“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.”  - Mark Twain

We are bombarded by the news and social media by success, or what seems like a success.  We are led to believe that the Lamborghinis, the Louis Vuitton’s, and the mansions equal success.  We are programmed to believe that without all the “stuff” we are somehow less successful.

Today, society defines success and happiness by the type of car we drive or the number of zeros in our bank account. Our society has adopted the belief that material things are what define success.

The pursuit of happiness and the destination of joy becomes a never-ending journey. We seem to have forgotten that the key to happiness is not about spending our time and money acquiring things.  The real key to happiness is spending our time and money acquiring life’s experiences. Experiences can be shared and relived, they have an emotional longevity. Our experiences often improve in our minds over time, enhancing our lives as we grow and progress.

MasterCard gets it right in their Priceless campaign. This longest-running ad campaign has been so successful because it resonates with the idea that “things” have a price tag, yet experiences are priceless, and they are what ultimately makes us happy.

Experiences can be described as either bad or good, a mistake or a triumph. Through our experiences, we discover who we are as human beings. Our experiences help us clarify how we feel, how we think, and who we want to surround ourselves with.  Experiences ultimately help us understand what makes us happy.

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude”. – Denis Waitley

Our society places value on things because they can be seen, held and touched. Things are tied to our currency which creates an innate value, determined by how much the market will pay for it.  Popularity can, and often does, create a false sense of value for things.  Material things come with a bill and an expiration date. Immediately after the purchase, the monetary value drops and the perceived value quickly fades.

Experiences, on the other hand, cannot be seen, held or touched.  There is no way to physically hold or touch the experience of zip lining through the jungle with your closest friends. We also cannot “sell” that experience to another because it holds no value on by itself. It is the same reason why we can’t put a price on a human being.

“What is the price of Experience? Do men buy it for a song? Or wisdom for a dance in the street? No, it is bought with the price of all that a man hath, his house, his wife, his children.” -William Blake

Through our experiences, we discover who we are as human beings.As human beings, we become the accumulation of our life experiences. In other words, experiences become our life lessons. We can think back to any experience and relive it, remembering the smells, the sounds, and how we felt. Our mind allows us to travel back in time as a way of reliving our memories.

A Cornell study found that “consumers derive more enduring happiness from experiences than from material goods.” Through further study, Amit Kumar, Ph.D. discovers that experiences generate greater feelings of gratitude. This means that experiences bring us happiness not just when we’re having the experience, but also when we think about them.

Feelings of gratitude gained through life’s experiences result in the positive effects of good mental health.  There are proven mental health benefits to living a life of gratitude-improved self-esteem, better sleep, boosted physical health, and healthier relationships to name a few.

To live a life of experiences, you will need to prioritize expenses to afford your new adventures. It is a simple choice of saving for a TV or saving for an amazing trip to a far-off destination.

Say yes more.  The best adventures come from moments when we least expect them. Be present in the moment, act in a way that allows you to live life fully through the experiences that present themselves.

Invest your time, energy, and money into something that will result in lessons. Life lessons equal experiences and they win every time.