It’s what you do that matters, not what you have

women surfing

The title of this post is a general summary of the excellent book by James Wallman called “Time and How to Spend It”. I’ve been thinking for some time that I don’t get out and do enough. I’m a creature of habit. As James Wallman book states it in his book: Ticking along in life is fine … but are you ticking along too much? Have you been craving laid-back, luxury experiences – when really you should aim for challenging ones? Do you do enough things that are difficult but worthwhile?

Material wealth isn’t the answer

Although you receive a “bump” of happiness when you buy something new, it’s temporary. You return to your previous baseline level of happiness. Which means you’re back to the shops getting your next fix and you end up on an endless treadmill of consumption. Alastair Humphreys refers to this aimless consumption as “the race to the biggest headstone”. This recurring revision to baseline happiness is referred to as hedonic adaptation by psychologists.

Hedonic adaptation chart

There’s a well-publicised study with 3,362 lottery winners ($100K+) surveyed 5+ years after their win. The end conclusion was lottery winners are no happier following a monetary windfall.

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer”

Jim Carrey

Variety is the spice of happiness

The reversal to baseline happiness is simply because this becomes the new normal. So if lottery wins, marriage, new cars only bring temporary happiness improvements …what’s the answer? According to the Oxford Handbook of Happiness: “variety is the spice of happiness”. Variety (new experiences) can be used as a weapon against adaptation. There’s no fun in life when you know what’s around the corner. Therefore, mix things up, try new things, walk a different route, try yoga, watch a film you don’t think you’ll like at the cinema …the list goes on. I find there’s no better way of introducing variety than through learning something new. Don’t assume you’ll like or dislike anything until you’ve tried it. The benefits of learning something new are manifold, the benefit that stands out to me most is you become a more interesting person as you learn more. Who doesn’t want to grow and learn new things?

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”

George Bernard Shaw

The Butterfly Effect

And finally, if you need more convincing that trying new experiences is the answer to a better life then watch this short video on The Butterfly Effect. It highlights how the smallest changes in life can have a dramatic impact. More causes in your life will result in more effects.

I’m now actively making an effort to try new things for the purpose of engaging in new experiences. If you feel like you’re on a treadmill then jump off and try something new. Thanks for reading and please leave any questions or suggestions below.

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