Want a better Singapore? Change your mindset

Commuters take the train during morning peak hour in Singapore January 29, 2013. (Reuters photo)Commuters take the train during morning peak hour in Singapore January 29, 2013. (Reuters photo)

As a nation, we have problems:

  • A politically divided population
  • High cost of living
  • Congested public transportation
  • Low birth rates
  • Economic challenges

The list goes on.

There’s an ongoing debate about what the government should do to improve the situation. That’s a necessary debate.

The government has a part to play but so do we

But I want to start a separate discussion about what we can do as individuals to build a better Singapore.

Just because our ministers are well-paid doesn’t mean that we don’t have to do our part for the good of the nation. We can’t rely solely on our ministers.

If all of us, at an individual level, change our mindset, Singapore will continue to grow and flourish.

The three mindsets we can have

There are three different attitudes we can adopt as residents of Singapore:

  • Level 1: Survival
  • Level 2: Success
  • Level 3: Service

Most of us are stuck at Levels 1 and 2, but it’s at Level 3 where we’ll be able to build a truly great nation.

Here’s an explanation of each of the levels:

Level 1: Survival—'There isn’t enough pie'

At Level 1, we’re concerned about our survival. Everything seems scarce: money, jobs, resources, opportunities.

We view life as a competition where there are winners and losers. We give our all to ensure that we won’t be labeled a “loser”.

We believe that there’s a limited amount of pie, so we battle to get a small piece—or, at least, whatever crumbs there are.

At Level 1, we focus on how little pie there is, rather than on using innovative methods to get a huge piece for ourselves (this happens at Level 2).

As such, Level 1 is characterized by fear and anxiety.

Level 2: Success—'I want a bigger piece of pie for myself'

When we progress to Level 2, we start to pursue the kind of success that’s defined by status, wealth and power.

At Level 2, we’re confident that we’ll be able to survive, so we focus on trying to be successful.

We work hard to achieve our goals, and we strive to create a better life for our families and ourselves.

At Level 2—like at Level 1—we assume that there isn’t enough pie for everyone. We use a variety of techniques to get a larger piece.

Level 2 thinkers are ambitious and driven. There’s progress when we move from Level 1 to Level 2, but it’s not good enough.

Level 3: Service—'Together, let’s bake a bigger pie'

Most people never make it to Level 3, even though this is where we should all aim to be.

The people who make it to Level 3 no longer think in terms of “achievement”. Instead, they think in terms of “contribution”.

At Level 3, we concentrate on adding value to others and on making a difference. In other words, we bake a bigger pie so that there’s more pie to go around.

We learn to get beyond our own needs and desires, and we embrace an attitude of service.

Interestingly, Level 3 thinkers tend to achieve more than Level 2 thinkers. Level 3 thinkers’ achievements are by-products of a service-oriented mindset.

The mark of Level 3 thinkers is their generosity, confidence and can-do spirit.

Which level are you at?

This article isn’t about providing you with information. It’s about transformation.

If all you do after reading this article is to criticize the government, complain about the challenges of life, or compare your situation with someone else who’s better off than you, then you’ve missed the point.

Personally, I try to be an everyday Level 3 thinker. It’s definitely not easy.

The harsh realities of life tempt us to be Level 1 and 2 thinkers, but we mustn’t give in to these temptations.

The only way for us to become a great nation is to become a nation of Level 3 thinkers.

Where are you at currently? And are you committed to embracing the service mindset?

Answer wisely. Singapore is counting on you.

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.

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