Why Should We Value Experiences Over Possessions?

Why are Positive Experiences more value than Gaining Possessions?

Experiences over possessionsWhat drives you more, possessions or experiences?

What is of more value to you, experiences over possessions?

If you were suddenly given £500 as a gift, would your first thought be fantastic, now I can get that new iPhone, designer handbag or iPad Air? Or perhaps, would you quickly be searching budget airline websites looking for the best deal to your next “bucket list” dream destination, scanning for the hottest tickets to the most popular concerts or surprising someone with a gift of money who needs it?

I am finding increasingly that what drives my spending more is experience over possessions. I find it more satisfying, more rewarding and has longer lasting value, what about you?

Three Words

At the start of 2013 I chose three words that I wanted to use as a guide (rather than creating New Year resolutions), for making decisions in the year. One of those three words was simplicity. Part of the drive for simplicity in my life was the decluttering of “stuff” that we had accumulated over the years. The loft in our house contains many boxes of bubble wrapped items stored there since we moved. They are still there, dusty but untouched. With great anticipation and excitement I pulled two of these boxes down and set to work to discover what riches we had stored away. It was like an episode of “Storage Hunters!” Cut that lock and open that bin!

A Fortune In Bubble Wrap
What had been secretly stored away for those two and a half years (and more) in these boxes was our prized collection of David Winter Cottages. In the 1980s and 90s these were extremely popular collectables and we had spent considerable sums, (at a time when we really hadn’t got it), in collecting these beautiful and exquisitely crafted ornaments. No longer having space in our house to display these possessions, and thinking we had a fortune on our hands if we sold them, I expectantly keyed the names into the completed auction items search on eBay. How much money would these raise? We had in total around 20 of these items, some small, some large and some special limited editions. One particular item I remember paying £50 for back in 1984, taking into inflation over those years that would be £136 today. To my surprise and shock there had been many of these similar items for sale in the last three months and only one auction had completed at the grand total of £12.36 which included the postage!

Let’s Go Worship Sho-pping
Why do we often buy “stuff” that we don’t need and can’t afford? Some say it’s to impress people we don’t like! Is it in worship of that great and all consuming deity, Sho-pping? With his guardian angels, Visa, Mastercard and Instore credit, the temples where he abodes, (often called Sho-pping centres or Malls) are bursting with devotees. Yesterday, I had call to visit one of the biggest temples in the area, the Bull Ring Sho-pping Centre in Birmingham. It was teeming with enthusiastic disciples. In one corner was the fruit god store, Apple. So many people wanted to make a sacrifice there that there was a queueing system like those found in a theme park outside the front of the store! I commented to the cleric guarding the line that it was a good job England was in a recession because if times were good it would just be impossible to pass!

Why Experiences Over Possessions Adds True Value 
After saving for a long time we have just returned from a round the world trip stopping in Hong Kong, New Zealand and Rarotonga. So many experiences to recount and stores of stories to tell. We could have brought so much “stuff” with the cost of the trip, but we wouldn’t exchange those many experiences for multiple possessions. I can now still smell the Durian fruit that has the pungent odour of smelly feet, but apparently delicious, in the Fa Yuen Street Market. Parking our camper van by Lake Pukaki with a vista from the back window that just took your breath away, is immediately conjured up when I close my eyes. Recalling the feel of the cold biting wind in my face as I looped the loop in a 1930′s open cockpit Tiger Moth over Lake Wanaka, and lying in bed listening to the sound of waves breaking over the reef at Mama Ru’s beach hut. Experiences over possessions every time.

  • Experiences create stories which are the illustration resources that fill captivating speeches for public speaking and presentations. Nothing captures the audience more that a first hand story of an exploit creatively used to make a strong point during a speech.
  • Experiences never lose their worth over time, they just accumulate more value as you relive them again and again. It’s the gift that you keep giving to yourself and others as you recount the experience.
  • Experiences create memories which can’t be taken from you. Stuff can get lost, stolen or destroyed in a moment. When it all comes down to the essence of living, the shared experiences of life with someone we love and who loves us is priceless. That’s why those devastating illnesses like Alzheimers that can rob us and those we love of memories are all the more painful to suffer.

These thoughts were brought home to me powerfully when I watched again the moving speech by Professor Randy Pausch when he only has weeks left to live. There are so many valuable lessons in what he teaches and this short video reminds me what matters most in life. Experiences over possessions and people matter most.

Are Experiences Over Possessions More Value To You?
What about you? What drives you? When you get that discretionary money, where’s your first thoughts go? Could I suggest you consider prioritising having experiences rather than buying stuff? Don’t have much money, then don’t spend what you don’t have to accumulate debt on stuff you don’t need, go to the park and feed the ducks, play on the swings with your kids, make snow angels at night in the frost. Use budget airlines and AirBnb to catch that short break in another culture. The experience will stay much longer than the thill of the latest acquisition from the temple of Sho-pping. Me, I’m wanting to smell the fresh baked bread from Gioras Bakery on Mykonos Island in Greece again, so it’s off to the Easy Jet site to watch for a bargain!

I would love to know what you have chosen to experience rather than accumulate, please write me a comment and let’s start a conversation.You can email me here or tweet me here.

By Peter Billingham


Posted on by Peter Billingham in Blog Posts, Happiness, Legacy, Travel

About Peter Billingham

Leader, Learner, Speechwriter, Storyteller, Author. a.k.a. 'The Artful Speaker' Enjoy working on social action projects, Toastmasters, films & adventure travel.

2 Responses to Why Should We Value Experiences Over Possessions?

  1. Byron Friday @akaTGIF on Twitter

    Are Experiences Over Possessions More Value To You?

    Yes and in my case – but only if I have the perspective to understand the difference between tangible and intangible.

    The understanding of how grace and humility can work miracles is a wisdom that’s gained when we humans do though the trails and tribulations in life.

    Grace, humility and wisdom can create a “like water” state of mind that will allow the human mind to navigate drama filled challenges without (or reduced level) of fear and anxiety.

    The art of using our negative life experiences as valuable life lessons is a key ingredient in working towards a state of enlightenment.

    My take away:

    Possessions are not on the same level of importance as Life Experiences. Every single daily experiences is an opportunity to learn about “The Truth” in all things. Wisdom, Grace, humility, acceptance and gratitude are gained only though our life experiences.

    I am grateful to you for the opportunity to learn from the above body of art!

    Signed…I may be low on personal possessions but I am abundant in valuable life experiences!

    Coach Byron Friday

    • Peter Billingham

      Thank you very much for taking the time to eloquently comment on my post, I love the last line – it sounds as if you are very rich! I too believe that if we choose the right response we can grow from even bad experiences, they can make us better or bitter, it our choice in how we respond. It seems that you are choosing the right response! I appreciate the comment and want you to know that I am so encouraged by your words! Thanks Coach!

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