To Have or To Do? The Great Dilemma: Experiences Versus Things

Photo by Jacob Vizek on Unsplash

“Life is about experience . . . you can’t hold onto everything.” — Sarah Addison Allen

Every human life is a mosaic of experiences, and we invariably leave trails of material objects in our wake. As humans, we constantly grapple with a fundamental dilemma: what brings us more happiness — acquiring tangible possessions or collecting intangible experiences?

Are we more fulfilled by the gleam of a brand new car or the glow of a sunset on a beach halfway around the world?

Do we prefer experiences or things?

Understanding the Allure of Material Possessions

Humans are naturally acquisitive beings. We derive pleasure and satisfaction from acquiring and owning things. Since time immemorial, tangible possessions have been seen as indicators of success and status. Having more or better material goods is often equated with being more successful in life.

Material possessions offer a sense of permanence and security that experiences, by their fleeting nature, can’t provide. Items like a home, car, or clothing allow for repeated use and long-term enjoyment. They represent our tastes, identities, and accomplishments.
Moreover, possessions can sometimes enable experiences. A car may facilitate a memorable road trip. A good-quality camera can help capture a moment forever. A book can transport us to different worlds and times.

The Magic of Experiences

Conversely, experiences are events or occurrences that we live through. They can be as mundane as a daily walk in the park, or as extraordinary as a once-in-a-lifetime trip. They are ephemeral, only lasting for a short period, yet the memories they create can last a lifetime.
Experiences contribute significantly to our personal growth and self-identity. They help us shape our perspectives, foster our relationships, and build our character. Even negative experiences can have positive outcomes, teaching us important lessons and making us more resilient.

The Argument for Experiences Over Things

Research in the field of positive psychology suggests that experiences often trump possessions in terms of long-term…

Donna L Roberts, PhD (Psych Pstuff)

Writer and university professor researching the human condition, generational studies, human and animal rights, and the intersection of art and psychology