Collect experiences, not objects

by Marcus Loane

8th November 2009

 Experiments have shown that we derive more long lasting satisfaction from certain experiences rather than from acquiring new possessions. This could act as a guide to not only how we spend our time, but also to how we spend our money. If we have money to spare it often gets spent on objects such as a new car or the latest electronic gadget or clothes. This is all fine. However the delight from a new purchase can be short lived as we adjust to owning the new desired object and it becomes our new normal and then we go searching for something else. An alternative is to spend your spare cash on life enhancing experiences. These could be one-off novelties such as a flying lesson, a parachute jump or an abseiling lesson. They could be a series of classes learning something completely new like piano lessons, tango lessons, welding lessons, sailing lessons or basket weaving lessons. These all add to you as a person and provide you with a new skill, a sense of satisfaction and a boost to your self esteem. This will be much better value for you than upgrading your car to the next best model. Holidays also count as experiences which add value to your life and learning about other cultures around the world can be very rewarding.

 If you do acquire new desired objects, then by focusing on the experience of using them rather than simply owning them, you will get more and longer lasting satisfaction from them. Taking the example of a new car, if you are deliberately observant of the comfort of your car when you are sitting in it and take special notice of how it handles when you drive it and notice its other qualities that attracted you to it in the first place, then it will give you more pleasure that lasts as long as you own it. If you add a feature to your house, for example a patio, then you can think about the happy family occasions you will have (or had) using your new patio. The same goes for gadgets where you can remind yourself of how useful they are to you and your purposes rather than bemoaning the fact that there is now a slightly better model being pushed to you by the advertisers. The upgrade game never ends and if you must have the best of everything you will end up feeling you are running to stand still. This, of course, is what the companies selling the products and the advertisers want.

 Many experiences which contribute to our happiness do not cost anything at all like walking, enjoying nature, making other people happy, dancing, playing with children, music, reading books from the library, sex, sunsets and sunrises (make an effort to see one occasionally). By focusing on experiences you can also get creative in your thinking – say you have always wanted to stay in an expensive hotel but you cannot afford it. Instead you could go to the hotel and just order a coffee and use some of their facilities and enjoy the ambience for very little cost. Perhaps you dreamed of a nursing career and it isn’t possible – then you could volunteer at a hospice. If you have always fancied a fast car but it is too expensive or impractical then you could rent one for a day or find someone who might let you borrow one, or get a lesson in advanced driving skills or rally driving. If you have always fancied a lush garden but you live in a city apartment block, then you can get a sense of the experience by spending time in public gardens – bring the family, have a picnic, or do some part time gardening work just for the pleasure of it. The idea is to get a flavour of the experience without the cost of ownership. This is quite a smart way to live and better than struggling to maintain status symbols which end up decreasing quality of life rather than enhancing it (because of the feeling of struggling to keep up payments for example). In Hollywood there is a saying, “If it flies, floats or.., don’t buy it, rent it.” Quality of life is something that can be examined regularly to see if adjustments can be made to enhance it. If you can afford it, consider getting a cleaner and a gardener if you do not enjoy spending every weekend doing chores (life is too short). If you are lucky enough to have several houses, cars and staff, then maintaining and organising them all might start to feel like work and maybe your quality of life would be better (more time, less stress) if you simplified your life and had less possessions to look after. Do you have all those possessions just because you can, or are they genuinely making your life better?

 If you have always dreamed of doing something, why not take steps to do it today or if it is not realistic, find a way to do something closely related.


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