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Let’s Choose Experiences, Not Possessions

Let’s choose experiences, not possessions!

Everyone wants to be happy, but what truly makes people happy? Happiness seems fleeting, one minute a thing brings us joy and the next we find that we’re tired of it. Research suggests there is a reason why we lose interest in possessions easily and why they don’t create happiness in our lives. Experiences, on the other hand, make us happy in the moment and give us joy when we look back on them. But why?

Happiness is directly correlated with adaptation. Once we adapt to something, it’s no longer new and it stops making us happy. It doesn’t make us unhappy; it just ceases to inspire us. For example, you may get a new car. At first, you notice how beautiful it is, how great it drives and every time you take it out somewhere you get excited. As time passes though, the car becomes just another component of your life. You barely notice it.

Newness makes us happy, which is why experiences are different. We try something we haven’t tried before and the experience sticks – we remember it long after its happened, and just the act of recalling it is fun. Travel is a perfect example of this. When we travel we see unfamiliar surroundings, attend unusual events, and become more flexible in our decision making, opening the door to inspiration and surprise.

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This isn’t just limited to good experiences either. Though travel may push our boundaries by challenging us, we often look back on those moments and laugh or reflect on the things that it taught us, even though we didn’t necessarily feel good about them at the time.

We frequently feel that we identify with our material possessions, that the things we have are a physical manifestation of who we are, but on the simplest most physical level, they aren’t. Meanwhile, our entire existence is predicated on the things we’ve done and the experiences we’ve lived, quite literally making us the sum of our experiences.

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And then there’s bonding. We connect with people over shared experiences, reliving them over time. This is how we strengthen our human relationships. No such unity comes from purchasing or having the same material possession. Much of our happiness comes from community, and community is built on shared experiences. Even if the moments weren’t lived together, having had the same experience makes us feel much more connected to someone than owning the same items.

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Every day, we choose how to spend our limited resources. Why not build memories instead of things? It will give us a stronger bond with our community and ultimately make us happier, healthier people. How can you choose experiences over things in the future? How have you made these decisions in the past? Please share your stories and ideas below.

1 Comment
  • Callie van Rensburg
    Posted at 08:07h, 15 February Reply

    Hi Sean and Mittie

    I’m an 51 yrs old teacher in South Africa. I have “found” “La Poderosa” on Petrolicious, and i find myself coming back to it time and again, as a source of inspiration, a reminder of possibilities. We have four kids that we homeschool and i just know that there must be another way of life waiting out there.

    I am considering going to Taiwan next year on a teaching stint, but also mainly to broaden the minds of my kids, to make them aware of alternatives in life, basically to travel and see the world. We are staying in a mining community, and the last thing i want for my kids is to settle here. The idea of to travel and make a living at the same time sounds ideal.

    Doing it with 4 kids seems daunting, but, they are also the reason i want to do it. We all have only x amount of days left on earth..

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