Achievement or Experience: What's Going to Make You Happier?

I want to be happy. Don't you?

I'm going to take a leap here and suggest we'd all appreciate being happy and content, yet we pretty consistently get in our own way. I can give you at least 17 examples every day of things I do to get in my own way.

Can you relate?

In yoga, we practice the state of being present and non-attachment. Lovely, yet lofty goals these are. It's too easy, even in the midst of our practice, to get bogged down by anxieties and the pressure of feeling we aren't doing enough. We're not enough. We haven't achieved or experienced enough. And I believe it boils down to priorities. That and how we define achievements and experiences in their relationship to happiness.

Are you game for a short questionnaire?

Answer the questions below to determine if achievement or experiences are more important to you currently. 

*Side note: we change our minds. Sometimes it's achievement, sometimes it's experience. But knowing where you are right this moment and connecting it to your overall sense of well-being might help enlighten you to some shifts that may be beneficial. And also, sometimes it's both. We really can have it all, but often we don't need both. We just need the one. Let's explore this further.

  • Are you currently doing some type of project? This can be completing a degree or remodeling your bathroom. If so, are you enjoying the experience or mostly focused on the end result?
  • Are you traveling soon? Is it for work or pleasure? What are the goals for this trip?
  • Name the last thing you did just for the experience of it and describe how it made you feel. Did it have a positive or negative impact on your happiness? Or was the impact either neutral or minimal?
  • List the last thing you did that gave you a sense of achievement? Write down every adjective about how it caused you to feel. Was it worth all the effort required to meet your goal? Are you happy with the level of achievement you reached?

Experiences have the deep potential to completely alter our lives. It just depends on how often we seek them out and how big or small we play it. Have you ever been on the fence about going to a dinner party or event and ultimately decided to go and met someone who straight up changed your life? Conversely, have you ever opted no for something and always wondered what if? And on those occasions, we've opted for the experience of being along, reading, walking in the woods, meditation, yoga practice, or anything else we enjoy and that enriches us. There is no such thing as missing out. If we do thing A, we can't do B or C. It's the equation that drives us and choosing wisely is how we increase our happiness.

Achievements also vary widely in degree and impact. If I've achieved not eating any dairy for a week, do I notice the results? Do I feel any different? Am I proud of myself for doing something a little challenging in the same way I felt challenged training for and completing a marathon? I was happy about both, but one took a hell of a lot more effort than the other.

The key is always balance. Small yet meaningful achievements and experiences daily feed us and propel us forward. Big goals met and deep, meaningful events can have long-lasting effects and even change the course of our lives. So can achievements. Let's celebrate them all and keep bringing them on.

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