Life is about Experiences, not Possessions…

I’ll invite you to close your eyes for a moment as you ponder the following question: If you could relive one moment from 5775, what would it be?

Do you find yourself at the beach during a family vacation?

Are you at a birthday party blowing out candles?

Are you reliving the excitement of last February’s Super Bowl Sunday?

Who is there with you?

Are you alone?

Are you with friends?

Are you surrounded by family?

Did you choose that feeling because it was joyful? Meaningful? A once in a lifetime experience?

I ask, because I am guessing that none of you chose to relive the moment when you acquired a new “something.”

None of you choose the time you picked up the new car from the dealership, or opened the box for your new cellphone, or picked out a dress.

I am guessing you chose a moment that involved someone else.

It is ironic that we spend much of our energy on things. Which camera has the highest resolution? Which phone has the longest lasting battery? Is my 72” HD TV good enough or do I need a curved, 4K, television?

When in reality, more and more research reveals that it is experiences that bring us the most satisfaction.

In fact, not only do we enjoy experiences more than we enjoy products, but we enjoy the anticipation AND the reminiscing associated with an experience more than the anticipation and reminiscing of a product.

Think about a summer vacation. Once the details are confirmed during the winter, you mark your calendar and spend the rest of winter counting down the days until the trip. And even if it rains while on the trip, you go to the movies, play board games, or simply hang out at the house. Six months later, when it is snowing again, you look at the family pictures and remember the trips most enjoyable moments.

Juxtapose that to overall, the sense of joy and happiness, with the feeling we get when we acquire new possessions.

How many of us reminisce about our first cell phone?

How many of us longingly look at our current phone, and remember the good ole days. Oh, remember the slender Motorola Razor. How I loved its sleekness. Oh yeah, and my old Motorola Startac. How I loved pulling the antenna to improve reception.

Cornell psychology professor Thomas Gilovich and other researchers recently published an article highlighting the division between experiences and things:

Looking back on purchases made, experiences make people happier than do possessions. It’s kind of counter to the logic that if you pay for an experience, like a vacation, it will be over and gone; but if you buy a tangible thing, a couch, at least you’ll have it for a long time. Actually most of us have a pretty intense capacity for tolerance, where we stop appreciating things to which we’re constantly exposed. iPhones, clothes, couches, et cetera, just become background. They deteriorate or become obsolete. It’s the fleetingness of experiential purchases that endears us to them. Either they’re not around long enough to become imperfect, or they are imperfect, but our memories and stories of them get sweet with time. Even a bad experience becomes a good story.

Life should be about collecting experiences.

Life is about the connections and relationships with others.

Life is about making memories.

As we begin the New Year, let us remember the experiences that were powerful,

the experiences that filled us with joy, and even the experiences where we faltered.

During the next ten days may we commit ourselves to embracing people and not products, individuals and not items.

May the new year be filled with new experiences, more friendships, and deeper connections with each other…and maybe a few new electronic toys as well.

Shanah Tovah

About the Author
Rabbi Michael Mauricio Fel is proud to serve as the Rabbi of Temple Emunah. Originally from Miami, Florida, Rabbi Fel is fluent in Spanish, loves woodworking, and hiking.