Experiences or Things?

What is more important in life - Experiences or Things? 

Many years ago a mentor of mine gave me some advice:  “Go through life accumulating experiences, not things”. At the time I think it was largely,  but obviously not entirely, lost on me. We were young(er), getting our family established and it seemed there was a relentless requirement for “things” and that “experiences” could wait. 

As it turned out, the advice - as it often does - proved to be spot on. Kids don’t remember a new coffee table but they do remember a trip to the beach. I think we are all kids at heart too. 

Recently I saw the “experiences vs things” concept very well articulated in Forbes Magazine. The article, by Travis Bradberry, captures the essence of the argument succinctly, as well as using the findings of a 20 year study from Cordell University to make the point.You can read the article here .

In essence the research found three key reasons that investing in experiences is better for us than things : 

We get used to new possessions. What once seemed novel and exciting quickly becomes the norm.

We keep raising the bar. New purchases lead to new expectations. As soon as we get used to a new possession, we look for an even better one.

The Joneses are always lurking nearby. Possessions, by their nature, foster comparisons. We buy a new car and are thrilled with it until a friend buys a better one—and there’s always someone with a better one.

Experiences, on the other hand, whilst they may not last as long as "things" provide us memories that linger - and that is what matters most. 

Perhaps the result of this research could be something to include as we think about how to grow or improve our businesses?

Whilst it is often said that it is hard to measure the return on things like training, team building or awards functions this research suggests those "experiences" are likely to have a greater long term impact on the people involved than, say, a gold watch. 

Food for thought.