Is Singapore going through adolescence?

Is Singapore going through adolescence? (Thinkstock photo)

You probably know some teenagers. Maybe they’re your children, grandchildren, siblings, nephews, nieces or friends.

What are they like?

Typical teenage behaviour

If they’re typical teenagers, they probably…

  • Want more freedom

  • Are occasionally disrespectful toward authority figures

  • Don’t like to just “do as they’re told”

  • Are trying to develop their own identity

Sound familiar?

This is the way teenagers often behave, and it’s also the way that Singapore—as a nation—is behaving.

After reading this insightful article, I started thinking more carefully about the connection between adolescence and Singapore’s development.

Singapore’s teenage behaviour?

Through my work, I have the privilege of interacting with many adolescents.

Like teenagers…

Singaporeans want more freedom. We want freedom of the press and freedom to make choices about our future and our lives. We don’t want Singapore to be governed in a paternalistic manner.

Singaporeans are occasionally disrespectful toward authority figures. We feel strongly about national issues, and we sometimes express our frustrations bluntly. (Just take a look at the comments section of most Yahoo! Singapore articles if you don't believe me.)

Singaporeans don’t like to just “do as we’re told”. We want to know the rationale behind decisions. We don’t like to feel as if we’re being forced into obeying or complying with policies and regulations.

Singaporeans are trying to develop our own identity. We’re in the process of figuring out what makes us uniquely Singaporean, beyond the good food, clean streets and kiasu-ism.

Adolescence: an important phase of Singapore’s development

Singapore is going through its adolescence. This isn't a bad thing; it’s just a phase in our country’s development.

We’re a young nation that’s gone through a difficult but exciting childhood. We've overcome countless obstacles as we progressed from a Third World country—with poor medical facilities, inadequate public housing and underdeveloped land—to a First World country.

No matter what praise or criticism we receive internationally, it’s undeniable that Singapore is a miracle. We most definitely have issues to work through, but few people would have expected Singapore to be where it is today when we gained independence almost 50 years ago.

Setting the course for the future

For human beings, adolescence is a critical developmental phase. This is a period of astonishing change: physical, emotional and mental.

Some teenagers discover what they’re passionate about and find new joy in learning, serving and contributing.

In contrast, other teenagers become angry, bitter and depressed. They pick up unhealthy habits, join gangs, commit crimes and abuse substances.

Clearly, adolescence is both a time of abundant promise and potential danger.

Whatever the outcome, your teenage years set the course for the rest of your life.

Does Singapore know who it is?

“Who am I?” is a question that’s central to a teenager’s growth. Singapore, too, is being confronted with this question.

What’s most important to us?

What are our values?

What vision do we have for the future?

What principles will we live by?

What’s our shared identity?

In order to answer these questions, we need to first decide as individuals that Singapore is worth fighting for, living for, and dying for.

Choosing the better path

As an “adolescent country”, Singapore is at a crossroads.

Will we become bitter, hateful people who continually complain without proposing alternatives? Will we constantly keep a lookout for greener pastures to migrate to? Will we troll the Internet looking for places to vent our frustrations?

Or will we criticise constructively, get involved in our communities, and focus on making the lives of others better? Will we work hard and persevere? Will we adopt a positive attitude? Will we learn to take full responsibility for our choices and our lives?

The path we decide to take will make all the difference.

Singapore’s future is in our hands

The destiny and legacy of our nation rests in the hands of every single person living in Singapore—not just political leaders, civil servants, CEOs and business leaders.

No matter who you are, you matter.

Our choices matter too: how we choose to treat others, how we choose to think, how we choose to behave.

Singapore isn’t your country and it isn’t my country. It’s our country.

For the sake of our country, let’s choose wisely.

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 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.

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