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Invest in Experiences
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, August 2009

This year there has been much focus on "investments going sour." Financial pundits talk about "value investing" and for the last year we have all learned more than we had ever thought we would about the stocks, bonds, funds, markets, banks, and investments.

Let's talk about another type of investment - one that you can have regardless of what happens in your bank account. We all have the opportunity to invest in our values. A good way to do that is to value and invest in experiences.

Research on happiness continues to support that a major contributor to happiness is our investment in experiences over material goods. Having an experience on your own, or with others, and then positively "re-experiencing" it through sharing can increase positive feelings and enhance successful social interactions. Many people find that experiences are more interesting and pleasant to talk about than material objects. There is a human connection that occurs; a story telling, an engagement that unites you with someone else or a part of yourself that enhances well being.

Furthermore, experiences are open to positive re-interpretation because they reflect deep personal meaning. Material objects (things) are not part of us, but hiking up a mountain, singing with friends, or cooking with children become part of our personal stories.

The oven malfunction on Thanksgiving may have seemed disastrous at the time but becomes part of family lore with the retelling of how the barbeque grill came out of retirement from the depths of the garage to save the day. And your uncle, clad in winter coat, earmuffs, and gloves, created a smoked flavored turkey that rivaled any of the previous years. The challenges you faced with gale force winds and sleeting rain as you ran in a charity 5-K become part of the collective memory when you recall your support for a sick friend.

We can recall the positive aspects of experiences as we focus on how we met specific challenges of particularly trying experiences. When we revisit them, we feel enhanced and ennobled. Slowing down, staying present, appreciating the moments when we pay attention to our experiences, will help us invest in what are the most precious (and priceless) elements of our lives.

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