Daniel Wong is a learning and personal development expert, as well as a certified youth counselor. A sought-after speaker and coach, he is also the best-selling author of "The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success". He offers programmes to help students attain exam excellence while also finding happiness and fulfillment, and to empower parents to motivate their unmotivated teenagers. He writes regularly at www.daniel-wong.com. Download his FREE e-books, "The Unhappiness Manifesto: Do You Make These 150 Mistakes In The Pursuit Of Happiness?" and "Singapore Scholarship Guide: The $500,000 Decision". The views expressed are his own.
I think you'll agree with me that living in Singapore is stressful, but it can also be exciting.
As someone who spends a lot of time reflecting on what makes for a meaningful and significant life, I've come up with seven truths that we should all understand—and embrace—if we want to make the most of our lives here in Singapore.
1. You're fully responsible for your own life
This means that we shouldn't blame anyone for anything that's going on in our lives. We shouldn't blame anyone for how we've been feeling, and we shouldn't blame anyone for the failures we've been experiencing.
When we take complete responsibility for our choices and the outcomes of those choices, we find new freedom to build a life that we can be proud of.
If we're continually counting on others to give us what we desire, we fail to take ownership of our lives. This is bound to lead to unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
2. No one owes you a living
I've met many people who think that their employer or the government or their family owes them a living. This simply isn't true.
Anything that's meaningful comes at a price. Most of the time, that price is hard work. This applies to our relationships, career, goals and dreams.
We shouldn't expect handouts or freebies, and if we do receive them we should count ourselves blessed.
3. Happiness isn't just something you feel; it's something you work for
I wrote a book on happiness, which explains why I'm so interested in this topic. I've observed that people who have found long-term happiness—I'm talking about fulfillment, not just temporary ecstasy—don't view happiness as an emotion to be chased after. They don't pursue happiness.
Instead, they consciously create happiness by leading a principles-centred life and through an intentional approach toward decision-making.
They understand that a great life isn't built in a day. It's built one day at a time and one decision at a time.
This philosophy is reflected in the way they spend their time and money. They invest in the things that are most important to them, rather than chase after temporary pleasures.
4. There isn't a one-size-fits-all definition of success
Society tells us that there's only one definition of success, which includes having money, power, status, beauty, popularity and fame. This notion is strengthened by what we hear about daily in the media.
But we need to develop our own definition of success. If we don't, we'll probably spend our entire life trying to rack up achievements and accolades that don't have lasting value.
This personal definition of success should include the principles you want to live by, what you want your legacy to be, and what character traits you want to possess.
Only when we have this definition clearly spelled out should we begin setting goals and going about attaining them. If we do things the other way around, we might just end up succeeding at things that don't actually matter.
5. Without gratitude, you'll never be happy
Just about every study on happiness reveals that happy people are grateful people. There will always be things to complain about. After all, life isn't perfect.
But, at the same time, there are things to be thankful for every single day, no matter what challenges we're going through or what hardships we're enduring.
If it's not already a habit for you, I encourage you to write down just one thing each day that you're grateful for. This is a habit that has benefitted me tremendously, and I'm sure that you'll find it helpful too.
6. Life was never meant to be easy
What we often fail to remember is that we experience great satisfaction when we overcome difficulties. Moreover, it's through challenges that we become people of greater courage, commitment and character—the things that count in the long run.
Of course, no one in their right mind would wish for more troubles and hardship, but let's remind ourselves that these experiences are the ones that mould and shape us.
Let's also remind ourselves not to expect life to be comfortable all the time, because this will lead to guaranteed disappointment.
7. Wealth is gained by adding value to others
Would you like to have more money? Silly question. Of course you do. I'd like to have more money too.
On its own, money won't buy you happiness. But if you don't have money, you'll probably be unhappy. This being said, we need to recognise that we won't become wealthy by merely wishing or hoping for more money.
The vast majority of wealthy people have attained their wealth by adding huge amounts of value to other people.
Just think about people like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. They became rich by providing millions of people with products and services that are immensely valuable. These examples help us to see that if we want to earn more money, then we'll need to provide more value to others.
It's only when we focus on other people and on meeting their needs—rather than focusing on ourselves—that we'll be able to accumulate material wealth.
In the midst of our over-scheduled lives, it's easy to overlook the need for reflection and solitude. I hope this article will encourage you to take some time—even if it's just for a few minutes—to think about where you are in life and where you want to go. As you do so, I trust that these seven life truths will help you in some way.
Together, I know that we can build a life and a Singapore we can all be proud of.