Experience or Things, Which Brings More Happiness?

Do you remember purchasing your first smartphone? You know, those pocket computers that demand so much of our attention these days. For me it wasn’t too long ago…

Throughout my student years, all I’d ever owned were dumbphones. Their call quality was exceptional, and short texts could be read if it had a display screen. Texting wasn’t mainstream yet because calling a friend was easier and only the Blackberry phones with a full-size keyboard offered a pleasant texting experience.

In 2011, I exchanged my dumbphone for the hottest smartphone available in the marketplace—the iPhone 4s. I was a cool kid finally, and just like a child with a new toy we were inseparable.

Not more than 6 months later, the iPhone 4s fell victim to tech innovation as had the Nintendo Gameboy and Sony Walkman. Apple released the iPhone 5 which drastically improved upon every feature my phone had. My reign as a cool kid didn’t last for long.

Today, my iPhone 4s serves as a throwaway phone in case someone tries to rob me in a rough neighborhood. I don’t care if it goes missing. Just look at it….

Apple iPhone 4s

The screen is tiny. It struggles to perform basic functions. And for some reason, the iPhone thinks it’s in Thailand when we aren’t. Maybe being ran over by a 3-ton SUV in Phuket left a few screws loose.

How could one of the best smartphones of its time become a useless hunk of metal and glass?

Well… that’s easy to explain. This gadget was doomed to the same fate as the Sony Walkman and shag carpeting. They captivated the masses at one time, but boredom settled in, and consumers flocked towards trendier options.

Those are things. Objects. On the other hand, an experience that still registers highly on my happiness scale was playing varsity basketball as a high school freshman.

The training regimen kicked my ass and we lost many games at first, but towards the end of my competition days the wins piled up. I went from playing one quarter per game to having opposing teams formulate schemes to counter my abilities.

This experience built character because I learned how to properly frame happiness while in the midst of struggle.

Happiness can be triggered by experiences and things, and since everyone is different the optimal mix depends on the person.

The Value of Experiences

I assign more weight to experiences because 80 – 90% of my life design is independent of social programming. Living outside of the “matrix”, my home country, helped me think for myself and develop my own values.

That being said, I appreciate the goodness in American culture more than ever since I’m no longer a mental captive to it. I cherry-pick the useful parts and discard the beliefs that repel happiness.

Most people would nod in agreement with these principles, but within a few minutes I can tell they don’t live this kind of life.

Some are interested in making the transition to a freer life but they get derailed with the expectations management part. They want clear indications showing they’ve finally achieved freedom.

But in reality, the timeline is different for everyone since we’re all carrying varying amounts of mental baggage that must be released. This mental clutter distorts how we perceive ourselves and the world.

I hated my baggage, so I made moves while most people are discouraged by the ambiguity involved in the process. Removing mental clutter is a lifelong activity that demands constant attention.

Another drawback of living for experiences rather than acquiring things is a lack of outward proof. No one knows unless they’ve been told, and worst of all, when a person is no longer wedded to the matrix they become less relatable to those who are still in it. I wouldn’t be so quick to say that friends and family don’t care, but bridging this gap in perspective may be unreasonable to expect of others.

Blogging is a popular medium for this exact reason. A quick search has the power to connect people who share familiar experiences.

Being receptive to life has delivered beyond my wildest imaginings. I don’t get to dictate the terms but when I live in the moment unique experiences abound. Boredom has absolutely no place in my life.

The Value of Things

Things are efficient at delivering happiness. Some of the best marketing effectively presents a service or product as an integral part of a worthwhile experience.

Here are a few examples:

● Meeting up with fellow sneakerheads in a limited-edition pair of Jordans

● Valet parking a new BMW M3 Sedan at Caesar’s Palace

● Giving a tour of your custom-designed home in a trendy neighborhood

Regardless of whether someone has the desire or means to purchase these things, the values can be determined easily. And most of the world can relate to these things in some form.

With things, the buyer sits in a powerful position because he’s calling the shots. Buy or don’t buy. The marketer tells him what to expect, and if his expectations aren’t met he can demand a refund—simple as that. However, within this convenience lurks the pitfall of relying on things for happiness which I’ll get to soon…

If you reside in the United States then you live in a consumer’s paradise. In the slim chance something you desire isn’t available, a company will step in to fill that demand quickly. E-commerce giant Amazon delivers millions of orders to doorsteps within 2 days for pennies on the dollar. Also, anyone with a pulse can be approved for a credit card so there are minimal external factors that impede consumption.

The novelty of a new purchase wears off faster in this buying environment because consumers are chasing their “next high” through impulsive spending. I’ll call it what it really is… ADDICTION.

Consumers extend mortgages for bigger homes, sink money into exotic cars, and book vacation spots based on Instagram worthiness.

They’ll pat each other on the back for working 60+ hours per week to live the “good life”, so the grind is supposed to magically end at 65 years old if their networth survives multiple stock market crashes and skyrocketing health care expenses.

Claims of severe depression from people who appear to have it all no longer surprise me. I was a slave to the madness not long ago.

Overall, I believe happiness can be found in experiences and in things, but it helps to understand the limitations and define how each contributes to your lifestyle of freedom.

Freedom is a Choice,



  1. Austen October 1, 2019 at 11:56


    I’ve been reflecting on this subject recently and appreciate that you emphasis that both things and experiences can trigger happiness. I think there’s a balance we must achieve, which you express well.

    Over the last year I’ve begun woodworking as a hobby and a way to save money on furniture. It’s been nice to walk into my house and see my projects because every time I see them I reflect on the several emotions and memories I experienced while building them and it’s a very satisfying feeling. Those feelings then inspire me to keep improving.

    I also liked that you used addiction to describe our buying habits. I see myself as a frugle person, but what came to mind after reading your article was addiction to our phones and the internet. It’s funny and a little scary to see what happens when most of us don’t have access to either of those things. We get uncomfortable because we don’t know what to do, maybe a little irritable, or we feel afraid because we’re “disconnected” from the world. It definitely scares me when I find myself constantly reaching for my phone for no reason. This is a quality I’m trying to extinguish and to replace with the ability to be more mindful and to live in the moment.

    Whether it be impulsive spending or a quick fix from our electronics, with discipline and self-reflection we can overcome these obstacles and pursue whichever path we hope to achieve.

    I really enjoyed your article! Thanks!

    1. Lee Miles October 3, 2019 at 00:45

      You’ve got a cool hobby bro, something that calls for the creative side and makes everyone at home happy.

      Thanks for checking in!


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