This month, media personality Jade Seah shares how she found true meaning in life by changing her mindset.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

This month, media personality Jade Seah shares how she found true meaning in life by changing her mindset.

In Singapore, most of us are fortunate to have enough food on the table and a roof over our heads. Survival is not always our top concern. To thrive, however, is another thing. What does it really mean to thrive in life? As a positive psychology student, I’ve learnt about the five pillars of well-being and happiness in my studies.

They are positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement. 

I’ve always felt that I needed to work on meaning and achievement. At eight, I asked my mum, “Why are we on this earth?” She told me “not to think so much, close your eyes and try to sleep!” In my teens, after a painful breakup, I questioned how one person could destroy my happiness and sense of self. I set about finding ways to deal with it, and my mum suggested that I “do something for others instead”. 

I started volunteering, visiting old folks’ homes and entertaining them with bingo games and karaoke. I recently helped a friend who regularly gives out of her own pocket and time to the needy, and I remember the smiles on the old folks’ faces. I found warmth – and meaning – in this. 

On achievement, perhaps it is to change what it means to achieve. Is it a job so that you can put food on the table to survive? Or is it a career that comes with success, prestige, money and power? 

As I struggle to increase the meaning in my life, the challenge is balancing it with the perceived notion of achievement. I found that the more time I spent on what I think is meaningful – connecting and helping people, and improving the mind and body – the less time I have in chasing the fame and fortune often associated with achievement.

This year, I hope to help more people adapt a different mindset to find happiness. I celebrate my birthday next month, and inspired by a friend, I’ve encouraged those who’re thinking of getting a gift for me to donate that amount to a fund for the needy.

In the larger picture, here’s what I’ve learnt in positive psychology: Think of yourself at 99 years old. What would you want to say about your accomplishments to your loved ones? What would you want people to say about you?

Now, write it all down, and let your smaller decisions be guided by this. Here’s to a more meaningful 2020, as we start thriving together, meaningfully.