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Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things

When you work hard every single day and there’s only so much money left after your regular expenses, you have to make certain it’s well spent. Spend your limited funds on what science says will make you happy.

The Paradox Of Possessions

A 20-year study conducted by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, reached a powerful and straightforward conclusion: Don’t spend your money on things. The trouble with things is that the happiness they provide fades quickly. There are three critical reasons for this:

• 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.

“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” Gilovich said. “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.”

The paradox of possessions is that we assume that the happiness we get from buying something will last as long as the thing itself. It seems intuitive that investing in something we can see, hear, and touch on a permanent basis delivers the best value. But it’s wrong.

The Power Of Experiences

Gilovich and other researchers have found that experiences—as fleeting as they may be—deliver more-lasting happiness than things. Here’s why:

Experiences become a part of our identity. We are not our possessions, but we are the accumulation of everything we’ve seen, the things we’ve done, and the places we’ve been. Buying an Apple Watch isn’t going to change who you are; taking a break from work to hike the Appalachian Trail from start to finish most certainly will.

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” said Gilovich. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

Comparisons matter little. We don’t compare experiences in the same way that we compare things. In a Harvard study, when people were asked if they’d rather have a high salary that was lower than that of their peers or a low salary that was higher than that of their peers, a lot of them weren’t sure. But when they were asked the same question about the length of a vacation, most people chose a longer vacation, even though it was shorter than that of their peers. It’s hard to quantify the relative value of any two experiences, which makes them that much more enjoyable.

Anticipation matters. Gilovich also studied anticipation and found that anticipation of an experience causes excitement and enjoyment, while anticipation of obtaining a possession causes impatience. Experiences are enjoyable from the very first moments of planning, all the way through to the memories you cherish forever.

Experiences are fleeting (which is a good thing). Have you ever bought something that wasn’t nearly as cool as you thought it would be? Once you buy it, it’s right there in your face, reminding you of your disappointment. And even if a purchase does meet your expectations, buyer’s remorse can set in: “Sure, it’s cool, but it probably wasn’t worth the money.” We don’t do that with experiences. The very fact that they last for only a short time is part of what makes us value them so much, and that value tends to increase as time passes.

Bringing It All Together

Gilovich and his colleagues aren’t the only ones who believe that experiences make us happier than things do. Dr. Elizabeth Dunn at the University of British Columbia has also studied the topic, and she attributes the temporary happiness achieved by buying things to what she calls “puddles of pleasure.” In other words, that kind of happiness evaporates quickly and leaves us wanting more. Things may last longer than experiences, but the memories that linger are what matter most.

What makes you happier, experiences or things? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

I am the author of the best-selling book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and the cofounder of TalentSmart, a consultancy that serves more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies and is the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training (www.TalentSmart.com). My books have been translated into 25 languages and are available in more than 150 countries. I’ve written for, or been covered by, Newsweek, BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Harvard Business Review. I’m a world-renowned expert in emotional intelligence who speaks regularly in corporate and public settings. Example engagements include Intel, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Fortune Brands, the Fortune Growth Summit, The Conference Board: Learning from Legends, and Excellence in Government. I hold a dual Ph.D. in clinical and industrial-organizational psychology. I received my bachelor of science in clinical psychology from the University of California – San Diego.

Source: Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things

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7 Spots To Experience The Joy Of Missing Out

Get A Taste Of Bedouin Life

Get A Taste Of Bedouin Life

Four Seasons Hotel Amman

Gorgeous photos and shareable moments are the hallmark of any modern vacation, but when is the last time you actually took a trip just for yourself?

Instead of trying to keep up with wanderlust-inducing Instagram feeds, opt for a more laid-back approach to your next getaway. Treat yourself to a digital detox at these Forbes Travel Guide-approved stays that excel in JOMO (the joy of missing out), the antithesis to FOMO (fear of missing out).

Four Seasons Hotel Amman

You won’t find Wi-Fi in the heart of Wadi Rum, the rose-hued desert four hours south of this spectacular stay in Jordan’s capital.

Head for the dunes for an overnight excursion to Bedouin Lifestyle Camp — a tented complex run by the region’s traditionally nomadic inhabitants — where you can hike through the otherworldly rock formations that surround the sands.

