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Experiences or Things?

Experiences or Things?

Bill Van Valer

When it comes time to decide what to give someone as a gift or what to spend your money on for yourself there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that points us to experiences over things.

Lets look at this from couple of different angles…

At the end of our lives are we more likely to reminisce about things we did or things we had?  When we get together with friends we are usually talking about experiences we had and not the thing we just bought.   People love to tell stories and we all love to hear them.  And the stories we like best are ones we can relate to.  We can live vicariously through the experiences of others, even bad ones, but we don’t want to hear about your “thing” because it can make us just want to replace our “things” with better “things”.

Stuff wears out and the novelty of new stuff wears off, but the memory of a great experience doesn’t-In fact it may even intensify as time passes.  You know, “That fish was at least 4 feet long!”

Think about this as well…Are you happier when you are eagerly anticipating a vacation or when you are waiting for your new iPhone to arrive?  One is looking forward to and the other is waiting on…While I didn’t particularly enjoy waiting in line at Disney with our two young children, I certainly wasn’t upset.  And a year later they still talk about how much they loved the Buzz Lightyear ride and have never once mentioned how long we had to wait.  However, the line at Bestbuy to get them a new Roku player (you know, so they can watch Inspector Gadget at breakfast?) was much shorter and all I can say is that we weren’t as happy as we were at the Magic Kingdom…and they haven’t talked about the roku player since the day we bought it even though we use it often…which leads to something else…

Many times we tend to take the things we have for granted and they no longer make us any happier, they just become something we have.  Take for example your first smart phone.  I remember playing with my first iPhone for hours because it amazed me.  Now I am just irritated when my phone drops a call or won’t connect to the internet in a nanosecond.  It has lost its ability to make me happy.  But no matter how many times I ride my mountain bike it brings a huge smile to my face.  Owning the bike isn’t what makes it great, experiencing a new trail with friends is where I derive my happiness.

We also are less likely to measure our experiences directly against the experiences of others.  But with material items it can be easy to compare all of your stuff to someone else’s stuff and then all of the sudden your stuff doesn’t look so good any more.  This is harder to do with experiences because very seldom are two experiences apples to apples.   Even if they are extremely similar, you still have the memories of that experience as well as the emotional effects from it no matter what anyone else does.  To continue on the mountain bike…I have friends with much nicer bikes and while I may compare my bike directly to theirs, I don’t do that with rides and the stories that go along with them.  And telling those stories and reliving those memories makes me much happier that comparing bikes.

So when you are trying to decide whether to spend those hard earned dollars on stuff or experiences for you or someone else, just remember that experiences last, stuff wears out and memories never go out of style.

Happy Shopping!



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