Real Life scenario: You are a real hard-working, busy-as-a-bee type of person. For your services and efforts, you receive a nice compensation as your paycheck. And of course, the first thing that pops on your Wishlist whenever the account balance flashes right back at you is – “Pampering TIME ON”.
As people, we tend to seek happiness and pleasure in different things. Some of us enjoy overspending on materialistic stuff like expensive high-tech gadgets, while others are in constant pursuit of life-thrilling experiences.
So, the question remains: What would you choose when you find yourself torn between the ordinary objects of consumerism on one side and real-life experiences on the other?
If you ask me, I wouldn’t think long before I dive in all of the colorful and exciting experiences life has to offer. And here’s why I suggest you do the same.
It’s clear that objects have a longer (physical) lifespan than an experience. While the new piece of furniture can be used for many years to come, that photography class you’ve been looking forward lasts a few days.
Having this logic in mind, I guess most of you might go for that much-needed furniture.
And if you choose to see it from a more practical and economical side, it’s a highly expected choice. But if we look at it from a happiness viewpoint, science tells us otherwise.
That’s exactly what Prof. Thomas Gilovich, a renowned psychology professor at the Cornell University, has been busy researching for the past two decades.
Dr. Gilovich conducted a 20-year study that analyzed how object-purchasing versus experience-purchasing reflects us.
He is a firm believer that one of the biggest enemies of happiness is adaptation.
”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.” concludes Gilovich.
Think about it. No matter how excited we are to finally purchase that new iPhone, after a period of time they become just another object that can be easily replaced once a better model comes along.
Objects last past our initial excitement, so they are bound to eventually lose their glow. And with that last spark gone, so is our interest.
On the other side, the experience we choose to purchase may seem temporary BUT they stay with us FOREVER.
Trips around the world, sports activities, new language lessons or that long-awaited vacation to the Maldives you’ve been saving money for, that sky-diving experience, you name it.
No matter how good, extraordinary or even bad your experience was, it’s something that will always stick with you. They have the power to force us to adapt to a new situation, help us learn new meaningful things and sometimes change our mindset.
Experiences are once in a lifetime. And because of their uniqueness, they tend to leave a trace of our existence.You’ll always remember a friendly laugh you shared with a stranger or that unexpected talk that touched your soul deeply when nothing else could.
Dr. Gilovich explains they take on a larger part of our lives than the things we own. The fact that they are special life events and break out from our regular routine makes us cherish them more than any material good.
However, the thing with experiences is that they can be unpredictable as the weather. There’s a larger degree of uncertainty that leaves us questioning and over-analyzing our final decision. That is why we often hesitate before we make that crucial step into the unknown.
“But, what if I don’t like it?”
The list of ‘what if’s’ can go for miles. And it’s totally understandable. There are a lot of legitimate reasons for not wanting to do something. Especially if it’s a something you’ve never tried before.
BUT, science gives us a green light and shows us that it’s WORTH taking the RISK. Even if something didn’t go the way we wanted, Dr. Gilovich reveals that in the end, people will always talk enthusiastically about it.
Let’s assume you finally managed to take some days off and take that hike you’ve always wanted. As long as you reached the peak, it started to rain heavily. It’s among the worst-case scenarios and at the moment you may even feel desperate. But, the memories of the complete experience (good and bad) are here to stay forever!
Remember, no matter the circumstances and how awful one experience might look, life gives us a lot of possibilities and different scenarios. There are always positive sides to every disaster.
After all, we definitely need both objects and experiences in our everyday existence. And at the same time, it is important to understand that every one of us makes the decision for themselves. Some of us are in for the constant thrill that life itself serves us, while others enjoy their shiny material goods.
It’s time that we stopped overspending on the ordinary and started thinking about all the memories and good times we’ll live to explore with a little bit of extra savings and just the right amount of adventurous spirit.
Go FORTH and explore!