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(For reading in Chinese, please scroll down to the end of the English text.)

(For international readers, allow me to explain: I am an American but I have lived in China since 2004. My city of Chongqing, often abbreviated as CQ, is pronounced Chong Ching to rhyme with Wrong Ring. CQ is a megacity of 30 million people in south-central China, on the Yangtze River near the Three Gorges Dam.)

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May 2020: As we emerge from our winter/spring of fear, uncertainty, and death, we are adjusting to a “new normal”. Forget the old normal; much of it will be gone in the wake of the pandemic. For a few examples…

1) I have a friend, my son’s kindergarten teacher, with whom we have stayed in contact. For many weeks now, she has been marooned in Thailand. Not a bad place to be marooned, in my opinion, but it is still discouraging not to be free to travel… or to return home. Her winter holiday trip has been extended indefinitely because of required self-isolation after she arrived, canceled flights, and intergovernmental finger-pointing. In addition to the frustration, expense, and lack of control over her own life currently, she expects a mandatory 14-21 day quarantine when she returns home and finally steps off the plane – maybe in August. Maybe. Still think international travel is glamorous?

2) Another friend traveled to America for medical treatment. He was caught in the pandemic lockdown and is uncertain when he will be able to return home. His wife accompanied him. He recently told me that his wife needs to return to her job but travel arrangements are complicated by the same factors hindering my Thailand-stuck teacher friend. Additionally, “Her Visa runs Out June 4, … filed for an extension ($444). But the government office is so backed up… When she called, they said not to worry, they were 6-9 months behind.”

3) My niece, a doctor in America who works with Covid-19 patients, told me in March that her hospital had a critical shortage of masks. At the time, she had only one mask which she had to clean each night and wear again the next day. I immediately shipped her a package of surgical masks, paying the expensive, 7/10-day delivery rate. Because of fewer flights and less cooperation between countries, the package took 54 days to arrive.

Photo by Nils Nedel on Unsplash

In the past, did you ever daydream about traveling to many countries around the world? You never expected that to become a dangerous lifestyle, did you? Bet you didn’t think that you could travel to another country… only to be met with suspicion and even hostility, and seen as a potential virus carrier. It certainly makes wandering the globe less attractive, doesn’t it? As for jobs that require extensive travel, they will probably come with hazardous duty bonuses in the future. Even with the extra pay, it may be hard to find qualified people willing to take those jobs.  

Sad, sad, sad. And those are only a few examples. But not all the changes are negative.

Many things from our past idea of “normal” have suddenly become quite dated due to the pandemic. International travel is only one example. The Good News: Some concepts from pre-pandemic times are still very applicable. Good ideas are virus-proof. I hope the best elements from earlier times will be retained. Moreover, the changes we are forced to accept – perhaps short-term, perhaps indefinitely, perhaps forever – also include some splendid new opportunities.

Read this archived article from June 2018 and see how much of the concept is still relevant in our new era – maybe more than ever. It’s called evergreen because it doesn’t go out of date.

The concept of reinventing yourself seems to be a popular topic in recent years. Perhaps this is a reflection of the general unhappiness many people are experiencing currently. Or maybe this is a timeless human trait: After we have met the minimum conditions for survival, we begin to look around and ask ourselves if there might be a better way to live our life. This post explores changing our habitual way of thinking, a precondition for reinventing our life.

For most people reading this, recent advances in technology and the increased discretionary time brought about by those advances, mean that we live in an environment rich in opportunities for taking our life in new directions. Internet access allows us to digitally observe lifestyles around the globe and realize that we are not limited to the roles available in our immediate physical environment.

However, the very first step in the reinvention process doesn’t require moving to a new time zone as I did. It doesn’t even require a coach, a role model, or a self-help book. If you are deeply discontented, living what Thoreau called a life of “quiet desperation”, the very first step to reinvent your life is to change your thinking.

This comes before any clarification and focusing on the exact physical changes. It comes before any classes or online courses, and before detailed planning and gathering of resources. This rethinking comes before the studying and staging, before the first action steps, and before any announcements or commitments. It even comes before you make the conscious decision to change. All those things are part of the process but the very first step of reinventing yourself is to recognize that it is possible for you to make such a change, that you are not stuck forever where you are now. This epiphany marks the beginning of rethinking. First you change your thinking; then you change how you live your life.

In a prehistoric hunter-gatherer society, group-think was enforced and useful. Following the crowd was wise, even essential. Individuals did, after all, depend upon being accepted by the family or tribe or clan. They needed the group for protection from a hostile environment. There was a definite risk in breaking the tribal norms. It was more than just lonely if you were cast out of the group; it was dangerous to be alone in the woods.

