How to Live in the City by Hugo Macdonald

Being human is itself difficult, and therefore all kinds of settlements have problems. Big cities have difficulties in abundance, because they have people in abundance. – Jane Jacobs

This book will help guide you through challenges faced in city living. It will help you feel human in an inhuman environment. Daily commutes are unpleasant. However, with increasing populations, infrastructure services are strained to cope with the capacity. There are few books that guide you through city living and how to cope with the hustle and bustle. The author grew up in a rural environment. In the past, I thought London was a dangerous place. Cities tend to be chaotic. The pace of the place can overwhelm you. This book is for anyone that lives in a city. One needs to build a relationship with the city. This relationship must be nurtured and developed. London is my home. The city can have a thrilling effect on people. There is boundless energy about the place. There are times when you need to speed up or slow down. Learn to take responsibility for yourself. There is a growing trend of people living in cities. Money ain’t the only issue for all of your city woes. However, human values and inner peace are far more important. How do you find your place within the city? How do you build relationships with other city dwellers and a relationship with yourself? One of the chapters focuses on work/life balance. How can one give back to the city?

It is a book that seeks to share, through experience, observation and common sense, the potential for our healthy growth as humans living together in an urban environment. – Hugo Macdonald

How to Feel Your City. What does the city feel like? A part of the city can feel like poetry in motion. Shake hands with your city through understanding about about its values. Some buildings might speak to you personally. Stroke the building with your flat palms. Buildings can be responsible for energy and memory. It can be a symbolic gesture. It works better with older buildings. Rome is an especially historical place. It is normal to feel overwhelmed in a city. Sometimes, advertisements and billboards can paint a different view of the city. What does your city stand for? What are some of its qualities? What is your soul made up of? European cities all have rich histories. The American cities might feel more industrial in nature and the Asian cities feel more transient and digital. London is stoic and hard, yet modest and proud. It is important to define what your city represents. Learn to apply EQ in your relationship with the city. Find a spot you like and continue to visit it. Try to find a vantage point where it enables you to feel the heart of the city. For humans, connection to places is important. Connection to space is closely linked to landscape and nature. However, it is possible to love buildings as much as mountains too.

We must free ourselves from our tendencies to see cities as buildings and remember that the real city is made of flesh, not concrete. – Edward Glaeser

Can I be myself here? Feeling settled gives great boosts to our emotional and mental health. Do you feel settled in your neighborhood? Socially fragmented societies lead to many problems. Do you feel like a member in your community? Spend a day at a pub or coffee-shop to observe the environment in your neighborhood. There is a lot of value in passive watching. Street signages say a lot about the city. These might be calls to action but usually are calls to halt. No one likes to feel insignificant or that they don’t matter. Realize that your neighbours can be fun. Slowly, you will grow to love the place. You can talk to the people around you or even sign up for classes/community initiatives. Learn to make a routine. Humans are creatures of habit. Having a routine is important when you are living in a city. It helps one to establish order. There is a beauty and art of slowing down. This helps to generate calm and beauty. Daily rituals can be very important and valuable indeed. However, do not set too inflexible a schedule as well. Sometimes, do something spontaneous. Break your routine in a tactful manner.

Am I missing out? Do you know the latest happenings in the city? Do you feel left out? The fact is that there are too activities happening at once. One needs to be confident in your decision making. There is no need to listen to peer pressure. Plan ahead and plot things in your calendar. Cities can be dangerous as well. Keep to places where there are more people. Exercise common sense and be vigilant to keep yourself safe from trouble. Foster your own feelings of safety. Build connections with others in your neighborhood. The problem with living in cities is the dirty air around us. Use a napkin or tissue when you sneeze. Germs are everywhere in a city. It is important to tolerate the behaviors of others.

Have confidence in your choices: make sure that they reflect who you are, and what you enjoy. Don’t succumb to peer pressure, or let yourself become a wingman in someone else’s experience of city life. – Hugo Macdonald

How to conduct relationships? We are social creatures. What is public? What is private? Learn to master the art of being alone. In a crowded city, your privacy is at risk since others are so close to you. Sometimes, by accident, you might also find out about someone else’s life. The boundaries of what is private and public have slackened much. Surveillance is also a big issue nowadays. There are many CCTVs abound. Cities are about the people. Relationships with the food server or service staff is very important indeed and must not be overlooked. Learn to smile and greet others around you. A good neighborhood is rooted and everyone is warm towards one another. Everybody has a part to play. A neighborhood is basically a collection of stories and places. The fact is that in a modern society, people interact less with one another. Sometimes, this depends on the culture where you are in. Loneliness has repercussions on your health and well-being. If you practice a hobby in the open, chances are that people will notice and start talking and complimenting you. It is important to have friends in the city. You are never too old to make friends. There will definitely be things where you can connect with someone. Learn to connect people socially and professionally. However, do not give all your time away. Daily city life is exhausting. Be there for your friends. You need to feed your friendship in order for it to grow. People are too buried in their smart-phones nowadays. We create false personas online and we have difficulty meeting those images of ourselves. Sometimes, it is good to be in a relationship as it can calm you down. One can feel lonely in a crowd. You need to spend time with yourself. Is technology truly a good thing? Are you living your life through your phone? Once in a while, you will find that leaving your phone behind can be a good thing.

