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December 20: Experiences

“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

-Mary Oliver

I received a newsletter yesterday with this quote from Cornell University Professor Thomas Gilovich:

"Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods … You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences."

This got me thinking about experiences and possessions.

We all have possessions that we love, and we also have possessions that don't necessarily spark joy, but serve a purpose in our lives. But we also know that holding tight to those possessions is not what brings us happiness. Our joy comes from time spent with friends and family, time spent learning something new, time spent exploring, time spent being

Most research does show that money makes us happier when it's spent on activities, and I'm sure that we could take that one step out and say that material possessions can help add to our joy when they facilitate an activity (ie: My bicycle!).

But - to take the holiday example of a dinner party - it's the gathering of people at the dinner party that matters, not what the food is served on. Because a dinner party with good conversation and ugly plates is still a good dinner party, whereas a table full of beautiful plates but with no one to converse with is just boring. 

This is a time of year for reflection. As we wind down, we inevitably start to look back, not just to reminisce, but to perhaps gain some knowledge that will help us to create the intention for our future. 

So today, I challenge you to write down one thing that was memorable from every month this past year. It will be a list of 12 positive memories, and I am going to guess that the list is going to be full of activities and experiences, and not necessarily things. 

What's on that list that you want to recreate? 

I love the Mary Oliver quote above, and I think it relates well to experiences. Experiences are what happen when we pay attention. Experiences are what astonish us. And experiences are what shape the stories that we tell. Experiences, and our ability to appreciate them, revel in them, share them, tell about them; that's all part of what makes us human. 

There will be a lot of "things" in the next week. I too will be gifting some "things." But let's all take some time to honor the experiences that brought us joy in the last year, and start to make some plans for how to create new ones in the year to come. 
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