Your Letters

Value in pursuit of a meaningful life

Ms Daisy Chee, 74, a retiree who leads a happy lifestyle, filling her days with volunteer works and line dancing.
Ms Daisy Chee, 74, a retiree who leads a happy lifestyle, filling her days with volunteer works and line dancing. PHOTO: ST FILE

I agree with Professor Chong Siow Ann's commentary on happiness and living a life of purpose and meaning ("Happiness can be so overrated"; Jan 30).

It is of paramount importance to look for meaning in our lives, even though it might not guarantee sustained happiness.

This yearning and need for meaning sits at the top of psychologist Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs and is known as the process of self-actualisation.

No man is an island; we are irrevocably intertwined with one another in today's society.

Every single thread plays a role in forming the overall tapestry and all are important, regardless of how minuscule their roles might be.

Winning the lottery may not necessarily mean long-term happiness, but it does have the possibility of the money being used for meaningful and charitable purposes.

A jigsaw puzzle would be incomplete when even one piece is missing. And that is why contributing to society and having the power to make a difference often rank high on one's quest for meaning.

Many people have a drastic change in their perception of a meaningful life after a traumatic event.

Others find a different dimension to this elusive question after going through the trials of being seriously ill.

The older generations did not deliberately spend time pondering over questions of how to attain meaningfulness; their mantra is that hard work begets happiness. They believe that hard work is a reward in itself.

However, it is well known now that happiness is transitory, and rises and ebbs with the highs and lows of our lives.

This is not to say that it is wrong to strive for material gains, and physical pleasure and comfort, but that we should set our minds on what more can be achieved intellectually, to test the upper limits of our capabilities, and to help others.

We should continually challenge ourselves to realise our full potential and not be contented with superficial pleasures.

Winning the lottery may not necessarily mean long-term happiness, but it does have the possibility of the money being used for meaningful and charitable purposes.

The well of happiness is one that has to be continually replenished.

Ultimately, jots of happiness that come with the ability to perceive and judge objects of beauty - such as a painting or flower, or a well-written book - might be what we need to keep us on course before we find our ultimate meaning.

Lee Kay Yan (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 06, 2016, with the headline 'YourLetters Value in pursuit of a meaningful life'. Print Edition | Subscribe