But those societies were rather static; doing things the same old way carried very little downside. Modern technology had not yet appeared to create wide gaps between those who used technology and those who refused to adopt the changes technology brought. Until fairly modern times, the king and the beggar both depended on a simple fire for staying warm; they both walked or rode a horse for getting places. The differences between them were hardly measurable.

In today’s world, that gap is very real and is rapidly getting wider. You may master the latest apps available on your smartphone or see the amazing boosts in effectiveness brought about by utilizing artificial intelligence. But, while you are benefiting from all the possibilities available today, you may be standing next to someone who is still confounded by operating an elevator. Even with the efforts to make apps foolproof, if you are to truly utilize the technology, you must learn to use it effectively. Artificial intelligence cannot provide answers to help you if you don’t know how to ask questions.

It is true that you cannot force someone to think; you cannot make people consider the consequences of their actions or become aware of all the possibilities open to them. But, that is the nameless herd; there is no excuse for you as an individual not initiating changes in your own life. If you get cast out into the cold and dark woods, you will find other individuals there to join for mutual support and protection.

If you never examine your habitual way of thinking, you cannot change your habits. If you fail to open your eyes to see new and improved ways of doing things, you will never take the first step in reinventing yourself. The process doesn’t begin with a physical relocation; it starts with thinking… or, rather, rethinking.

So, where are you on this path of reinventing yourself? And, what is holding you back?

Photo by Rana Sawalha on Unsplash

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重新发明意味着反思

2020年5月。当我们从恐惧、不确定性和死亡的冬天/春天中走出来时,我们正在适应 “新常态”。忘掉旧常态吧;在这场大流行病之后,大部分的常态都将消失。举几个例子……

1)我有一个朋友,是我儿子的幼儿园老师,我们一直保持着联系。已经有好几个星期了,她一直在泰国流放。在我看来,被流放的地方并不是什么坏事,但不能自由出行………..或者说不能回国,还是让人心灰意冷。她的寒假旅行,因为到了泰国后被要求自我封闭,航班取消,政府间的指手画脚,让她的寒假旅行无限期延长。除了目前的无奈、开销和无法控制自己的生活之外,她预计,当她回国后终于下飞机时,还将面临14-21天的强制隔离期–也许是8月份吧。也许吧。还觉得国际旅行很有魅力?

2)另一位朋友去美国旅游看病。他陷入了疫情封锁,不知道何时能回国。他的妻子陪同他去了。他最近告诉我,他的妻子需要回国工作,但旅行安排很复杂,因为同样的因素阻碍了我这位泰国籍的教师朋友。此外,”她的签证6月4日到期,………..申请延期(444美元)。但政府的办公室很麻烦………..当她打电话给他们时,他们说不用担心,他们已经晚了6-9个月了。”

3)我的侄女是一位在美国工作的医生,她在3月份告诉我,她的医院的口罩严重短缺。当时,她只有一个口罩,每天晚上要清洗干净,第二天再戴上。我立即给她寄了一包手术口罩,付了昂贵的7/10天的快递费,给她送去了。因为航班少,国家之间的合作少,所以包裹用了54天才到。

过去,你有没有做过白日梦,想去世界上很多国家旅行?你没有想过那会成为一种危险的生活方式吧?想必你也没有想到,去到另一个国家旅行……只会被人怀疑甚至是敌视,被视为潜在的病毒携带者。这肯定会让你在全球范围内游荡的时候没有什么吸引力,不是吗?至于那些需要大量旅行的工作,将来可能会有危险工作的奖金。即使有了额外的工资,可能也很难找到合格的人愿意接受这些工作。

可悲,可悲,可悲。而这些只是几个例子。但并非所有的变化都是负面的。

我们过去认为 “正常 “的很多东西,在这场大流行病的影响下,突然间变得相当过时。国际旅行只是一个例子。好消息是:”好消息”。大流行病前的一些概念仍然非常适用。好的理念是防病毒的。我希望能保留早期时代最好的元素。此外,我们被迫接受的变化–也许是短期的,也许是无限期的,也许是永远的–也包括一些精彩的新机遇。

阅读2018年6月的这篇存档文章,看看这个概念在我们的新时代里还有多少是有意义的–也许比以往任何时候都更有意义。它之所以被称为常青,是因为它不会过时。

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近几年来,”重塑自我 “的概念似乎是一个热门话题。也许这反映了当前很多人普遍存在的不幸福感。又或许这是人类的一种永恒的特质。当我们满足了最低限度的生存条件后,我们开始环顾四周,问自己是否有更好的生活方式。本帖探讨的是改变我们的习惯性思维方式,这是重塑生活的前提条件。

