Experiences vs. Possessions

What are the priorities in your life?

I’m sure a lot of you would say family and friends… Which is great, but let me rephrase the question

Where do you spend your time?

I’m pretty sure many, if not most of us don’t spend our time very wisely. Each of us gets a fixed amount of time, some more than others. So you’d better spend your time wisely.

Are you actively managing your time?

hmm… most of us don’t manage any part of our lives very well, chances are you don’t even think in terms of managing your time. How are you supposed to find time for that :)

What do you want?

I suspect the first thing that comes to mind are tangible things like cars, homes, cell phones, computers, tv’s, clothes… We live in a culture that “values” possessions. Think back to the last time you really wanted something. For many of you it will be something like buying a new Iphone or a new Car. I bet you had more fun anticipating buying the thing, then you did after you purchased the thing. Buyers remorse, we’ve all experienced it.

As a society we are willing to go into debt to get thing. It seems like the debt will be totally worth it in the moment, we rationalize it, but it’s not worth it. Debt is a monkey on our back. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with having nice things, I have plenty of nice things. This isn’t all or nothing choice, it’s about prioritizing.

Think back to a happy period or memory in your life

I suspect most of you won’t think back to the amazing gift you got for Christmas in 1995. Most of us can’t even remember what you got for Christmas last year.

The memory that comes to mind for me was the first few years of our marriage. My wife and I had almost no money / possessions, I was in the Navy and my salary was just enough to cover our expenses. The only real possession we had was a junky, old Mazda 626 that we paid cash for.

What we had was each other and some crazy awesome adventures. We moved to Orlando, FL for a year. I was in tough Navy School and I was working/learning 80+ hours each week, so I didn’t have a lot of free time, but somehow I have such fond memories of that period of our life.

I remember driving to Daytona Beach, flying kites, kayaking, playing backgammon, swimming in the ocean. I remember roller-blading with my wife up and down the streets of Winterpark, FL. I remember going out to dinner at Outback Steakhouse, occasionally anyway, usually it was Taco Bell.

We didn’t buy many things, mostly because we didn’t have money, and it turns out those were some of the best years of my life. Buying and maintaining possessions wasn’t even and option, so we spent our time experiencing things.

Over the next few years we moved to Idaho Falls, ID and then Silverdale, WA. We continued to just get by financially, we continued to be deficit in free time, but what time we had was spent doing things. Exploring the local sites, trying new things.

Experiences Rule!

Here’s a funny (tangent) about our minds and experiences. I used to go to sea for months on end, without being able to contact with my wife. Towards the end of a patrol, when I was lying in bed, I’d try and remember what my wife looked like. It’s kind of weird but, after being separated from her for 90+ days, I couldn’t picture her in my mind. It felt horrible at first, what kind of person was I… I couldn’t remember what my wife looked like. But after speaking to some of my shipmates, I found out this was a common thing. Eventually I figured out the trick, a guaranteed way of picturing her, in my minds eye, was thinking back to one of our experiences. Thinking about those experiences put my mind in overdrive.

When I had money

A few years after I left the Navy, I was making nice six figure salary, and became tempted to buy things. Our possessions started to accumulate, our debt accumulated. We bought cars with loans, we bought a home, we used credit cards freely… too freely.
I would rationalize spending money on some possession because “I worked hard and I deserved it” and besides the cost of the possession was a small fraction of what I made.

At some point my life shifted from a financially broke but experience rich life, to an financially rich but experiences poor life. This transition happened slowly and I didn’t even notice it. I was prioritizing things over experiences, without even thinking about it… Turns out that’s not a very good life.

It took a life changing event, and a lot of self evaluation to recognize what had happened.

What I’m doing about it

We’ve been on the road RVing for a bit over 2 months now, and our focus is on experiences. We get out and do things every weekend. We don’t sit around maintaining our possessions, we get out and experience the amazing country we live in.

It’s exhilarating!

It’s living like I haven’t lived in years!

So I was curious, is this just me? In other words, is this just how I work?

Turns out it’s not just me.
Go google experiences vs. possessions.

What do you prioritize experiences or possessions?

If that question hasn’t been deeply considered, I’d suggest you consider it.
You are running out of time.

Disclaimer: I don’t claim to have mastered any of what I’m writing about, I’ve just recently started considering my priorities and actively choosing mine.

~5 Minute Read

20 Oct 2015 by James Moore
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