Having less fear and more freedom are two important factors in achieving happiness, said Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Hazel Poa last month while delivering a speech at the Young Singaporeans Conference organised by Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).
Citing the World Happiness Report, the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) pointed out that a “safe environment and high social and institutional trusts” are some of the factors that contribute to happiness and well-being.
“A safe environment denotes less fear of injury or loss. High social and institutional trusts denote less fear of abandonment in times of distress,” Ms Poa explained in the speech, which was shared by the party on its Facebook page.
However, in Singapore, the alternative party politician said that people here have a problem with fear of failure – both at schools and at work.
“As a parent, I worry when my children fail their exams. As an owner of an education company, I encounter that fear in students and parents frequently. A PISA study even found that Singapore ranks as one of the highest when it comes to a student’s fear of failure. And this fear of failure leads to a fear of the unfamiliar,” she said.
Ms Poa also said that she observed an apparent difference between local and foreign job seekers while she conducting job interviews, noting that Singaporeans are more hesitance to take up jobs that they are unfamiliar with while foreign candidates are more open to trying new things.
In her speech, Ms Poa also cited another example of how her best friend told her about her nephew’s experience in learning how to walk.
She said that the boy learned how to walk quickly in the UK as opposed to when he was in Singapore. This was because the floors in Singapore are made of ceramic or other hard material and when the child falls, he ends up hurting himself.
On the other hand, the floors in the UK are carpeted so when the toddler falls, it is less painful for him so he gets up once again and continues trying.
As such, Ms Poa said: If we want to encourage our young to be more fearless, we need to look into reducing the cost of failure, by strengthening social safety nets, by adopting a whole new mindset towards failure.
“And this has to start with the schools. For example, remove high stakes exams where one single failure can have huge repercussions,” she said, adding that failure should be viewed as stepping stones.
Ms Poa also noted that the same should be applied outside of school where Singapore needs to create a “stronger social safety net to cushion the consequences of failing in new ventures or career moves”.
Important to be involved in politics
The PSP member also went on to state that political involvement is not solely for politicians but rather for all.
“It is for everyone who wants greater control over their own lives, greater power to shape their environment, and the freedom to make life choices. This control and freedom is an important factor in happiness.
“Politics affect almost every aspects of our lives. It affects the job opportunities that you will have and the competition you will face, it affects the price you pay for your HDB flat and how big it is, it affects your wage level and your health,” she said.
If political matters are left to others, then people will lose control over their own life, as other people will make rules which they have to follow, said Ms Poa.
Participation in politics can be done on “many different levels”, said the politician.
“You can be an informed voter, or an active citizen who voices an opinion. You can be an activist who supports a civic organisation. You can support a political party as a volunteer or member, or you can run for an election. With different levels of participation comes different levels of influence,” she illustrated.
Separately, Ms Poa also highlighted the initial national pledge, drafted by Singapore’s first foreign minister S Rajaratnam.
The earlier draft only had two goals, which are the quest for ‘happiness and progress by helping each other’, without mentioning anything about prosperity, Ms Poa said.
“Today, the triple aims of ‘happiness, prosperity and progress’ have been hardwired into most Singaporeans. Instead of ‘helping one another”, we have opened the door to unbridled rat racing where ‘each man for himself mentality’ has made us super competitive and less empathic to our less economically-able brothers and sisters,” she said.
“But competition without moderation for compassion would weaken our society and turn us into a financially wealthy economy but a poorer people,” Ms Poa warned.
As such, Ms Poa said it is now the time to “redefine the concept of prosperity beyond its conventional economic definition”.
“Can we explore the concept of cultural prosperity, social prosperity and civic prosperity, where the acquisition and accumulation of these assets allow us to create a more equitable and compassionate Singapore?” She urged.