at home in... w| Gerald Zhang-Schmidt

Look Closer, Learn More, #GetAtHome In This World

Tag: better lives Page 1 of 2

The Chance of a Better Normality

There is a complementary opposite to how the really hard thing to do is changing what’s normal (for you, in your life), a logical conclusion that follows from the challenge of (creating) a better-normal life: the useful normality of a better life.

That is, where it is the hardest to change things for the better in normal life, making a normal life one’s better life may well not be all that hard.

What it takes are two things, the mindset and the doing.

Try and Think this Way…

There are very popular ideas focusing on the mental side of creating a better life.
Only too many of them are nothing but “mental” in the worst sense of the word.

Only because you want something, it will not happen.
No matter how much you desire it, no matter how often you write down what you want each and every day, it will not come.
Neither your attitude nor your best of intentions will change things auto-magically.

Mindset still matters, though.

It will help to see the problems that are holding you back not as insurmountable obstacles and shackles that will never let you live better, but as challenges to overcome and grow by.

See that as a part of design thinking, consider it a gameful attitude, work on it as part of a growth mindset – think of it however you want to think of it.

Not in the sense that it doesn’t matter, but in the sense of choosing what works for you, from those things that have been shown to actually work.

Or choose something to try out, at least; it’s all just different labels for a similar approach focused on the potential to learn and grow rather than remain mired in the thought that there’s nothing you could do, after all.

…and, Walk This Way

Then, however, there’s also how you’ll have to do something – and as the proof is in the pudding, so the change is in the doing.

When it’s all about the challenge of changing a current normality to the normality of a better life, however, maybe things are not all that difficult.
After all, then, you don’t have to change everything immediately and to great extent.

The first thing you have to do, more simply, is to accept your mission, take on the challenge, take small steps in the direction in which you want to go.

Better-normal challenges:

  • Clean up, get organized, seek ways to stay organized.
  • Eat “clean,” staying away from ready-made “foods” (not to mention serious junk foods) and going for whole ingredients and/in self-cooked meals.
  • Move more, walking and taking the stairs whenever you can avoid the car and the escalator/elevator.

These are just the kinds of things that are such small steps that they are hard to do, for they sound too easy and too small for the grand results we’d like to have, and have at once. But, they are also the practices that have good long-term effects.

Tricking Your Normal

These things may just be hard enough to do that we commonly fail, just as we do when we make a new year’s resolution to, well, be more organized, eat more healthily (let alone, lose weight), or visit the gym regularly.

So, it may still take some tricks.

And again, it’s a matter of normality and of what works for you:

Small Steps…

You may be the person for whom a small change, a nudge, works best.

Get a FitBit or similar step counter (or Google Fit on your smartphone, if you carry that around enough) and play with hitting a “good” count.

Figure out where you can put what so the things you always use have their place and get put there.
Slowly get into the habit of seeing where what should go, taking it from there before you go out and putting it back there as part of the routine of returning home.

Start taking the time and trying out things, from the produce aisle, in the kitchen.

… Or A Leap

Or maybe you need a more radical step.

Go cold turkey on the junk food you love too much, keep it out of the house, and have better alternatives you also like at the ready.

Follow a clean-up program and throw out everything you haven’t been using for too long, then figure out the proper places for the rest.

Probably, you’re still thinking that this is just too little – and too hard – to have a great effect , but it’s not about an immediate great effect, it’s about making the normal better.

Better Normal, Not Harder You

In being about making the normal better, it’s not about being harder on yourself.

Somehow, we so love to be hard on ourselves, thinking that this is what it takes (just look at CrossFit or at the way UnderArmour advertises itself, even if as part of a focus on the practice it does take indeed).

Yet, it hardly ever works out. Instead, why not focus on taking our needs and our limits more seriously, with empathy – and including with empathy for the steps we may have to take to trick ourselves into a better normal.

Also, don’t try to change everything because you hate your life, your looks, whatever.

Try to just move towards the life, and the self, you think you’ll love – not because it is the great dream presented by others (and above all, by marketing that just wants you to hate yourself and buy stuff to make up for it).

