Chasing the ‘good life’, how will Singapore redefine success?

“What is the ‘good life’ we aspire towards, and what does the Singapore Story mean to all of us?” 

These are the questions Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Lawrence Wong asked the audience at the IPS 35th Anniversary Conference earlier this month (June 12). While the answers would vary by the individual, a common thread among Singaporeans is the hope that society can embrace a more inclusive definition of success, said DPM Wong.  

However, redefining success is an ambitious goal, and DPM Wong is boldly taking up the challenge to remake our society for the better. After all, we are not talking about simple habits one can kick with the help of a national campaign. Instead, we are up against entrenched mindsets and expectations passed down from one generation to the next.  

What does success mean to you? 

Sadly, while we might have discarded the 5Cs of the 1990s as the indicators of success, it is difficult to ignore conspicuous consumption and the financialization of the things around us. The comparison is endless, and when we add social media to the equation, it only perpetuates the myth that everybody wants the same things and that we are somewhat lacking if we fail to portray that glossy life of insta-perfection.  

Now, is this the life we want for our children or ourselves? Running infinitely, chasing after monetary success in isolation, only to realise there is no end to the race because there is always someone else ahead of us.   

When reality starts resembling a Black Mirror episode, that is when something needs to change.  

Refreshing the Singapore Story 

The time has come for Singapore to refresh its social compact and embark on a new approach to skills and success. We have said it before in recent parliament debates  – the PAP recognises that success is a highly individualised concept rather than a one size fits all garment. With a leadership transition on the horizon, we want all Singaporeans to feel empowered in carving their route to success and live fulfilling and meaningful lives.   

Because as DPM Wong has shared, “Success is less about means and more about meaning.” 

To achieve that vision, we will need a societal shift in mindset and move beyond the current narrow definition of success. After all, ambition looks different to everyone, and not all of us aspire to climb the corporate ladder or land a job with a prestigious title.  

Of course, such changes will not happen overnight or without intervention. To accelerate the process, the Government has been revisiting and refining its policies to refresh the Singapore Story into one that is more inclusive. 

For starters, there have been radical changes to our education system, with PSLE T-scores (and subsequently streaming) becoming a relic of the past. Next is a renewed focus on lifelong learning, which will allow Singaporeans the opportunities to upgrade their skill set and embark on new, exciting careers at different junctures of their lives.  

Finally, and perhaps the most significant factor in promoting a broader definition of success, is to ensure that everyone, regardless of what they do for a living, can earn a fair wage and live a dignified life through our Workfare and Progressive Wage Model. 

Making the leap from third world to first in a generation, Singapore is now at a precipice, facing new threats and old constraints. Our continual survival will require us to value each individual, acknowledge talent in diverse areas and open our minds to redefine the meaning of success. And together, we can build a more inclusive society to create a new Singapore Story.  

Photo Source: FowardSG/Lawrence Wong via Facebook