The Best Piece of Advice I Ever Received for a Happier, More Fulfilled Life

One of the best parts of my job is having the opportunity to interact with some of the most awesome and interesting people I could ever hope to meet. In fact, I learn just as much from each of my clients as they learn from me. I’ve gained some of the most powerful insights into my life, and life in general, during casual chatting between sets.

Here is one of the most powerful lessons I ever learned from a client:

Do things, don’t buy things.

Wow, this blew my mind. I should also mention that it was sparked by the recap of this client’s trip to Africa, where she had two major goals: see life beginning (the birth of a giraffe), and see life ending (a lion hunting and catching its prey).

(Side note: Since this conversation I’ve had a few other clients travel to Africa, with nothing but amazing things to say. I’ll be planning my trip there soon. I digress.)

It turns out that research backs up this wisdom. When we buy material things, they are exciting for a while. However, the novelty eventually wears out and it becomes our new “normal.” Researchers call this hedonistic adaptation: when material objects become just another part of our normal life. 

I’d bet you have clothes in your closet that you were so excited to buy, but now hardly ever notice are still hanging up collecting dust.

I bet the first few rides in your new car were very exciting, but now you don’t even think about it. Or even worse, that once new car now brings anxiety at the thought of costly repairs and maintenance. 

On the other hand, how many of your vacations still hold a special place in your heart? Can you still recall those precious moments that got your heart pumping full of joy and life?

I’ve been skydiving twice, and I can tell you it is something that excites me every time I think about it. I can also distinctly remember, at least parts of, every vacation I’ve ever been on (and there lie some of my fondest memories).

The novelty of material things fades over time, but the emotional response to having new and exciting experiences lasts forever. These positive emotions are reproduced every time we think about these experiences. Doing things creates wonderful memories to look back on and relive, while buying things just empties your wallet.

I urge you to do some reflection this week. Ask yourself, “what frivolous things have I spent money on lately?”  What events, places, or people are you dying to visit but can’t seem to find the time or money to do them?

Since I was first given this advice I’ve all but stopped buying people material gifts. Instead, I try to buy them an experience–an activity they’ve wanted to try or a place they’ve wanted to go. Science shows that experiences bring happiness, not material goods.

My biggest tip for you going forward to help live your best life, just as it was taught to me, is:

Do things, don’t buy things.

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