Why? What’s the difference?
His survey says the shoes and iPhone are objects that lose their shine over time whereas the show and chalet are experiences that will last a lifetime.
He calls it the paradox of possessions in that we assume the happiness we get from buying something we can see, hear, and touch on a long-term, permanent basis delivers the best value. Apparently we are wrong.
There are three critical reasons for this:
“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.”
Gilovich and other researchers have found that experiences deliver more-lasting happiness than things. Here’s why:
“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.”
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.
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.
“Things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them,” he says. “Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods.”
OK, fine. But what if you didn’t enjoy your experience? Like what if your friend talked you into kayaking the 99 mile Wildness Waterway in the Everglades as opposed to going skiing for the weekend to begin with and then you got chased down a giant alligator when you pulled over to pee? Then what? How could running half naked though a swamp to climb the highest mangrove in your underwear to avoid getting snacked on by a killer alligator make anyone happy?
He says experiences build character.
I don’t think it’s so black and white. Who besides Kim Kardashian could ever walk in those shoes and live to tell about it?
To read more excepts about the study, click here on Fast Company.
To buy those shoes, click here on Zappos.