granted.
Suddenly, the things I was previously stressing about became nothing to me. I developed my theory about stress, which consists of the controllable and noncontrollable. If it’s controllable, then do something about it. If the stress is noncontrollable, then let it play its course.
My training too took a whole new approach. After getting out of bed every day, everything has to be a bonus. Any dramas that the day may bring, I would tackle one at a time and work through what I could. My workouts just flowed without any expectation whatsoever.
I was GR8FUL for the fact that I was actually able to go to the gym. I was GR8FUL for having the health to allow me to train. All of a sudden, my whole attitude to all areas of my life began to flow and change. This was the beginning of my holistic approach to not only training, but also life in general.
My dad’s death, and the period leading up to it, was a very sad time; however, in the years following his death, many good aspects have appeared because of what my dad has taught me in life — and in death.
No one, in my experience, has ever said on their deathbed, “Gee, I wish I could have worked harder” or “had a bigger house” or “had more money”. These are the things that we (most of us anyway) tend to stress about rather than focusing on what is right in front of us.
It’s the simple things in life that we all need to put our energy into, focusing on what we currently have and not what we don’t have. My GR8FUL number plates are a constant reminder of what is important in my life — and what is not.
If you find yourself in a place of stress, focus on that first point of whether it’s worth stressing about or not — of whether it’s controllable. Then focus on all the good people you have around you, and allow them to assist you with your challenge.
One of my dad’s favourite sayings was, “We are only as good as our weakest point”. Once we identify what our weakest point is, and for some this itself is a hard thing to do, then we need to work on making it a strength until another weak point arises, which then also needs to be strengthened.
This process is forever evolving, just like the rest of our body is on all levels. It’s a bit like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge: just when you think you’re finished, there is another area ready for a refresh.
How to be GR8FUL
- Focus on what’s important in your life.
- Work to live; don’t live to work.
- Spend quality time with loved ones.
- Follow your passion.
- Enjoy the simple things in life.
- Don’t take your health, and your loved ones, for granted.