Friday, May 08, 2015

Happiness is a Strategy !

I thought I share some of my thoughts with reader John Smith on my views on happiness as he has commented that I seem happy even though I have a fairly busy schedule.

a) Positive Psychology guides Happiness

For a start, I think I have gone beyond subjective notions and feelings towards happiness, Folks bandy about terms like YOLO and "I just wanna be happy." don't seem to just cut it on the happiness front for me. The same goes for the food and travel photographers who are really good at creating this impression of a happy and carefree life on FB.

Instead, I view happiness  in a relatively cold, calculated manner as someone who manages a finance portfolio. Based on Martin Seligman's ideas on positive positive psychology, our happiness is divided into five parts.

Pleasure - The same kind of happiness hipsters tend to inflict on us.
Engagement - Flow addressing challenging and interesting problems at work.
Relationships - The quality of your relationships.
Meaning - How aware one is of one's role in this world.
Accomplishments - Meeting actual goals and getting things society cares about.

If I can employ this framework, I might be able to shed some light into why I seem happy to a reader.

b) My life is not all that pleasurable.

I would fail in the first measure. I don't derive much pleasure left from consumption. These days, I try to collect games which give me a sense of nostalgia. I have managed to bring in Up Front by Avalon Hill, which is a card based war game based on Squad Leader.

If you understand the Bookcase war games played by grognards in the 80s, it is virtually impossible to find someone who is willing to play these games with you today. Rulebooks are harder to read than legal cases and many games are computerized. I mainly buy games to place them in  a cabinet to conjure memories of my childhood days going Leisure Craft are Orchard Point. I have a nice collection of old school D&D books but my group plays the newer 5th Edition system.

As such, I don't really travel or eat great food. At my state of attending summer lectures in SMU, being able to got to KL to spend my money ringgit is awesome enough but I'm fully booked for all my courses.

Of course my troubles and pain arising from law school deserves another article this holidays. It was certainly not pleasurable engaging in the Machiavellian games of group formation and getting hit with guilt trips and complains from various parties.

c) I am fully engaged at law school and life.

Things rapidly improve once pleasure gets written off. Law school means full engagement in legal problem not just from tutorials but also from news events and ideas. Law school gives me the ability to appreciate the deeper game played by Amos Yee's counsel so it's interesting to see the arguments being played out in courts.

Flow comes from solving problems, taking exams, scheming group formation for the next semester, projecting the work load from the combination of classmates and managing the risk within a semester.

d) My relationships are stable.

Stable relationships are good. Nothing amuses me more then reading about "basic bitches" who eat Eggs Benedict and then engaged in relationships which become "complicated". As for me, my daughter is becoming more interactive and is starting to take an interest in my toys and computer games.

As I don't work, I have a fair amount of interaction with my family which I think many working men would envy.

e) I am in the process of finding my life more meaningful

I think this area is where I benefit most compared to other Singaporeans,

Financial independence is not easy for most people. Turning financial independence into something which adds meaning into your life is even harder because I did spend 6 months in a retired zombied state. My JD program is like a liberal arts program for mid career hires, a lot of encounters and concerns actually make you rethink about how you fit into the world at large and the resolution of these dilemmas is done at a safe zone.

I think that in this sense, my community service to help two girls with their E maths gives me the deepest sense of meaning and personal satisfaction, although it is not as saintly as I would position to the readers. Of late, I've been noticing the hypocrisy of these so-called liberals and progressives. If there is a genuine need to help others, volunteering of one's time and money is eminently doable. Why misappropriate the hard earned money from other taxpayers?

f) I continue to be a slave to my accomplishments

Of all the areas of happiness, my largest allocation is in the area of accomplishments. It is the largest source of frustration in my life right now, your financial independence can't really insulate you from that feeling of wanting to sink to the ground when your lecturer believes that your essay is full of shit. To compound my misery, I have been signing up for moots where I will likely argue and get my ass kicked by kids half my age.

I try to think of what I am trying to do relative to middle aged men of my age because if I peg it to my really smart and motivated classmates, depression is going to set in pretty quickly. These kids might kick my ass, but next time some asshole talks me down with well-meaning but pedestrian advice on "Living life with Passion" or "Just try to be Happy", I have know the technique to ruin their day.

With Martin Seligman's framework, I welcome readers to employ this framework to audit their own personal lives and determine whether they are smugly satisfied with their personal outcomes.

It should be noted that a certain component of happiness is genetic and not influenced by actions or your environment. It is entirely valid to argue that my general extraversion and openness to new experience makes it easier for me to happy but my very obvious disagreeableness might detract from it.


  1. hey christopher,

    thanks very much for your post. the framework certainly helps a lot when thinking about a what seems like a rather unsystematic topic like happiness.

    your kids are lucky to have a dad like you!!

    just wondering... what would make someone like you decide to have kids? is a logical framework somewhere behind that decision too?

  2. Easy... Because my wife wanted to.

    Kids are no fun until you actually have them, so I don't have a way of convincing singles that parenting is a rewarding task.

    Our government will have to struggle with this problem.

  3. heh thats a good one. correlation between happy wife and happy life is high. causation yet to be determined. possible feedback effects as well.


    regarding parenting i think its mostly because the opportunity cost of becoming a parent is a lot higher now with higher incomes and many alternative activities but the rewards havent changed much.

    this makes the convincing a lot harder. perhaps having more CNYs each year will help.

  4. I actually think that give or take 20 years, all Singaporeans will more open to more immigration.

    First our infrastructure needs to catch up with the demand. Next, we clean up all the FTs with fake qualifications. Finally, we open our economy up to FT entrepreneurs who net-net create more jobs for locals.

    Then the childless do not need to be burdened with child rearing or subsidizing parents like myself.

  5. hmmm... extrapolating the growth rates of singaporeans and non-singaporeans from 2000s onwards, in 20 years i really wonder if it will be the immigration that will have to be open to singaporeans.

    2000 (in thousands)
    Citizen 2,985.9
    PR 287.5
    Foreigner 754.5

    Citizen 3,343.0 (12%)
    527.7 (84%)
    1,599.0 (112%)

    Data from

    would love to have a discussion with you on infrastructure and FTs but doubt this is the right place. haha. tried clicking on your name but i could not get your email.

    what would be a good way to contact you?


    I am free to meet up. As a student, I find meeting readers of my blog interesting.