Keeping up with the Joneses is an obsession in this culture.
In Singapore, kids spend their vacations participating in time management seminars. While this kind of competition is often the source of unhappiness, the drive to succeed is tempered by Confucian values — the family ALWAYS comes first.
Jennie Chua, the former CEO of the famous Raffles Hotel, says she is often happiest when having breakfast with her grandchildren, and her contentment comes knowing that they will have a secure future. Douglas Foo, one of the most successful restaurateurs in Asia, says that his goal is to create a chain as big as Starbucks or McDonalds … as soon as he's done playing with his kids.
"All of us have one thing that's limited in supply, that's time," he said. "So we should do some planning, right? How much time do you want to spend with the family, your career, or some hobby? I think there's a balance."
But can you have both? "Well, I'm not going to do that single-handedly," said Foo. "There are a lot of things I want to do in my life; I want to make sure by the time I leave, when he calls up and says 'Now is the time to go,' I will leave smiling, and saying that I lived a very fulfilling, meaningful life."
But all this talk about happiness raises a question: Where is the happiest place in America? In his new book, "The Geography of Bliss," Eric Weiner also explored the happiest spots on the globe and using the lessons learned, set out to find the happiest place in America.
He settled on Asheville, N.C. "You've got mountains, beautiful mountains all around," he explained. "You have a tremendous, thriving, artistic community. You have cafes everywhere, every other shop is a coffee shop or a bookstore."
But more importantly, he said, "You have a really strong sense of community here. And if I've learned anything from researching this book, it's that other people matter. There's no such thing as personal happiness, your happiness is part and parcel of those around you."
Community — that's the key. Community is why happiness can be found along with the high taxes in Denmark, the harsh rules in Singapore and the crushing poverty in India. One study found that the people living on the streets of Calcutta are happier that those in California. The homeless in Fresno may have more access to food and shelter, but what have the "houseless" in Bombay got? They have each other.