We live in a world where material things are important, a world where what we own determines our status and our perceived happiness. The obsession over items and status has become such an integral part of our world that we have begun to directly correlate the value of our things with the value of ourselves as people.
In general, wanting to buy and have nice things is not bad. However, when we begin replacing authentic experiences and relationships with money and objects, we have taken it a step too far. Life is meant to be lived, not bought. The initial rush that comes with a new purchase only lasts so long, and if we are not careful, there is a certain emptiness inside that can appear in the aftermath. When we fill this emptiness with more material things, as we have been taught, the cycle repeats, and life loses a bit of its truth and meaning.
After a couple of years, most items we buy or receive will be forgotten, worn out, or upgraded. Experiences, though, are the gifts that truly last. The unforgettable experiences? These memories are what we carry with us and are able to hold onto long after the money spent fades away. We don't remember the “stuff” as much as the moments when we felt happy and alive.
Experiences offer a chance to see or hear something new, explore, and be culturally and intellectually stimulated. When conversing with others, most people talk about events in their lives rather than the cool watch they received three years ago. One can discover much more about life from an experience than from a video game.
The holiday season is rapidly approaching and with it, the onslaught of commercials and items that society tells us we will not be complete without. If you dare, try something different this year. Instead of buying five gadgets or silly things that will quickly find their place in the back of drawers, spend the same amount of money on gifting experiences. Think about the person you are gifting an experience to. What are their passions? What can you do together that would be a real treat? Spend special time with the people you love, and reap the benefits instead of giving them material objects.
For families with children, this could be a great opportunity to teach them that having “stuff” does not equate to real happiness, because, at the end of the day, there is a distinct difference between true and perceived happiness. The earlier children learn this, the sooner they will be able to define themselves based on how they live their life and who they are, rather than on what they own.
Any experience you think the recipient might enjoy can make a wonderful gift. Here are a few examples:
- Concert tickets
- Cooking classes
- Day trips
- Comedy shows
- Tickets to sporting events
- Massage certificates
- Weekend getaways
- Wine tasting tours