Midlife Wisdom: Collect experiences, not possessions

Since December 2015, I have been thinking about making New Year’s resolutions, in a very general, non-focussed sort of way. It is now the beginning of March 2016 and still I have not been able to formulate any inspiring resolutions for this year. I am not sure why, because I am actually a great recommender of having a whole bunch of short- and long-term « SMART » goals and of living with determined intention. 

Until now.

My one and only New Year’s Resolution for 2016

For 2016, I have made only one resolution: to collect experiences instead of collecting possessions. I didn’t just grab this resolution out of the thin air, I have been thinking along these lines for a long time. I still have goals, lots of them, but my goals have changed, very subtly. The emphasis is no longer on acquiring possessions, or even on acquiring experience, but on living all experiences that come my way as mindfully as possible.  I would like to share 4 of these goals with you to illustrate my point. I would like:

  • To write a book that will help women become more confident and assertive so that they can live more fulfilling lives,
  • To lead a transformational retreat (similar to the Personal Empowerment Workshops I host here in France) in another country, like South Africa for example 
  • To take my horses and equine-assisted experiential learning into local schools, to help with bullying and into local nursing homes, to provide physical and psychological stimulation for the inhabitants
  • To raise money for a charity I feel close to, by talking one of more of the horses to a supermarket and asking for donations
  • To go to the annual EAGALA (equine-assisted growth and learning association) conference in America, this year in Lexicon, Kentucky, to update my knowledge and exchange views and experiences with other equine-assisted therapists…

For the activities listed above, I will still set « SMART » goals, just as I always did before and to work diligently to achieve them. The change is subtle, it really is only a difference in emphasis.

  • Take the first point on my list. I no longer yearn to become a famous author and sell thousands of books. I am more interested in writing a book that can actually be useful, a book that will make a difference to women’s lives. I am more interested in my readers’ reactions to the book – what they found useful and what not, and in the possibility of incorporating this feedback into the book. It is the interaction that will follow the publication of the book that motivates me to write it, now.
  • As for the second point, I am no longer interested in travelling for the sake of seeing the world only. I love travelling, I love discovering new places and I love re-visiting old favourites, but travelling with a group of women with whom I can share the experience while at the same time providing them with the tools and skills the need to change themselves and their lives for the better is so much more appealing.
  • Even the last point, for me, will be about the experience. Being there amongst hundreds of other therapists facing the same challenges in their work as I do, the opportunity to discuss these challenges and brainstorm solutions, the chance to forge new friendships, would make the experience invaluable, in my book.

I no longer feel the need to acquire possessions, not even horses.

Research Results

During the last 10 years, an abundance of psychology research has shown that experiences bring people more happiness than possessions do, especially in the long run. The understanding that experiential purchases are more satisfying than material purchases has long been the focus of psychology professor Thomas Gilovich. Since 2003, he has been researching how and why experiential purchases make us so much happier than material purchases. In the journal Psychological Science, Gilovich and Killingsworth, along with Cornell doctoral candidate Amit Kumar, expand on the current understanding that spending money on experiences “provide more enduring happiness” than spending money on possessions. (Link)

We used to assume that spending money on material possessions make us happier. We thought that when you spend money on a vacation, it is soon over and done with. Whereas if you buy the most comfortable couch that you can afford, the pleasure last longer as it stays with you, in physical form, for much longer than the duration of the holiday. Not so, apparently. It seems that the memories of that holiday not only outlast the lifespan of the couch but become more enjoyable as time goes by. We can even give negative experiences a positive slant. According to Kumar, if it rains a lot during a holiday, «People will say, well, you know, we stayed in and we played board games and it was a great family bonding experience or something.»

Additionally, anticipating going on a holiday is apparently more enjoyable than waiting for your new couch to arrive – maybe because when dreaming about your holiday, the possible ways of making the best of it are only limited by your imagination. I am not altogether convinced of this, though, seems to me I can imagine rather a lot of ways of enjoying my new couch…

The researchers also point out that other people generally find it more interesting to hear about one’s experiences while on holiday, than about the comforts of one’s new couch. That sounds about right, people more often ask me «How was your holiday?» than «How are you getting on with your new couch?» (Which is probably a good thing!)

Reasons I chose this Resolution

You may have been surprised my outrageous statement above, about not being interested in buying more horses. I am too. I never thought there would ever come a time when I would not want more horses (assuming I have the funds and facilities to look after them), but it is true. I would now rather spend time with the horses I have, learn from them, work with them and study the effect that they have on clients during equine-assisted experiential learning sessions.

  • It might have something to do with the fact that having arrived at midlife, I am now aware that time is running out and that I need to live more mindfully: «It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on Earth and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it were the only one we had.» – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
  • Or it might have something to do with a book I read recently: 8 Reasons Your Life Matters, by John Herrick. You can download the book(free) in pdf-form by CLICKING HERE.

So what do you think? Have I finally lost it? Should I be buying better saddles, better bridles, better horses and spend more money on more comfortable furniture?

As the personal transformation retreats to South Africa are still in the planning stage, all I can invite you to at the moment, if you are also more into experiences than into possessions, is our equine-guided Personal Empowerment Workshops.

PS. My apologies for my few-and-far-in-between posts at the moment. I have been asked by Hélène Tragos Stelian if I would care to be featured on her blog, Next Act for Women, about women who changed direction in midlife, so I am currently working on that and I am also updating our women’s midlife retreats.

Midlife Wisdom Collect Experiences not Possessions

15 Replies to “Midlife Wisdom: Collect experiences, not possessions”

  1. having just rightsized, sold our house and moved to a 2-bedroom apartment, I’ve just lived through the first-hand knowledge that experiences–and little thoughtful reminders like photos–are so much more portable and delightful than the material stuff. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. One thing experience does not do is clutter your house. For many seniors (I am in that category), clutter is psychologically depressing and can be physically dangerous, if it turns into hoarding. On the other hand, experiences stimulate you and bring you pleasure.

  3. I do agree with this so much ‘ to collect experiences instead of collecting possessions’. Some very good helps and insight and I wish you well as you fulfill these desires. Nothing happens without first imagining it. And Yes, we have missed you the last few weeks and it was so nice to see you back.
    The Blogger’s Pit Stop

  4. I too in my late 40s see the importance of gathering experiences instead of things. I want to learn and grow even more than I used to. I want to give back and make a difference. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Great post! I too have reached a stage where experiences far outweigh possessions. The past few years we have enjoyed travelling to new places as a family for Christmas in lieu of exchanging gifts – and now we wonder why we didn’t do this years ago! Thanks for sharing 😀

  6. I love that! “Travelling not for the sake of seeing the world” but for experiences. That is awesome! I never thought of that before but it makes so much sense. Thank you so much for linking to #blogsharelearn.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.