Reflections on Achieving Your Goals: Invest in Experiences, Not Stuff

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Every now and then we ask ourselves the big questions: “What is this life all about? What will we leave behind? What will be our legacy?”

There are many great answers to these questions. Most of them come down to making a difference. Changing the world (for the ambitious crowd) or changing how others perceive us by getting rich, pretty(er) or famous (for the more egocentric folks out there).

What I personally really want to leave behind are fond memories and strong bonds with the people in my life that I care about most, especially with my family.

Which is a long intro to get to the point I want to make in this post: focus your time and energy on creating rich experiences, fond memories and with that strong bonds.

Focus on experiences

Making time for and investing in experiences was one of the big resolutions and promises to each other that Uli and I made when we moved to the US.

Back in Germany we were always super busy during the week, exhausted on the weekend and as a result crashed on the couch in front of the TV most weekends instead of going out and experiencing the world.

We were also living in the same area where I grew up and subconsciously we probably thought we had already seen it all anyways.

So how do you do this ‘experience thing’?

Block time, make it a priority

First of all, as for everything, you need to decide to actually do it and commit to it. Block time, protect that time. Define a measurable goal or success criteria. For us it was to commit to going outside or doing at least one fun and engaging activity every single weekend.

You need to defend that time since you will of course have errands to do every weekend that will distract you from your goal. Do it! The renewed energy you will gain from your experiences will let you blast through your other responsibilities much more effectively once you’re back.

You will also often need to kick your own behind because all you really want to do is to actually crash on the coach. Get yourself going. Get over the hump. You will feel much better afterwards. And if not, you can still get your beer and chips and decide that I suggested a really stupid idea to you.

On a side note, Uli and I don’t watch TV at all anymore – it’s too much of a time and energy sucker. The only exception is the occasional movie night with the kids, which quite frankly is much more about the experience than the actual movie when you watch Frozen for the 20th time.

Keep your curiosity

The big stuff is awesome. We love going to National Parks and spending our vacations camping in nature.

Don’t waste your time waiting for your next vacation though. There is so much to explore right here, every day. Keep your eyes open and be curious like a child. If you have a hard time doing that, watch your children, they will teach you. Rediscover your inner child and its playful curiosity and wonder for the world.

Invest in experiences

Rather than buying lots of stuff, that will soon end up at your next garage sale, spend your resources on experiences.

Instead of buying that beautiful little thing, go to your state park website and book a campsite for next weekend. Instead of renting that movie, get gas for your car, grab your loved ones and drive into the mountains. And instead of buying your kids that new toy, get them a swim suit and go to the lake.

Our biggest investment this year will probably be a new camping trailer since our old one starts to fall apart. Rather than a new TV or car or whatever status symbol we could show off to friends and coworkers, this will bring us out with our kids for irreplaceable bonding time and fun. You don’t need a trailer though, a tent or picnic basket will do just fine. The point is, focus on getting stuff that make you create experiences.

Which brings me back to closing the loop with my intro.

Leave a legacy for your kids

What really made us double down on experiences are our kids. They are still young and sometimes even listen to mommy and daddy. Sometimes.

So we still have direct influence on their lives and views of the world. That won’t last much longer though. Friends will take over as influencers. They will become more and independent and soon take off into their own lives. They will have their own families and kids and will carry forward what they picked up from us.

So what can we leave?

Teachings and rules? Unlikely to stick.

Stuff? Maybe. They will be ‘thrilled’ to have to get rid of all of the old ‘junk’ that we will leave them.

Memories? For sure. And I think experiences and shared memories will shape their lives more than any smart advice we can give them. After all teaching by example is still the most effective method of teaching (it might well be the only one that actually works).

Invest your time, energy and resources in building experiences. Through that, create strong bonds and memories with your loved ones. And have a TON of fun along the way!

Spiritual Balance – Week 38: Focus on Experiences, Not Stuff

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We’re living in the age of consumerism, in which most people see the purpose of their lives in accumulating stuff. However, instead of gathering stuff, following the latest marketing fad or competing with your neighbors, you should invest in experiences.

