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Experiences, Not Things

The Facts

A recent 20-year study conducted by Dr. Thomas Gilovich at Cornell came to the conclusion: Don’t spend your money on things. The trouble with things is that the happiness they provide fades quickly. 1. We get used to new possessions and tire of them quickly; 2. We keep raising the bar, and are always on the lookout for an even better one; and 3. The Joneses are always lurking nearby, and we are thrilled with our possession until a friend buys a better one − and somebody always has a better one. It’s America after all. I once had a client with a private jet and he loved it until the day he parked it next to a Boeing Business Jet in Vegas, and it wasn’t long before he had one of those.

Spiker Insights

One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation. We all buy things to make us happy, and for the most part we succeed − but only for a while. But then we adapt to them. Gilovich found that experiences, as fleeting as they may be, deliver most-lasting happiness over “things.” 1. Experiences become a part of our identity. We are not our possessions, but we are the accumulation of everything we’ve seen and done and places we’ve been; and 2. Comparison matters little. We don’t compare experiences in the same way that we compare things. It’s hard to quantify the relative value of my two-week fly-fishing trip in Chile to yours in New Zealand. And finally, experiences are enjoyable from the very first moments of planning, all the way through to the memories you cherish forever. Things may last longer, but memories that linger are what matter most.