Why We Should Rethink The Way We Live In Our Quest For Happiness
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Why We Should Rethink the Way We Live In Our Quest for Happiness

If you go around Singapore today to interview youngsters about their aspirations, chances are their response would be to get a good job, a house and a car, perhaps retired their parents and then give back to society.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with such goals. However, in doing so, have we actually considered what this path will lead us to? What do we actually desire in life? We often over-work, fueled by our own perception of where our family’s interests lie, but have we stopped to consider what they actually need?

Financial Independence is important but it is not the end, but a means to an end

Many of us are convinced by surrounding influences such as society, parents and culture that this is the most appropriate path to let our families lead a comfortable life and assume that it will eventually allow us to find happiness. Our ultimate goal is to seek financial freedom and we work hard to achieve that.

Yet, how exactly do we measure financial freedom? Should we measure it by absolute or relative terms? The thing is people tend to compare. By setting an extrinsic motivator as a goal, will you be satisfied when you have reached it? Or will you be envious of the friend who recently bought a bungalow which puts your flat to shame? Or as cost of living increases, You readjust the bar upwards such that it becomes an endless pursuit? Will you neglect other more important things in life in the process? What happens if you fail? Work even harder? These are questions we have to ask ourselves before blindly pursuing society’s defined notion of success.

What do our loved ones actually need?

Often, we work hard to liberate our parents from their jobs or provide for our children. It pains me to see my parents working so hard. However, we need to be careful not to neglect them in the pursuit of financial freedom, other it is self-defeating.

We have to understand our parents’ true needs and adjust our actions accordingly. That does not mean simply doing what our parents want but using our observance and inferential skills to frame their problems accurately and coming up with appropriate solutions to tackle them.

For instance, my parents tell me that they don’t mind me pursuing what I like to do as long as I can provide for my family. This suggests that they are contented as long as they are able to lead comfortable enough lives and I have the heart to continue caring for them. As a result, I know they do not desire luxurious lives and treasure relationships more and will probably make them happier by being present for them, insteading of spending most of my time working.

Beyond that, you have to evaluate your solutions and consider their implications. By retiring your parents, you could potentially take away something that has been integral in their lives. Without their jobs, they may be at a loss of what to do and could potentially lose their purpose in life. What I seek then is not total financial freedom, but to make my parents happier and work less hard. I aim to do so, by getting them to redirect their goals from being extrinsic(financial freedom) towards intrinsic(being contented with what we have and appreciate the world more).

Our quest for happiness

Many of the happiest people in the world are contented with what they have, although they may not have the highest standard of living or best living conditions. By putting happiness as our life goal, we tend to appreciate things around us more, and enjoy the beauty of life, and naturally be happier.

With an extrinsic motivator such as financial freedom, even if we manage to to achieve it, it is likely to be at the expense of others. In traditional markets, if we all achieve financial freedom, who will do the lower-end jobs for us? Extrinsic motivation thus sets the stage for competition where there are limited spaces for such rewards, where some fall back on the corporate ladder, potentially breeding greater inequality. This could be a contributing factor as to why companies and the army are somewhat hesitant in sending their employees for higher education in fear that they would jump to brighter prospects outside.

A simple framework to redirect our path leading to a dead end towards a path full of hope

That being said, our quest for happiness may seem complicated and abstract. However, I believe that simply by empathizing and then giving, we can better understand problems and appreciate the things around us. By putting ourselves in others’ perspectives, we also open our minds and become more understanding of others’ issues and be more patient when things don’t go our way. Giving then expresses our empathy, appreciation and love for others, by coming up with appropriate solutions to help solve or at least alleviate their problems. For me, knowing that I had positively impacted others’ lives brings meaning and therefore happiness into my life.Loving Parents

It can be simple. From mopping the floor for my mum to adding funny little icons such as heart shapes to the family photo to appreciate your loved ones, I believe that happiness comes with the little joys in life.

I believe that the perfect representation to capture this essence of empathizing and giving is personalized gifts. We all give gifts, but over time, it has become more of an obliged practice, rather than the expression of appreciation. By adding the “personalized” element of understanding others’ needs when giving, I believe we can relive the meaningful practice of giving and spread greater happiness and positivity in our society.

If interested to find more about how to build meaningful relationships, please click here.

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