Invest in experiences, not stuff. Plan for experiences and then make it a point to follow-through on them. If you are too tired when it’s go-time, do them anyway.

Most stuff won’t make you happy beyond the rush of the purchase. In many cases, it’s even worse, with buyer’s remorse kicking in just a few hours later. The gadget that you so badly needed often ends up sitting in a drawer after just a few uses.

Instead invest in experiences. Preferably experiences that are shared with friends and family. Experiences create memories and memories stay with you forever.

You can always come back to memories to pick you up when you’re down. Looking at last year’s cool gadget won’t have the same effect.

The additional benefit of investing in experiences is also that the positive effect is not limited to the time when you actually have the experience.

The three phases of an experience

We enjoy the planning of an experience that we are looking forward to. We can derive fun from the excitement weeks and months before we even take off. I usually plan summer vacations in the dark months of winter. It feels good to think about upcoming adventures and helps to pass rainy days.

The actual experience is of course the fun part. At times it can be challenging and exhausting as well, but that’s ok. The more challenging an experience is and the more it pushes us to the limits of our comfort zone, the more memorable and positive it usually is. You only value something if you had to work hard for it.

The last part of an experience stays with you forever – your memories. You can relive an experience as often as you want. No one can take it away from you. You can look back at pictures, recount stories with your partners in crime, make a photo book or plan to repeat the experience at some time in the future.

Do it anyway

One last advice on experiences, from the book ‘Off the Clock’ by Laura Vanderkam: even if you’re tired and just want to sit on the couch when the time to venture off on your experience comes – do it anyway.

“Plan it in. Do it anyway.” from ‘Off the clock’ by Laura Vanderkam

While we get excited planning for an experience, once the day approaches we are often so worn down and tired that we just want to plop down and turn on the TV. Resist the urge! Go anyway. Get yourself over the hump, it will be worth it!

Plan for your experience and when it’s time to get going, go. No matter what. Plan it in. Do it anyway! You will be glad you did it.

Invest in buying time, experiences and life memories. Preferably shared with loved ones. Leave your kids with memories and experiences, not stuff that they will need to throw away later.

 


Did you like this article? Want to read more?

I will keep posting articles here and I have them lined up way into summer 2020. However if you want to get it all in one comprehensive, structured, and grammar-checked (!) view, check out our new book:

 

Put on your oxygen mask first - book cover

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

A practical guide to living healthier, happier and more successful in 52 weekly steps

By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk

ISBN 9781077278929

Find it on Amazon: Paperback, Kindle

 

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Spiritual Balance – Week 37: Have Dinner with Friends and Family

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We already talked about the importance of spending time with family and friends. One great and proven way to do that is by sharing meals together.

There is plenty of science, as well as just age-old experience, that sharing meals together serves a strong bonding function.

Share meals with friends and family. Talk about the day, thoughts, dreams and worries. Make it a priority every day.

Share meals with your teams, friends and family. Cook together or go out to eat together. While you’re sharing food, spend time talking and laughing. Play games, listen to the stories of the day.

Make this a priority every day.

Do NOT check your messages, play with your phone or read the news. Meal time is ‘together time’. Value the time others spend dining with you by giving them your full attention.

If you want to bond with your kids and share your values and priorities with them, it is critically important to share meals together. Those occasions allow for catching up on the day in a relaxed environment, sharing ideas, thoughts, passions and even worries that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Studies have shown, that sharing meals is critical for a healthy development of children. Leaving food in the fridge and having everyone snack at different times just doesn’t cut it.

 


Did you like this article? Want to read more?

I will keep posting articles here and I have them lined up way into summer 2020. However if you want to get it all in one comprehensive, structured, and grammar-checked (!) view, check out our new book:

 

Put on your oxygen mask first - book cover

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

A practical guide to living healthier, happier and more successful in 52 weekly steps

By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk

ISBN 9781077278929

Find it on Amazon: Paperback, Kindle

 

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.