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MAPping the Future

New hope, new resolve, new normal

Year 2021 unfolds as the “unspoiled page in our book of time” now at our disposal. It comes as our next chance to objectify past lessons learned, and hopefully avoid lapses/errors as we write out “Chapter-2021” of our journey called life. The first month of the year—January—is aptly named after the Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings and doorways; of entrances and exits.

Janus bears a double-faced head so he can look back to the past while at the same time look ahead to the future. It implies the ability to readily reflect on last year’s learning. At the same time, look forward with circumspection to address the year ahead.

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New resolve

During this month, the so-called New Year’s resolution comes to mind. When taken seriously, it could gain traction in engaging the WILL to: (1) chart a fresh lease of life; (2) break away from habits that blot yesterday’s copybook; and (3) imbibe positive qualities—virtuous not vicious—to influence human nature’s natural driving forces (like ambition, impatience, self-concept, even selfishness … neutral forces essentially, writes international bestselling author Brian Tracy) and channel them to actions that edify not degrade, build not destroy, help not harm, and be a blessing to others. In the good old days, New Year’s resolution was often the subject of school compositions. Supposedly a healthy exercise to chart and attain—purposeful planning and strong self-discipline to follow health protocols, preserve order and protect our vulnerabilities.

The only redeeming factor, if at all, is the lesson COVID-19 has etched onto the human psyche—a game-changing blow awakening us to the realization: (1) how fragile life is … a mere leasehold under severely limited terms not of our choice; (2) how important are the first responders/front-liners (medical professionals, peace officers, handymen, etc.) in our lives; (3) how consumerism’s materialistic values confused our wants and needs … lowering our regard of holistic ecology; (4) how chaotic and polluted a community of undisciplined citizens can be; and (5) how meaningless is wealth and fame in the end-time.

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New normal

There is no better time than today to reckon what went wrong with humanity—with ourselves individually—to merit, if not inherit, this global tragedy … now exacting from one and all a stricter self-discipline and firmer resolve to champion the new normal and overcome the hovering insecurities and/or breakers ahead. Certainly, while breaking away from one’s “lovable idiosyncrasies” can be heartrending, adapting to well-advised conventions in the art of “better be sure than sorry” living may nonetheless be heartwarming.But how do we begin? How else, but review/reassess, perhaps in quick broad-brush-stroke, how we acted in our respective spheres of interrelated human concerns, viz: (1) on environmental governance/disaster preparedness? … were we up to expectations or rather passive and neglectful? (2) on medicinal/business policies? … fair and considerate or exploitive and profiteering? (3) on leadership quality? … inspiring and responsible or arbitrary and corrupt? (4) on individual/personal disposition? … honest and compassionate or scheming and indifferent?

In short, were we contributors to the crisis, that we must now reformat our lives’ hard-drives amid a “new operating normal” struggling under a digital-bound economy?

Adjusting to the new normal, at least on the individual/personal sphere (building blocks collectively, of a community’s culture), means recognizing and having a goal to pursue; setting the norms and alarms; writing it down (as a resolve/plan that also fulfills a psychological need); and getting started right off. In a nutshell, it may involve: (1) breaking up the whole thing to manageable milestones or small victories; (2) checking progress frequently and, constantly asking oneself what could be done differently; (3) taking courage to ask help, or possibly do the task together; (4) finding new ways to do them that make the chore light and easy.

“Psychologists have found that it is not the completion of a goal that matters, but the progress you make towards it” (“The Happiness Equation” book).Self-discipline

Discipline or “D-factor” is key to succeeding in all these. Sans D-factor one can hardly be in control … not even of one’s impulses, emotions and appetites, much less of one’s adherence to a new operating normal. Take the case of the health protocol to curb the spread of COVID-19: “Wash hands, wear mask, observe social distancing”—practices recommended to prevent spread of coronavirus and protect each others’ lives. But people simply didn’t have the mastery of self to follow health protocols notwithstanding the frightening death toll. You’ll have to call-in law-enforcers … risking possible frictions and counter blasts. And all because, in the pretext of freedom and human dignity, the self-discipline for the mind or curb for the passions are expediently sidelined … unwittingly ushering in chaos, and soon, cunning and oppression of the weak hold sway in unwanted free-for-all.

D-factor internalized, is self-control—a self imposition that translates to self-discipline over time, rendering external compulsion superfluous. (“Self-discipline functions like a muscle—the more you exercise it the stronger it gets. You need to take small steps at the start and build up from there.”) As studies have demonstrated, “people with high self-control are less likely to turn into drugs, alcohol and crime and are more likely to manage their money/life well and get along better with others” (“The Happiness Equation” book). Self-discipline is the hallmark of orderly, progressive societies.

Lamentable narrative?

Somehow, this pandemic and the recent natural calamities served us a purpose, cruel they may be. A grim reminder of the consequences when humanity loses discipline and circumvents the natural law; when “political correctness” mutes moral principles; when self-interest blots out civic duties. Example is the undisciplined exploitation of natural resources to make money, creating settlements and cities … only to be devastated by floodwaters of a vengeful nature.

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Author Robert Green Ingersoll states: “In nature, there are neither rewards nor punishments. There are only consequences!” Obviously, those shocking tragedies are consequences of standing against the hardwired standards of coexistence that underpins human nature.

Shouldn’t therefore a: (1) strong self-discipline, (2) respect of holistic ecology, (3) obedience and faith in the great lawgiver who said “Behold I Make All Things New” (Rev. 21:5), be among our compelling resolves in this new operating normal?

It would be a lamentable narrative of the actions and passions of our time if, in the end, we will no longer find the sense “to celebrate the arrival of the new year but rather our survival of the old year.” INQ

This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP. The author is management and development finance consultant; former senior executive of Land Bank of the Philippines; past president and advisory council member of the Government Association of CPAs; and past director of PICPA.

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