On April 16 and 17, 2008, some of the leading authorities on Positive Psychology came together in Singapore to highlight research findings about happiness and well-being at the Simply-Happy conference. Speakers including Martin Seligman, George Vaillant, and Sonja Lyubomirsky spoke to an audience of 250 attendees. Global Leadership Academy (GLA) organized the conference, and below are some highlights of the events as told by GLA CEO Philip Merry.
Senia Maymin: How did the conference go?
Philip Merry: It all went pretty well – we had a full house of 250 people and it seemed to be real well received by everybody. We had a variety of govt psychologists from the police, health, prison and education departments as well as HR and training people from Multi Nationals. Most were from Singapore thought we had attendees from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand
Senia: Who were some of the speakers that people in the audience seemed to really resonate with?
Philip: All speakers were well received and of course Martin Seligman’s session went down well. Participants seemed though to resonate most with the Session by Proff David Chan from Singapore Management University, who really helped us understand the Singapore context of happiness and well-being.
Senia: What was the highlight of the conference for you?
Philip: Along with the conference, I had run a search for Singapore’s happiest person. This seems to have gone down real well with Singaporeans and we had real good press and over 200 applicants. The story reached over 20 countries with headlines like “Stressed Singapore searches for its happiest.” We awarded the prize at the conference and that was the [highlight] for me. The prizes were presented by Teresa Hsu who is 110 years old – and that was pretty special.
Senia: What surprised you the most about the conference?
Philip: The number of people who came up to me and said that the sessions had bowled them over and that they were evaluating their life goals and purpose based on what they had heard. I run a pretty successful global leadership consultancy and this was my first conference and my intention was to get Singapore talking about happiness. So to achieve these goals in the way we did was fantastic. In the week of the conference, we had five breakfast TV appearances, numerous press articles, and local radio came to broadcast from the show. I never expected such coverage and it was personally gratifying that what started as an idea in my head 6 months ago was able to manifest so well
Senia: Given this conference, what are the expectations for when and how the next Singapore or other positive psychology conference might be held?
Philip: I am already planning for the 2nd Asian Happiness Conference in 2009 and am in talks to increase the Asian content and speakers. If there is one criticism, it’s that we did not have enough Asian speakers. For example I work with the UN and govt of Bhutan and I plan to have the Speakers next year from Bhutan. There is much great research on happiness but it seems to be based on western cultural values – Positive Psychology needs to really look more at how happiness is seen in different cultures. I don’t mean just seeing how Asians respond to western notions of happiness – but would like to look at whether Asian cultural values change the very definition of happiness.