对于大多数读到这篇文章的人来说,最近科技的进步和这些进步带来的自由支配时间的增加,意味着我们生活在一个充满机会的环境中,可以将我们的生活推向新的方向。互联网的接入使我们能够以数字方式观察全球各地的生活方式,并意识到我们并不局限于眼前的物理环境中的角色。

然而,重塑过程中的第一步不需要像我一样搬到一个新的时区。它甚至不需要一个教练、一个榜样或一本自助书。如果你深感不满,过着梭罗所说的 “安静绝望 “的生活,那么重塑人生的第一步就是改变你的思维。

这是在任何澄清和专注于确切的身体变化之前。在任何课程或在线课程之前,在详细的规划和资源收集之前,它就已经到来了。这种重新思考是在学习和分期之前,在第一个行动步骤之前,在任何宣布或承诺之前。甚至在你有意识地做出改变的决定之前,它就已经出现了。所有这些事情都是过程的一部分,但重塑自己的第一步是认识到你有可能做出这样的改变,你不会永远停留在你现在的位置上。这个顿悟标志着重新思考的开始。首先,你要改变你的思维;然后你要改变你的生活方式。

在史前的猎人-采集者社会里,群体思维是强制的,也是有用的。跟着人群走是明智的,甚至是必要的。毕竟,个人确实依赖于被家庭或部落或氏族所接受。他们需要群体来保护自己不受敌对环境的影响。违反部落规范是有一定风险的。如果你被赶出群体,那就不仅仅是孤独了;在森林里独自一人是很危险的。

但那些社会是相当静态的;以老一套的方式做事,几乎没有什么坏处。现代技术还没有出现,在使用技术的人和拒绝接受技术带来的变化的人之间造成了巨大的差距。在相当近代之前,国王和乞丐都依靠简单的火炉取暖;他们都是靠走路或骑马来取暖。他们之间的差异几乎无法衡量。

在今天的世界里,这种差距是非常真实的,而且正在迅速扩大。你可能掌握了智能手机上的最新应用,也可能看到了利用人工智能所带来的效率的惊人提升。但是,当你从今天的所有可能性中受益的时候,你可能正站在一个人的身边,而这个人可能还在为操作电梯而感到困惑。即使努力让APP万无一失,但如果你要真正利用这项技术,你必须学会有效地使用它。如果你不知道如何提问,人工智能是无法提供答案来帮助你的。

诚然,你不能强迫别人去思考;你不能让人考虑他们的行为的后果,也不能让人意识到所有的可能性。但是,那是无名的羊群;作为个体的你没有任何借口不主动改变自己的生活。如果你被投到冰冷黑暗的树林里,你会发现有其他的个体在那里加入,相互支持和保护。

如果你从不审视你的习惯性思维方式,你就无法改变你的习惯。如果你不能睁开眼睛去看新的、改进的做事方式,你永远不会迈出重塑自己的第一步。这个过程不是从身体上的搬迁开始,而是从思考开始………..或者说,重新思考。

那么,你在这条重塑自我的道路上处于什么位置?是什么在阻碍着你呢?

One Reply to “Reinventing Means Rethinking”

  1. Hi Randy, glad to read your new blog.
    Last year, I thought it was the bottom of my life, cause I quit my job, changed city, broke up with my boyfriend, and has a small operation. At that time, I thought it was the darkest and lowest bottom of my life.
    But I was wrong, the day before yesterday, my mother was diagnosed as a schizophrenic….She run away from home, and my father and I had to search for her, she became abnormal and horrible. Life is like a joke, when I looked back,I found that it’s not the lowest bottom of my life, it was just about job, love. But now, it was my mother, my family, and my life.
    I am afraid about the heredity of this diseases, and I am afraid about my mothers’ crazy action and words. The only lucky point is that, I’ve grow up and I can give a little economic support for my family. Hope everything will be better, and now I know it won’t be the lowest bottom of my life, I will face more worse problems in the future.
    My favorite novel is Gone With the Wind, Scarlet inspired me a lot. When she returned Tara, she thought she can load her burden and her parents will protect her. But then she found her mother died and her father was crazy, her girlhood just finished and she became a strong woman. Literature give me strength, hope I can be a strong woman and carry the burden.
    Best wishes,
    Bonnie

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