The next time you’re considering splurging on an expensive new leather jacket or big-screen TV you don’t necessarily need instead of saving the cash to put toward a trip to Europe, think twice. Memories last A LOT longer than material things — and science proves it.
Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, wrote a study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology called “A Wonderful Life: Experiential Consumption and the Pursuit of Happiness.” In it, he concludes that “as important as possessions might be to a person’s identity and sense of self,” they are not as important as a person’s experiences. “We are the sum total of our experiences. We are not the sum total of our possessions, however important they might be to us. If called upon to write our memoirs, it is our experiences we would write about, not our possessions.”
As someone with endless wanderlust, this comes as great news. Dr. Gilovich makes the point that “sharing something more central to the self [like experiences] is certain to produce a greater feeling of kinship and connection than sharing something more peripheral.” This means that making memories with people — especially through once-in-a-lifetime experiences like those we encounter when we travel — results in a greater bond than if just material items, like physical gifts, are shared.
I’m a minimalist in some ways, but like everyone, I do really enjoy my “things.” The study by no means is saying that some material possessions aren’t important (and of course in some cases, essential), but it does justify putting aside your hard-earned money for something a little less fleeting than a physical thing. Instead, spend it on an experience. Make a memory with someone (or with yourself!) that will last forever. Gilovich hopes this research will “serve as a useful guide to consumers as they decide how to spend their limited disposable income . . . and to all of us as we try to figure out how to live a wonderful life.”
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