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The Everlasting Gift of Experience

December 16, 2015

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. – Dr. Seuss.
They can be triggered by a scent. A song. A photograph.
In this week’s Compassionate Gift Giving series, we’re getting nostalgic for those random memories that make us smile and warm our hearts. We’re talking about the gift of experience.


How do you compete with this year’s new gadget?! You don’t. People adapt to things. The new gadget that was so exciting last year becomes part of everyday life by the time the next year rolls around—and some new gadget comes along to replace it.

Experiences, on the other hand, like salsa-dancing lessons, acro (partner) yoga, or concert tickets last longer. Doing new things together strengthens and keeps relationships fresh.

Best of all, shared experiences can be remembered and savored after the fact; you and your loved ones can relive the best moments for years to come.


Experiences offer something psychologists call “positive re-interpretation," – translation, "looking through rose-tinted glasses." If you have buyer’s remorse about a purchase, you're stuck with the fact you made a bad choice. But with experiences it's not like that. You can make them seem better in your mind.
A study of people going on a cycling trip and another group going to an amusement park, found that the cyclists – even the ones who’d had a bad experience riding in the rain – had a great time. When asked later, instead of thinking of that rainy day as unpleasant, even though it was at the time, they re-interpreted it as rewarding.
It was similar with the amusement park visitors. Recordings of feelings after the trip were also found to be more pleasurable. What we remember - the rides, fireworks, quality time with family – is much different than what we experience when we are actually there – coping with crowds, waiting in line, and cranky family.
With experiences, our memories bring the best parts to the front and give them a rosy glow—and the annoying, boring parts fade into the forgotten background.


Many people assume that skill development is age sensitive, and that it is mainly targeted at children or those starting out on their career or looking for promotion. This is not the case. It is always a good idea to keep honing your skills; it will not only keep you on top of your game at work and in life, but also keep your mind sharp and used to learning. Or you just might find a new passion.
Learning is endless and depends on neither time nor place. 


Experiences somehow magically provide free anticipatory pleasure. With material goods, waiting really gets on people's nerves—people like instant gratification, even willing to pay more for faster delivery. With experiences it isn't like that. Instead, waiting for an experience can provide a significant amount of happiness.

We don’t need a study to validate the excitement that we’ve all felt at least once in our lives anticipating a planned vacation, the flutter of butterflies in our stomach, or uncontrollably smiling while simply talking about your upcoming trip.  
This is why you should book your next vacation now, today, as soon as possible—to max out the free happiness that comes from looking forward to it.

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