Sympathy For The Dummy

June 4, 2015
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It’s 6:30 a.m. as I write this and I am staring regret in the face.

It didn’t have to be this way. I could have gone on Craigslist last night, found a seller, withdrew $150 from an ATM, arranged a hand-off, then gone on to experience one of the most memorable nights of my life.

What in the hell stopped me from going to see The Rolling Stones show last night at TCF Bank Stadium, mere miles from my front porch, for what was almost certainly the last time Mick & Co. performed in the Twin Cities?

This isn’t the first time I’ve passed on going to an expensive concert — then regretted not going. I’ve always found it difficult to plop down mega bucks for just a few hours of entertainment. But according to mounting scientific evidence, my judgment is completely backward.

Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a professor of psychology at Cornell, has studied the correlation between money and happiness for nearly two decades. According to Gilovich’s research, there is no denying that buying material items makes us happy, but the feeling is fleeting. We adapt. We get used to that new Cadillac, big-screen TV or credenza. But for sustainable happiness and an ongoing sense of fulfillment, experiences have a much better ROI.

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” said Gilovich in a recent Fast Company article. “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.”

One would think this finding exclusively pertain to good experiences. Fear of a rainy evening or a sleepy performance certainly factored into why I passed on the Stones show. Could’ve been a bummer. But bad experiences, it turns out, can also provide us happiness in the long run. According to the same Fast Company article,

One study conducted by Gilovich even showed that if people have an experience they say negatively impacted their happiness, once they have the chance to talk about it, their assessment of that experience goes up.

So, maybe you’re reading this and you’re a little hungover. Your feet hurt from standing on the wet FieldTurf for five hours, your ears hurt from the wailing of Ronnie Wood’s guitar, you wish they would’ve played “Paint It Black” and you’re thinking about all of the things you won’t do this weekend to offset the expensive concert ticket.

Well, you played your cards right. Science says go ahead and enjoy the memory of last night for the rest of your life. I’m going to check the upcoming concert schedule now.