A Relentless Life
Do you remember that Christmas?
I remember the Christmas that my family drove to my parent’s house in a near whiteout snowstorm, because Grandma and Grandpa Bennett wanted to see the kids.
I don’t remember what I got for Christmas. We often tend to value, in the short term, material gifts over experiences. I don’t know why that is but I can tell you why we should flip the script on that idea.
The following is from an article on Entrepeneur.com
The assumption has been that spending money on material possessions would increase happiness because possessions last longer than an experience. A 20-year study by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, found the opposite is true.
Dr. Gilovich is just one of several researchers who believe in the the Easterlin Paradox. This phenomenon simply states that after our basic needs have been met, money will only increase happiness to a certain point for the following reasons:
1. Happiness over material items quickly fades.
“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Dr. Gilovich. “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”
Psychologists call this "hedonic adaptation." In other words, the excitement of that new car, iPhone or furniture set will quickly fade into the background as they become a part of our daily lives. Experiences, like traveling, attending an art exhibit or trying a new restaurant become a part of our identity, which brings us greater satisfaction.
“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Gilovich. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”
2. Experiences define your purpose and passions.
Your daily activities should be guided and influenced by your purpose and your passions, not material possessions.
Think of it this way. Let’s say that your favorite musician of all-time is Bruce Springsteen. Even though you have all of his albums, and some other items like shirts or posters, do all of those possessions top seeing The Boss in concert? Probably not. In fact, if someone offered you a front-row ticket in exchange for all of your Bruce memorabilia, you would probably take them up on that offer in a heartbeat.
3. Possessions don’t contribute to social relationships.
“We consume experiences directly with other people,” says Gilovich. “And after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories that we tell to one another.”
Do you bond more with other people when discussing material possessions or experiences? Think of Bruce again. When you run into a fellow fan, you have a certain bond and connection. You can talk about his music, the concerts you’ve attended and how much his music has positively impacted your life. That seems like a more in-depth and interesting conversation that discussing your cars, gadgets, wardrobe or even your Boss souvenirs, right?
4. Moments are more memorable.
While experiences are designed to be fleeting, they provide high level of arousal and memorability thanks to anticipation. Again, let’s revisit The Boss.
You hear he’s coming to town, so you mark your calendar not only for the date of the show, but also when tickets go on sale. You’re anticipating purchasing tickets and then attending a show after you’ve secured your tickets. Going to this show is an entire experience, not just a singular moment.
5. Experiences introduce you to a whole new world.
Unlike stuff, experiences introduce you to new perspectives, life lessons and the importance of gratitude. Take traveling, for example. If you live in New York City and travel to West Virginia, you may realize the pros and cons of living in the Big Apple. Even though there’s culture, public transportation and plenty to do, that weekend trip south made you appreciate nature, the quiet and the beauty of clear, starry nights.
You may realize and come to understand cultural differences. Even if you don’t agree with these points-of-view, at least you’ve walked away learning how to be more thoughtful, compassionate, humble, or grateful.
I don’t tend to remember or think of my material items when I reflect on my life. I remember….
The first time in the ocean with my son.
Going to Sonic with my daughter and hearing her laugh.
Traveling with my wife.
Being caught in a rainstorm in Florida, doing martial arts in the backyard of one of the greatest martial artists I have ever met.
Your experiences create and define who you are. Your stuff doesn’t.