Singapore is well known for being one of the richest countries in the world. She has the 6th highest GDP per capita in the world and boasts having the highest percentage of millionaires in its population. According to a BCG report, 15.5% of Singaporeans are millionaires, outranking Switzerland (9.9%) and the United States (4.5%).
Yet, a recent Gallup report shows that Singapore’s citizens are the unhappiest in the world. In fact, Singaporeans are less happy than the populations of North Korea, Iraq, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Syria- places where people are starving or being bombed to death!
Carried out last year in 148 countries, the survey asked around 1,000 persons in each country five questions about what positive experiences people had had the day before: if they had smiled or laughed a lot.
In Singapore, only 46% of the interviewed answered “yes” to these questions, compared with 55% reported from people in Haiti and Afghanistan. Even in Syria, where the uprisings that later developed into a civil war took place in 2011, 60% of the people asked answered yes to the survey’s questions.
The lesson? Wealth Does Not Bring Happiness
Indeed, as one of the many Singapore millionaires myself, I can attest to the fact that how much money you have has absolutely nothing to do with how happy you feel everyday.
I know many low income people who laugh and smile with joy on a daily basis. I also know many high net worth friends who feel absolutely miserable and moody on a daily basis.
Since money does not lead to happiness, does it mean that there is no point in pursuing financial success? Does it mean that money isn’t important? Of course not! Learning how to be Happy AND Rich are both equally important. I do not subscribe to certain extremist views that to be happy, you have to be totally detached from the material world and live in simplicity.
In the world today, it is extremely important to be financially intelligent and to be able to create wealth. While money doesn’t buy happiness, it does buy convenience, gives us the resources to solve problems, pursue our goals and help others who are in need.
The fact that money does not lead to happiness just MEANS that we should not pursue financial success at the expense of our happiness. We should not take on a high-paying job at the expense of dreading to go to work everyday. We should not have to sacrifice the important time we have with our family, god and ourselves in order to make more money. We should also never compromise on our integrity and values in order to create wealth.
Unfortunately, many Singaporeans I know sacrifice their happiness and all that is important to them, for the sake of making more money. They take on jobs they have no passion for, just for the perceived higher pay and future prospects. They sacrifice the time they could spend with their children, spouses and themselves, because they are too busy chasing the 4Cs. This is why at the end of the day, many Singaporeans end up unhappy and unfulfilled in their posh cars and condos. To me, wealth and success without happiness is ultimately failure.
It does not help the fact that as Singaporeans, many of us have been conditioned to focus on problems, to blame and complain. Society and parents (at times) have taught us to focus on ‘what went wrong’ versus ‘what went right’. As well as to focus on ‘what is missing’ versus ‘what I am grateful for having’. When one of my students proudly told her parents that she got an 85% for her Math test, the only thing her mum could say was ‘what happened to the other 15%?’. This the reason why despite having one of the cleanest, safest and most efficient countries in the world, we can still complain about how bad the government, transport system, education is.
Achieving Both Wealth & Happiness is the Key to Success
Being able to be both rich and happy is the key to true success. I have always admired Warren Buffett, one of the richest man in the world who is known to ‘tap dance’ to work everyday. The man is truly happy, not because of the $60 billion he has. He is happy because he chooses to do what he loves and to work with people he loves.
To be rich and happy Singaporeans, we need to truly change our mindsets. We need to start learning to HAPPILY ACHIEVE instead of having to ACHIEVE TO BE HAPPY. We need to learn to start focusing on what we DO HAVE instead of what we don’t have. We need to start focusing on what’s great about our country, our neighbours, our colleagues and our friends instead of always focusing on what’s wrong.
While you pursue your wealth, focus on enjoying the journey, both its ups and its downs, both the achievements and the challenges. As you know, happiness is not a goal to be achieved, but it is really a state of mind we choose to be in.If we do not start learning to be happy, then we will be EXISTING and and not truly LIVING the rest of our already short lives.