The Key To Happiness
Happiness is something we all want. We spend countless hours and dollars pursuing it. Modern society tells us that happiness is always just a bit out of reach. It's attainable, we’re told. But once you achieve one goal, you quickly lose the satisfaction that you felt as you neared it. Then you start aiming for the next one.
We all end up on this path at some point. We'll be happy once we get accepted to our first pick for college; when we land a great job; fall in love; start a family; buy a house; upgrade to our dream house. In the meantime, we're so laser focused on these goals, that we tend to look to material objects for temporary happiness in lieu of an experience that might cost more.
We can't afford a week long camping trip because it will put a halt to saving for our down payment, we tell ourselves. So instead, we reward ourselves with a new pair of shoes and dinner out. But how much happiness did those shoes bring you in comparison? Probably not as much as you think. And then after two months, when they’re scuffed and the heels are worn down a bit, they’re banished to the back of your closet. The Journal of Positive Psychology published studies that found people believe material possessions can maximize their economic value, but that experiences are a valuable expense which benefits a person's overall well-being.
For some, it’s a hard truth to accept; why spend money on a trip to the theater which lasts but a few hours when you could get a designer handbag that will last for years? But there are actually several reasons why experiences are superior to tangible good. Not sold on this?
Here are our favorite reasons why experiences are preferable.
Memories of Experiences Last A Lifetime
Few things are made to last a lifetime, and for the few things that are built to last, will you really keep and use them for so long? Those books from your childhood probably end up at the second hand store and the gold necklace you got for college graduation might get sold for cash when you decide the style no longer suits you. But your memories of trips and time with loved ones will last forever.
Social Connections Can Be Created and Developed Through Experiences
Have you ever been to a conference and struck up a conversation with a person who was pleasant enough, but you didn’t feel like you’d remain in contact with them after the event. That is until they mentioned that their all time favorite vacation destination is Disney World. You beamed with excitement as you told them that you, too, love the happiest place on Earth and have gone there every other year since you were a teen. This probably wouldn’t happen if your new acquaintance had said they’d just dropped a few thousand bucks on a new in-home theater set up.
Experiences Don’t Have to Be Expensive
Unlike trying to find happiness in the latest model of your preferred version of smart phone for several Benjamins, an experience doesn't have to cost much, if anything.
Of course a seven day European cruise won't fit into this category, but if you're on a limited budget, know that you're not limited to finding happiness when you could meet up with friends to go to a farmers market, pack a picnic lunch and hike in the forest or take a knitting class with friends. Just look on your community's website to find plenty of things to do that are inexpensive or free.
Experiences Are Usually Shared with Others
Few of your friends and family members will receive the same pleasure as you get from a new model car for your collection or sculpture for your entry way. They'll be happy for your new addition, but experiences are where it's at if you really want to share happiness with others. Gather up your pals and take a road trip to a car or home show that you've always wanted to attend. They'll soon forget the model car on your shelf as it collects dust, but will remember the memories created on the trip for years to come.
Even Bad Experiences Can Have A Positive Impact
We’ve all wasted money on purchases that we thought would be beneficial to our lives but soon found that they fell short of their expectations.
Late night television infomercials, anyone? While the latest version of an ab slimmer or real estate investing DVD course may be hiding in shame in the corners of your attic, researchers found that even the worst experience usually becomes positive. You can use the story of how you were robbed near the Forbidden City to strike up conversations with and warn fellow travelers that you meet. And the tale of how you made a fool of yourself by making a cultural faux pas will become a great story that you share countless times over the years to come.
Experiences Become A Part of You
No matter how long you own that vintage record collection, it will always remain separate from you. Contrast with this to your attendance at a concert by your favorite artist. That experience will forever be a part of you; you were there, saw the artist in the flesh, sang the songs (no matter how off-key you were), witnessed the passion the artist has for their music and shared a connection with thousands of strangers. While your records can be destroyed by a natural disaster or stolen, the experience of that night at the concert can never be taken from you.
You’re Less Likely to Compare the Negatives of Experiences
How many times have you witnessed a friend or colleague walk in a room with a sparkling new piece of jewelry or gadget and automatically the room turns abuzz with people commenting on how many carats it is, how much it cost and comparing it to their own. This can easily turn to discontentment.
Jim’s new smartwatch can do XYZ while mine only has basic functions. He must earn more than me. Must be nice to have so much disposable income.
This quickly leads to frustration. On the other hand, we tend to share the positives of experiences. When you and your buddy are both talking about your trip to the Grand Canyon, even though he paid for the VIP experience and you took the budget route, you’re more likely to listen intently and hear about how their trip differed from yours without looking for the negatives.
Possessions Don’t Contribute to Relationships
Why is it that business deals are often done on golf course?
There’s a connection you get from the shared experience of playing golf or attending a networking party in a museum as opposed to a supplier sending you a coffee maker in order to entice you to consider doing business with her. Sharing an experience sets you both at ease, assuming it’s something you both enjoy. This plays out the same with family and friends. Giving your best friend a new watch for his birthday isn’t going to have the same impact as a night at a beer tasting. You may discover a new-to-you brew that becomes your go-to drink that you enjoy together over the next few years.
Experiences Expand Your Worldview
Technology allows us to purchase nearly anything we want from the comfort of home; translation software even lets you purchase from abroad. That's great and perfectly fine. But what you won't experience when purchasing that china tea set on eBay is smelling the earthy scents, viewing the vivid colors and tasting the varieties of tea that you can enjoy in your new tea set had you actually purchased it from China’s china capital. While in another country, you'll experience first-hand a new way of life, a different style of cuisine and social ideas that vary from your own. All of these experiences will become a part of your natural evolution as a person.
Of course you don't even need a passport to widen your horizon. Have you rarely stepped outside your own city? Just head to the mountains for a weekend getaway to enjoy a slower pace of life. Or maybe you do live out this slower pace of life on a daily basis and would like the excitement of New York City living. A week long vacation to the Big Apple will give you new ideas and, possibly, a previously unrealized appreciation for your hometown.
You Can’t Hoard Experiences
Even those of us who wouldn't come close to being a contestant on a reality show know that we have more than we need.
Holidays and birthdays just add to our collection of "stuff" that we don't really need, know what to do with or even want. Rather than give your sister another spoon for her collection, the one she doesn't really want anymore but can't bear to get rid of, why not gift her a class to learn authentic Italian cooking? Do your two nieces have more toys than even twice that many kids could ever play with? Pay for a month of their sports lessons instead of adding to their array. And having to listen to your brother complain about the endless toy mess every time you call.
You’ll Never Keep Up With the Jones
Unless you make it to top-tier billionaire status, there will always be someone who has something bigger and better than yours. If you realize this sooner rather than later and just forfeit the fictitious, but often oh-so-real, competition are doing yourself a huge favor. A wall-to-ceiling fish tank in your living room sounds amazing. But wouldn't it be more fun, and a whole lot less work, to just take the family on an excursion to the sea and see the creatures up close in their natural habitat?
You're Less Likely to Waste Money on Experiences
It's so easy to waste money on things.
But when it comes to spending money on a ski trip in the mountains, you're more apt to make the most of every cent. You review the hotels to get the exact amenities that you want, search for package deals, check multiple airlines for the best price on tickets. You may research some of your more pricey purchases like phones and computers, but those $100 sneakers or the $49 designer sunglasses that you bought on impulse?