We’ve all heard the old adage that when you look back on your life, you will regret the things you didn’t do far more than anything you did. But it’s unlikely to be the time you didn’t buy that jacket, or that new car, that will be the things you’ll regret not doing. It’s the experiences – never going travelling, not taking risks, not falling in love. Those are the regrets that will stay with you.
Regret Nothing, Experience Everything
When we look at the people who say they regret nothing, it seems they were always learning, always doing … always experiencing. Advertisers might tell us our favourite sport stars have no regrets because of the products they promote, though I’m yet to see an interview with a star that confirms this.
Start-up founders might seem like they are in it for the money, when in reality, hardly any of them make the big money you think they do. But what both groups of people have in common is that they are constantly pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, and creating learning experiences. They experiment, they try new things and they defiantly work towards goals.
So how can you emulate their happiness? The pursuit of material possessions will never make you happy long term, whereas experiences are proven to increase your happiness. Several studies by Leaf Van Boven (2005) and Carter and Gilovich (2010) have shown that experiences are more memorable and likely to increase your happiness both in the moment and afterwards. Even negative experiences shared with good people are usually remembered in positive ways because of the emotional connection it creates. Similarly, we are less likely to feel annoyance at people that talk about their latest bungee jump, where we might feel resentment toward someone telling us about their latest purchase of a £200 shirt.
Can you remember a negative experience you had lately? Maybe you were caught in the rain or your plane was delayed. Think about how it made you feel and what you think of it now. Now think about when something went wrong with a product and your consequential perception of the product. Do you view the experience more favourably than the product afterward? If so, you may already be aware that experiences impact your happiness more than material goods and are remembered in a less negative way when they go wrong. In fact you may also find that an excess of material goods is impending on your life in a negative way.
Recently I went camping next to the beach in Tulum, Mexico. I could tell you that the stars were some of the brightest I’d ever seen and the temperature of the ocean was perfect. Both of these were true, but I also couldn’t sleep because the wind was incredibly loud and my hammock was being blown around like crazy. In addition there were no showers and I had a flight early the next day in Cancun.
Now it sounds less romantic but the truth is my main memory is the stars. So bright and so incredible. The bad parts of the experience were annoying but it was all worth it and, other than here, I don’t feel the need to tell anyone the bad aspects. On the other hand, if I bought a product and it broke within the first month or two I’d be unhappy, a while after the feel good of the purchase. Even a good experience with material products can easily be overshadowed by anything bad.
The Pursuit of Happiness
So our key to happiness is simple – invest your time, your money and your energy in experiences over products. Whether it’s kayaking along a river, travelling to a foreign country, enjoying a picnic with friends, or just spending time in your own company, you’ll be sure not to regret it.
If you’re more of the adventure type and are heading to Europe check out SumOfThis.com to find and compare adventure experiences. To create and tick items off your virtual Bucket List, BLE is here to help you in your pursuit of happiness.
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