We live in a high-tech, high-touch, instant-gratification society and have conditioned ourselves to believe we need the next best thing…now, no matter the cost.
An increasing trend over the past decade is spending money on experiences over material goods. Surprisingly recent data supports that life experiences provide more lasting pleasure than material things… people [are] still… prioritizing material goods over experiences. Professor Ryan T. Howell, an associate professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, found that people believe material goods give them more value for their money, yet when reflecting on purchases of experiences and material goods, the experiences were found to provide better value.
So if this is true, for what reasons do we not invest more on experiences compared to material goods? Instant gratification! Tangible objects provide misconceptions that since we are able to use the object, it is a better value for our money. The fleeting idea of an experience propels us towards spending money on items we can possess for a longer period of time than say a week’s vacation. Interestingly, the concept of this comparison is factually true, the purchased good will last longer than the experience, but not psychologically true.
According to Scientific American Mind, approaching an immediate reward causes soaring levels of dopamine, a feel good neurotransmitter, whereas levels start to decline while receiving the reward.
When you consider child development, it is harder to convince a toddler to opt for an experience as they impulsively want the tangible toy that is likely to be tossed aside once the next new one emerges. As we grow, our experiences make us who we are. The more experiences, especially rich ones that expand our horizons and open our minds, the better.
Let’s learn a lesson here. As we contemplate the next best thing, consider how an experience might add to your repertoire of life. Which one will you value more as life’s path continues?