Rather, because you can see it’s good: a sense of control over your life, because you handle its basics well-enough, experiences (and experiments) that are nice and interesting and help you get to new places, be that in running or in trying out new foods, in travel or in the armchair.

Living the Forever that Could End Any Moment

How do you make yourself at home in a world that seems, if only you watch the news, bent on your destruction?

Start to think about life and death, and – even in a year that was, statistically, the best for the greatest number of people – it is death that has the upper hand. It is death that is normal and everywhere, caring little what we do.

Life is a fickle thing.

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Performing Magic, Bought in Products?

For all the complaints about our dull lives, we still find a lot of magic – in the marketing of products. What about active living and exploratory lifestyles, though?

snappy-dresserAs I stand here, in blazer and pants made of a softshell material, promising comfort and a cool look, performance and a certain classiness, writing on a shiny notebook delivering great performance in a thin chassis, I am only too well aware that this is something of a performance.

Even if it is just for myself, it is an attempt at projecting a certain image and taking on its attributes. It’s close to notions of sympathetic magic, only that it’s not a voodoo doll being poked, it’s me myself being dressed up for work.

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The Adventure Race of Reality

Tough Mudder, The Spartan, and so many more – adventure/obstacle course races have been gaining in popularity and become a great market.

Even trail and ultra running often seem not to be enough by and of themselves any longer. No, it must be done everywhere, jetting around the world to experience more exciting places, participate in better-known races – and producing the  side-effects of the everyday ruinous lifestyle.

At the start in Umag

Start of the 100 Miles of Istria – which was at least somewhat local and of reduced impact…

Running alone has apparently become boring, and it goes the way of so many activities in recent times: towards ever greater action and ever more adrenaline.

People keep falling for such highly-regarded races. Such great challenges, so many world-class runners, all the fun obstacles, the stamina it takes to finish – the very real stupidity behind them is quickly overlooked in all the quick excitement.

“Civilized life has altogether grown too tame, and, if it is to be stable, it must provide harmless outlets for the impulses which our remote ancestors satisfied in hunting.” Bertrand Russell

Of course, it is mean to say so. Why not let people have fun the way they want to?
But that constant permissiveness is part and parcel of the attitude we increasingly follow, the attitude that we’ll just do whatever we can, because we can, ever-faster chasing after ever-more of the same, ever-more-exciting and ever-more-promising but ultimately dissatisfying experiences.
Because they are dissatisfying, we just try to increase the dose, like rats in the cage, pushing the lever that gives them stimulation, faster and faster, more and more.

Even as we can hear more and more on how happiness is in the mind, how our attitudes supposedly determine everything, how we just need to stay positive to “attract” whatever we want in our lives, we don’t work on the only thing that can really give happiness: a better handle on our lives in this world, understanding how things are, living well and truly, with engagement and the excitement – and calm – it brings.

No, we create more and mightier fake obstacles to pile excitement onto something that would give us  all we could want from it, if only we learned to experience it as it is.

Being in this world, moving through it with our bodies and observing it with our minds, seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, touching, comparing over time… – it all would give quite enough, if only we learned to be fully here and now rather than let ourselves get drawn into the constant whirring of the machinery that produces ever more fake excitement for senses that are ever-more dulled by this very same machinery.


Having a buzzard fake-attack you, running through ever changing landscapes… Adventure enough, if only it’s seen.

But, it’s a business, it makes money, it spins out great marketing, so it must be just as great as it says, right?

Are you ready for the ultimate challenge? The greatest adventure?

No, if you fall for the constant spin, you clearly are not. Because the ultimate adventure is life itself, purposefully lived and skillfully ‘performed’, without all the fakery.

If you want more excitement/adventure in your life, quit buying into the fake excitements, the virtual adventures, so that you make room again for the real adventure all around you!

The Off-Season of Life?

Cold outside, uncomfortable, few if any races on the schedule…. the running season is over, the discussion on runner’s websites seems to have switched to either how to stay fit during this time of holiday stress and festive overeating, or what to plan for next year.

The talk is of the off-season.

How, though, can there be an off-season to running when running is a part of life?

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