It’s about being aware, being alert and taking responsibility for situations. If you find someone lost, ask them if they need help. If you see or sense that someone is in distress, don’t leave it up to someone else to step up – chances are, a hundred others have had the same response before you. Be the rock against the flood. – Hugo Macdonald

Advice on how to make friends: Do things. Join things. Sign up and share parts of your life with others. If you hide yourself and your feelings behind too many projections or personas, you won’t attract playmates that connect with you genuinely are. – Hugo Macdonald

Sign up for something with a friend. And if you meet someone you find interesting, be brave and initiate the offer of a date. It takes two to tango, but it always takes one person to ask another to dance. Don’t sit and wait. – Hugo Macdonald

The most important relationship you must nurture in the city is the one you have with yourself. It is fundamental to your mental, physical, social and emotional well-being. If you don’t work at finding peace with yourself, then it will be extremely difficult to form relationships with others. – Hugo Macdonald

How to be hard and soft. Can we slow down? What is work-life balance? Nowadays, people want to work to live and not live to work. They are more concerned with their work and the contribution to society. More and more people are looking for meaningful work to fill their time. Money and status are not everything nowadays. However, people are working very long hours nowadays. It is crucial to come to terms with your work, your life. The joy is about finding the right balance between work and play. Stress can be contagious in a city environment. However, stress can be channeled into something positive. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Be strong and attractive. Ask for advice from your networks. The key is not to moan at your own current situation and wallow in self-pity. Write down your list of anxieties as that will make you feel better. Ask yourself what small changes you can make to your lifestyle. Take on a new direction of work at your workplace. Write down a plan of how to move forward. Boredom is also another problem people face in their daily lives. Feeling bored means disengaging. However, it can be useful sometimes. The problem with cities is that they can be over-stimulating and this can be exhausting for the individual. These voids of time can be indeed energizing for your body. It is okay to take rest sometimes so as not to allow your body to be physically and mentally burnt out. Learn to have extra-curricular interests. Make time for the things you love doing. Good public spaces make for happier residents. Learn to be engaged and responsive. Talk to people and even consider volunteering in public spaces. It is important to cherish eating out together. Introduce yourself to the world of food. Instead of drinking excessively, look for support groups around you. Take positive steps to take care of your well-being, your mind and your soul.

Experience is simply the name men give to their mistakes. – Oscar Wilde

Learning, mastering and practicing something extra-curricular is an opportunity to explore depth, not skim across the surface. Do something with the intention of getting good at it. Do it because you genuinely want to do it, not because you feel you should or because it’s something to talk about that makes you interesting. – Hugo Macdonald

The rhythm of the street through its daytime ebb and flow was a thing of immense beauty; it is a street that feeds people. It’s primal. It is an ancient rhythm played out in streets in cities throughout history the world over. – Hugo Macdonald

How to Move and Be Still. Are you going the right way? City life is mobile and always on the go. How do you embrace the humdrum of the city? Most people dislike commuting. We feel like cogs in a machine. Sometimes, a longer commute is better as you will get to experience the sights of the city. The key is to be happy during your commute. Get up early and visit your favorite coffee place. Being alert takes practice. Listen to the urban environment and not your phone. Different cultures play a part during your commute. Do not be over-reliant on your phone for the GPS. Not all those who wander are lost. Sometimes, you can find gems when you are lost. Being late is an epidemic. Being early suggests that you are in control of the situation. When you are early, you give yourself time to think and to digest your thoughts. When you are late, you feel stressed and worried. Pavements are the heart of the city. It is possible to read the pavements and the life in them. You must be present in the moment. Be curious and pay close attention to your environment. There is certainly value in how others go about their daily lives. There is a wealth of knowledge in taxi drivers. Be prepared for emergencies by ensuring that you have enough gadgets or accessories with you. Exercise in the city and feel its heartbeat. Never let procrastination get in the way of exercise. You can feel euphoric when cycling.

Think of the history in some of the buildings or streets you pass through. It’s humbling to consider that you are but one life among many that have trod these paths, past and present. Feel the significance in that. Plug yourself into your urban environment, not your phone. – Hugo Macdonald

A commute can also be the perfect opportunity to digest your thoughts. Finding headspace in the city is tough and our commute is a precious daily chunk that we have to ourselves. It helps us to park thoughts, decisions or struggles that require active thinking about and save them for a commute when you can give them focused attention. – Hugo Macdonald

You are never really lost in the city. But feeling lost is a good thing to succumb to occasionally. It encourages us to explore in a way that we don’t often allow ourselves time to do, given that we are so busy and time is so precious. And through exploring, we discover things. – Hugo Macdonald

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. Thus if one just keeps walking, everything will be alright. – Soren Kierkegaard

How to Give Back and Grow. Am I part of the city? We need to be responsible for our city. It is important to see what role you play in your city. Learn to make your voice heard in the city. Keep a routine and then make time for yourself and stay in control. You can give back by starting a book club etc. Find empty spaces and create culture. Consider what your strengths and interests are so that you can determine how best to contribute back to the society. Join a march for a common cause. Terrorism has indeed shocked our shores greatly. We experienced British stoicism in the face of the 2005 bombings in London. Learn to explore your own town and act like a tourist in your own town. Every attraction is rich with history and experiences. We all need breaks once in a while. A day trip is great for recharging. Weekend breaks are more about discovery. Longer holidays are something great to look forward to. Take stock of your achievements and what you want to do in future. Write down your goals/ambitions and ensure you commit to them wholeheartedly. Ultimately, it is important to be human and soak in the city’s vibrancy and life.

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