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Wednesday, June 19, 2024


"We can only make the correct choices if we truly understand the situation."

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It’s the middle of May and summer is clearly here. In the Philippines, days are growing longer and warmer. But with the second wave of the pandemic still upon us, vacations are off the table for most people. The prolonged crisis is taking its toll on many of us.

Closer to home, I just finished teaching a course on life planning to our entrepreneurship students and much of our discussion focused on happiness. It is a tough topic for discussion for everyone these days, especially so for entrepreneurs who are hard hit by the economic consequences of both the pandemic, and the lockdowns and limited mobility that are the primary means of controlling transmission.

In a very real sense, we are in an in-between phase. In March of 2020, the government hit the pause button in our lives. Many things have changed but we are still, in many ways, living in a state of suspension.


In the course on life planning, we always say that life planning is like corporate strategy. This is an especially important thing to say to entrepreneurs, who are often immersed in the day-to-day, who find it hard enough to find to time strategize for their businesses, never mind their personal lives.

Like corporate strategy, life planning is essentially about figuring out how to attain goals. Individuals have many answers to the question of personal goals, but one thing is common. Virtually everyone wants to be happy. And much like corporate strategy, we begin with some basic questions. Who am I? Where do I want to be? Where am I now? How do I get from where I am now to where I want to be? How do I move forward?

We ask the who are you question because happiness means different things to different people. Even more importantly, we have personal situations and even traits that are tough to change, and which we may not want to change. We take these as givens. We then make a list of things that are important to us. In class, we recommend the creation of a personal mission, vision and values statement. This helps create focus and helps students move to the next question. Where do you want to be? What are your personal goals?

Once we finish that question, then we move on to an analysis of the current reality so that we can move to the actual plan, how to move forward towards our goals.


What most of us have in common is that we are all living in a pandemic.

In 2020, right after collectively hitting the pause button, we were consumed by finding ways to deal with the crisis. At that point, little was known about COVID-19 and there was still optimism that the crisis might end before the end of 2020. As the pandemic progressed and we learned more, we came to realize that the crisis would last longer. Vaccines, it was agreed, would be the answer. In the meantime, we would all need to hunker down to control transmission.

As lockdowns pushed down transmission and the vaccine rollout began, our spirits lifted. Lower numbers encouraged governments to reduce restrictions on gathering and mobility. These reductions were also aimed at addressing economic concerns. With reduced restrictions and lifted spirits, some individuals began to normalize their lives, which also meant riskier behavior. Across the world, second and third waves of transmission surged.

In Metro Manila, the situation is neither great nor terrible. While daily new cases are down to about 7,000 from a peak of over 10 ,000, they are still significantly higher than the peak of the first wave, when 7-day averages for daily new cases hovered in the 4,000 to 5,000 range. Even more worrisome, total active cases are still over 50,000. Thankfully, positivity ratios are now down to about 12 percent, which means that we are likely not missing too many cases. Vaccine rollout is slow but improving, and vaccine shipments are coming in.

News from the world is not any better. New COVID-19 surges are being reported in many countries, but it is the crisis in India that consumes headlines worldwide. It is a human crisis of epic proportions in the second most populous country in the world. In India, over a million people test positive for COVID every four days and over 10,000 die every two days. And this is only the official numbers. There are indications that both are significantly underestimated. The crisis in India is not just about COVID-19 prevalence and transmission, it is about a collapsing hospital sector. In India, home to the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, the crisis has become less about vaccination and control, it has become about survival. Across India, people are dying because there is no oxygen available for treatment. India is a stark reminder of how bad choices can result in disaster.

In the Seychelles, a country that has vaccinated over 60 percent of its population (with a combination of Sinopharm ad Covishield), making it the most vaccinated country in the world, daily new cases have doubled in a week and 37 percent of new cases are those that have had two doses. None of those fully vaccinated have died but the Seychelles experience shows that 60 percent vaccination is not enough to build herd immunity. Seychelles gives us information.

Some good news comes out of Serrana in Brail, a small town that has vaccinated over 95 percent of its adult population with Sinovac’s Coronavac. As a second wave consumes the rest of the country, deaths and new cases are plunging in Serrana. This town gives us hope.


In class last week, we discussed the challenges of working to keep a business afloat during a pandemic. We discussed the challenges of balancing family, business, and self-care when business survival also means keeping the future safe for employees and their families. As the course ended, no one came to any grand insights concerning the pandemic nor business survival. What they did end with though was a renewed feeling of hope, peace and inspiration.

There is a calm that comes from identifying what is truly important and realizing that our happiness relies on much simpler things, time spent with family, the love of our children. There is a sense of hope that comes with releasing the pressures we put on ourselves. There is inspiration that can come from realizing that we can share this peace and hope with those around us.

What it all boils down to is choices. There are many things we can do and many things we can worry about. We cannot solve all the problems in the world. Let us choose what to work on and how to help. Let us make very conscious choices of how to spend our time and attention. Saying yes to anything means saying no to other things. It is important to give ourselves permission to say no. We must be able to give ourselves permission to be happy.

But choices cannot be made if we cannot find the time to first understand what it is we truly value. Good decisions cannot be made if we do not first find the time to truly understand what is happening This week, let us find some time to be still. Let us give ourselves a moment to find ourselves again, to focus on what is truly important.

Readers can email Maya at Or visit her site at


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