Being a Happy Singaporean

Being a Happy Singaporean
Being a Happy Singaporean

Last year an email invite came on 16th Nov to ask if I will like to speak during Career 2012 on any one of the following topics

  1. What is Work-Life balance in Singapore?
  2. What is healthy lifestyle for a Singaporean?
  3. De-Stress!
  4. How to be a happy and healthy at Work

I thought for a while and decided on the topic “Being a Happy Singaporean” – as it will address a key issue that Singaporeans are grappling about…being Happy.

From letters to editors, online discussions, facebook comments etc, it will seem that Singaporeans are an unhappy lot despite our dollar growing stronger each day. Our SGD is now pegged at 1USD to 1.2569 SGD (Source: Yahoo Finance) at this point of writing. Yet Singaporeans seem unhappy. Unhappy about schools, the government, the MRT and so on.

So what is the missing link?

The Career 2012 advisory committee was kind and open enough to accept this topic on “Being a Happy Singaporean”.  A couple of months later on 3 Mar, I gave a talk/workshop to PMETs at the Career 2012 at Suntec City as part of 21st Century Competencies.

We live in a pragmatic world where GDP and dollars and cents make the most sense to all. Yet it was interesting to note that in 2012, the main newspapers in Singapore carried many many references to Happiness. The gross national happiness was actually a term coined in “1972 by Bhutan‘s then King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who has opened Bhutan to the age of modernization, soon after the demise of his father, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk“. (Source: wikipedia)

My curiosity about happiness started when a good friend ask me if I am interested to visit Bhutan in Mar 2011. When I asked him why, he just merely suggested that it is the “happiest place on earth”.

My research into happiness led me to interesting points raised by renown psychologists all over the world. TED.com devoted one whole year, 2004 to answering what it means to be happy. In fact, there were 167 video clips (ie TED talks) on the topic of happiness.

So what has happiness got to do with our 21st Century Education and skills?

From the research, habits of happiness can be built. It is not a fuzzy feel good concept. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology, proposed by Abraham Maslow, a humanistic psychologist in his 1943 paper A Theory of Human Motivation. 

Dr Martin Seligman talks about positive psychology being applicable to normal human beings that is you and me. There are 3 ways we can live our lives… – the pleasant life, the happy life and the meaningful life. To achieve the highest level of happiness, we should aim for the meaningful life – a life that has purpose, meaning and accomplishments with a larger purpose.

Nic Mark, a statistican, gathers evidence of what makes us happy. His simple 5 steps for happiness?  Connect. Be Active. Take notice. Keep Learning. Give.

During the talk, I also gave some examples and tips on how to keep happy. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. Speak the truth. Practise kindness and compassion. Build on your strengths. Appreciate diversity in your team. The Yong Tau Foo Team©.

To help our students become happy in our schools and to achieve the highest level of happiness, besides academic skills, one of the key challenges is for schools to help them build meaning into their lives through the 21st Century competencies of collaborating, communicating, creating and thinking critically.

Remember the highest form of happiness is to GIVE. “For it is in giving that you receive.” 
Two projects for your school to consider giving to: Sponsoring a child under World Vision Singapore and Project Happy Feet.
Useful links:

World Vision Singapore

Project Happy Feet

Gross National Happiness, Bhutan

Bhutan, a Kingdom of Happiness

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs

Dr Martin Seligman TED.com video

Nic Mark on Happiness Index

Straits Times: Bhutan is not Shangri-lah on earth

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