Skip to content

Narrative of The Good Life

Melvyn Tan
Melvyn Tan
2 min read

Growing up, the narrative of the good life for me has been this—work hard to earn enough so you can do what you want.

It was a race against time. With that urgency, the only logical choice was to speed things up.

That narrative, unfortunately, is further reinforced by social incentives.

The question remains: what if I’ve accumulated enough only to find out I'm out of time?

Fortunately for me, I learned early enough that isn't the only way. In part, it is due to the idea seeded by the book, The Monk and the Riddle.

In 2002, I turned that narrative on its head by:

  • Doing what I love.
  • Earning money doing it.
  • Enjoying every bit of it.

The pandemic

I get it.

Changing the narrative is hard. But it can occur with the help of an external stimulus.

A study conducted by the University of Hertfordshire looked into the walking speed of pedestrians in 32 cities. It found that the pace in those cities had increased by 10 percent over a 10 year period. Singapore led the pack at 10.55 seconds.

If they were to conduct the same now, we might see a dip. The pandemic has, among other things, forced us to slow down.

We gained from slowing down at two levels. What I call first-order and second-order benefits.

At the first-order, it includes direct benefits such as reducing your blood pressure, becoming more productive, and helping you focus on what really matters.

Change the narrative

The second-order benefit of slowing down allows you to “spend more time in personal reflection.”

But what would you reflect on?

The narrative—the story we tell ourselves about what we can or cannot achieve.

Before you can change your narrative, you have to stop the unconscious script playing in your head.

Journaling is a great way to start. Through journaling, you can detach yourself from the narrative and start examining it closely.

Inspired by Ause Birsel’s framework of designing the life you love, here are the three steps you can take to change the narrative.

  • Step 1: Re-examine: Start re-examining the narrative by looking at the parts instead of the whole. Focus on the parts that make up “the good life”. And start re-examining what it meant by “the good life”.
  • Step 2: Re-imagine: Based on your new definition, next is to re-imagine what “the good life” looks like. When doing this step, don't be afraid to make it full of purpose and meaning.
  • Step 3: Re-invent: This is where you figuring it out how to do it. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, know that there are others out there who have already achieve what you want. This is the main inspiration behind my latest project, Reinventing.

It seems like many have started reinventing themselves, whether by choice or otherwise, during the pandemic.

Are you ready to get started?

Melvyn Tan

I write about my perspective of how things work in the post-pandemic world. I also share updates of my latest projects.