After sundown, gather around the fire for a family-style meal of roasted lamb. Be sure to gaze up at the stars — the celestial bodies shine bright without Amman’s light pollution.

The Westin Palace, Madrid

The Westin Palace, Madrid

Westin Hotels and Resorts

Across the map, Westin properties put self-care first with a host of health-focused offerings to keep you on top of your game during your travels — without the constant stimulation of digital devices.

At hotels like Forbes Travel Guide Recommended The Westin Chosun Seoul, look out for rest-enhancing amenities, such as bedside Sleep Well Lavender Balm or the superfood-packed Sleep Well Menu for late-night room service.

More active pursuits can be found at stays like The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, where you can trade in your phone for the day in exchange for bike rentals, kayak tours or spa time, or Forbes Travel Guide Recommended The Westin Palace, Madrid where you can follow the property’s running map for a 2.5-mile route around some of the city’s most popular sights.

In the spirit of dolce far niente (“the sweet art of doing nothing”), this Five-Star Venetian gem recently debuted an early morning experience you need to see to believe.

Scala Del Bovolo Sunrise begins with a shuttle ride to St. Mark’s Square, where you’ll stroll through the deserted city streets before climbing the spiral staircase of the 15th-century Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo.

After conquering the 80-step ascent, you’ll be rewarded with sunrise views over Venice and a continental breakfast. Trust us when we say you’ll want to leave your phone behind — pictures won’t do these vistas justice.

Esperanza, Auberge Resorts Collection

Esperanza, Auberge Resorts Collection

Esperanza, Auberge Resorts Collection

A cliffside locale and VIP-approved amenities (past guests have included Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Aniston) are just a few of the reasons to unplug and soak in all that this Five-Star stunner has to offer.

Ditch your device for a bit of romance with the Cabo San Lucas property’s Sueños Spa Experience. Enjoy a steamy spin in the Five-Star spa’s grotto, where you and your partner will find a sauna-like cave and warm pools to luxuriate in.

An alfresco couple’s massage illuminated by starlight followed by post-indulgence finger foods and bubbles complete the enviable experience. You will want to keep the details of this romantic rendezvous all to yourselves.

Six Senses Spa

Six Senses Spa

The Alpina Gstaad

Find your center among the scenic Swiss Alps with the Tibetan Healing Retreat offer from this Five-Star gem.

Available June 9 through September 22, the rejuvenating four-night escape begins with a personal consultation, pulse reading and questionnaire that will determine the course of your customized experience.

High stress levels? The spa’s Tibetan medicine amchi-naturopath practitioner might recommend a 60-minute singing bowl session. Need a pick-me-up? You’ll likely enjoy a 75-minute Ku Nye Massage.

No matter your treatments, you’ll be sure to enjoy gratis daily breakfast made especially memorable with a side of those breathtaking mountain views.

Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort

Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort

Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort

Perched in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, this Forbes Travel Guide Recommended retreat is a JOMO paradise. If the Poipu Beach property’s saltwater pool, white sands and fire-pit-dotted grounds aren’t enough to convince you to unplug, its Kauai Wanderlust offer might just do the trick.

Customize your perfect day with your choice of indulgent Hawaiian dinner for two, an oceanside couple’s massage or an adventurous afternoon (surf lessons and a private luau), before retiring on your room’s cozy lanai — a scenic spot to watch the sun set.

The Ranch at Laguna Beach

The Ranch at Laguna Beach

The Ranch at Laguna Beach

Need a break from L.A.’s constant buzz? Head about an hour south to this rustic-chic Orange County retreat to recharge your batteries.

You’ll want to leave the devices at home at this tranquil spot. Tucked between two canyons on 87 verdant acres, the SoCal resort may as well be a world away from the bustle of Hollywood.

Home to Laguna Beach’s only golf course, the sprawling property begs for you to do absolutely nothing, whether by the gorgeous central pool, at nature-inspired Sycamore Spa or around the fire pit roasting s’mores after nightfall.—Sarah Chanin

Forbes Travel Guide, formerly Mobil, created America’s original hospitality Star Rating system in 1958.

Source: 7 Spots To Experience The Joy Of Missing Out

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