No, voting for the correct political party in 2016 is not one of the ways to help Singapore progress that I’m going to talk about in this article.
(I say this because I’ve heard plenty of people suggest that this is the number one way we can do our part.)
Instead, I’m going to discuss what other things we can do at an individual level to build a brighter future for Singapore.
This article isn’t about what the government should do to lower housing prices, improve public transportation or create more jobs.
There’s definitely a place for that kind of debate, but I don’t want to talk about the government in this article.
I want to talk about you and me.
How can we make Singapore a more wonderful place to live? How should we adjust our attitude and mindset? What principles should we operate by? How can we behave differently?
I’ve come up with four ways:
1. Focus on pulling ourselves up instead of dragging other people down
When we see people who are richer, more capable, or more knowledgeable than us, how do we respond?
It’s natural to look for reasons why they just don’t deserve to be better off than us. It’s easy to start complaining about how unfair our society is, or even how unfair life is.
When we do this, however, we’re refusing to take complete responsibility for our lives. We’re attempting to drag others down, instead of pulling ourselves up.
We can pull ourselves up by focusing on upgrading our skills and changing our attitude. We can read more books, go for more courses, start new projects, and build new businesses.
There’s always something we can do—no matter how small or seemingly insignificant—to bring us from where we are to where we want to go.
2. If we ever complain or criticize, then we also ought to propose a solution
It’s reasonable to stir up a debate about foreign talent or the “men in white”, but every time we complain or criticize—without also offering feasible ideas about how to solve the problem—we’re not helping the situation.
There’s a saying, “Opposing everything without proposing anything is irresponsible.” I believe this to be true.
Let’s offer constructive comments, rather than simply vent our anger or frustration.
As Singaporeans, we’re in the same boat. All of us have different thoughts about how to build a better Singapore, so let’s put forward our ideas firmly but calmly.
3. Be contributors instead of consumers
We often think about how we can earn more money so that we’ll be able to buy a bigger house, drive a nicer car, or go on more luxurious vacations.
When we take this approach, we’re acting as consumers. Our work becomes a means to an end, and our salary becomes just a tool we use to consume more products and services.
Without a doubt, this is one of the practical uses of money.
But our work can be about so much more than just the financial compensation we receive.
Our work ought to be focused on contribution, on adding value to the lives of other people. After all, wealth is mostly a by-product of the value we create.
I think you’ll agree with me that rich people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have produced enormous amounts of value for the world.
As we concentrate on creating new projects, products, services and ideas, we become contributors instead of mere consumers.
Singapore definitely needs more people who have the contributor mindset, rather than the consumer one.
4. Live out our values, instead of just trying to achieve our goals
Whether or not we write down our goals, most of us are goal-oriented people.
We want to attain a certain amount of wealth, achieve a certain level of education, or live in a certain type of house.
Despite our fascination with people who have accomplished incredible goals, we need to realize that we’re not defined by the goals we accomplish.
We’re defined by the principles we live by and the principles we’d die for.
Holding to a set of values isn’t enough. Those values need to get a hold of us and guide us in every decision we make.
In comparison to living out our values, achieving even our biggest goals is easy.
As a nation, we’ll make real, lasting progress when we, as individuals, choose to be driven by principles instead of pragmatism.
I’m not saying that pragmatism isn’t important, but I am saying that it shouldn’t be our primary consideration when we’re faced with a difficult choice.
If we allow pragmatism to continually take priority over principles, our country will become nothing more than a soulless corporation.
The government has a huge part to play in Singapore’s growth and development, but we have a part to play, too.
As individuals, we can make a difference not just through our ballots, but also through our behaviour.
So let’s not neglect our responsibility as Singaporeans. After all, there’s plenty of work to be done.
If not you and me, then who? If not now, then when?
Daniel Wong is the bestselling author of "The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success". He offers The Exam Excellence (TEE) Mentoring Programme to help students to find exam success, while discovering new purpose in their journey of education. He writes regularly at www.daniel-wong.com. Download his FREE e-book, "The Unhappiness Manifesto: Do You Make These 150 Mistakes In The Pursuit Of Happiness?", here. Download his other FREE e-book, "Singapore Scholarship Guide: The $500,000 Decision", here.