Twenty years from now you'll be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did.
Looking back on life, our biggest regrets come from inaction.
Studies show the most common regret is letting dreams go unfulfilled. This happens because we did not have the courage to live the life we desired. We regret working too hard, not spending enough time with family and friends and lastly... not letting ourselves be happier. We don't realize until it's too late that happiness is a choice.
The exact opposite is true as it relates to stuff.
Most of our biggest regrets are buying something we wish we hadn't.
Research shows that shifting from buying stuff to buying experiences can have a dramatic impact on happiness.
In the classic book, Happy Money, The Science of Happier Spending, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton lay out several principles to align your money with happiness. Here are a few of them:
Think of the purchases you've made with the goal of increasing your own happiness. Consider the stuff you have purchased in the past- cars, jewelry, furniture or clothing for example. Now compare it to a purchase you made that gave you a life experience such as a trip, concert, sporting event or a dinner with friends.
Which of these purchases made you happier?
Study after study shows people are happier when they reflect on their experiential purchases, considering the experiences money well spent.
Those who spent money on leisure including trips, movies, sporting events or concerts, and gym memberships report significantly greater satisfaction in their lives.
Even bad experiences, over time can become better in the rearview mirror. A funny memory that brings laughter for years to come.
The best thing is these experiences don't have to cost a lot of money or be planned months in advance. The little things can deliver just as much happiness. Many of these don't even cost a thing: A long walk, bike ride, or time with family and friends.
In addition, studies consistently show people would rather have a large number of smaller pleasures than a small number of larger ones.
Abundance is the enemy of appreciation. The more we're exposed to something, the more its impact diminishes. Limited availability, however, makes us want it even more. We don't even want it until we're told we can't have it.
Want an example? I give you craving Chick-Fil-A....on a SUNDAY.
While abundance is the enemy of appreciation, scarcity is our greatest ally.
Temporarily give up chocolate (or bourbon or...) and you'll enjoy it even more when you get it next.
Absolute denial, though, is overrated. Instead, treat yourself. Intentionally limiting our access helps us appreciate it more when we do.
So, the next time you're gorging on one of life's bountiful excesses, consider taking a break, use some discipline and save some for a special occasion.
We've written extensively about the importance of our time in Hell Yes... or No as well as When Less is More. The message here is the same: intentionally creating downtime is directly linked to greater happiness even for those that say they prefer to be busy. Purchases that reduce or eliminate the worst minutes of our day can provide large returns on our happiness.
Working long hours to earn more money to provide our family with fancier things and our kids with shinier toys is a bad happiness trade off, especially when doing it comes at the cost of actually spending time with them.
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.
-Henry David Thoreau
While we're judicious in our decisions with your portfolio, it's the return on your life that matters most. And since our time is more limited each day and can never be replenished, the above quote by Thoreau is the lens we look through when advising on your financial life.
Thinking about time, rather than money, spurs people to engage in activities that promote well being. While the saying "time is money" may be financially wise, it's counterproductive from a happiness perspective. Rather than seeing time as a way to get more money, view happier time as an end in itself.
When it comes to happiness, the joy of getting pales in comparison to the joy of giving. Research shows that by far the biggest payoff of all is spending on others.
The act of giving and helping others kindles self esteem and brings happiness. Science shows happiness is directly correlated to the amount of gratitude we show.
The rewards of giving are priceless.
The benefits of helping others don't stop at just making us feel happier. Studies show it can also make us healthier and lasts much longer than spending on ourselves.
Once we stop thinking about our stuff and only on the "big moments" in our lives, we can begin to focus on those smaller opportunities that tend to pass us by.
Enjoy the little things as one day you'll look back and realize they were the big things.
These are the events—the inflection points in our lives—that determine our life today, where we are headed in the future, and how many lives we can impact along the way.
Your Life is Our Passion,