5 Ways You Define Your Favorite Things

What are your favorite things? You know them straight off. They are a part of you. A favorite has personal meaning to you. You would argue for your favorite thing’s validity. A favorite can be tangible or an experience. I have favorite both memories, favorite experiences and a favorite cutting board in the kitchen.

Favorite Things

The point to make here is about how these things or experiences got to be your favorite. When you can put a pin on why or how they go on the list then you can go about evaluating if they deserve to remain on your list. Having a favorite without reason leaves you closed to other opportunities. If you’ve loved a certain hotel chain because you went there and had a great time and you have been loyal for years, what else have you been missing?

I’ve identified 5 characteristics that define what makes our favorite things our favorites. Each is not exclusive, your favorite thing may be defined by multiples. Multiple reasons are good as they have a stronger bond and foundation for your favorites.

The emotional draw

Emotion is the strongest tie to your favorite thing. It will often defy logic or any reasoning on how your favorite thing became your favorite. Emotion goes deep and your feelings will play in your head and heart with the relentlessness of a well-placed advertisement. Your emotions need to be checked to validate your favorite’s place, typically with the help of a more neutral party.


In 6th grade I wanted a pair of Nike tennis shoes. These shoes were made out of canvas and could be purchased with various colors of the iconic swoosh on their sides. All the girls at school were wearing them and I wanted in. I was determined to have a pair of these Nike tennis shoes of my own. In a matter of months, I saved up the $19.99 to buy my own pair.

I got them and it was emotional bliss! My friends loved them because I selected the heather gray swoosh and I was different. I fit in and felt like I belonged when wearing these shoes. Nikes were cool and defined my 6th grade experience. Never mind that they were too wide for my foot and slipped when I walked. It didn’t bother me that I had to walk with the utmost care to avoid dirt and water that would adhere to white canvas like a magnet. I didn’t even comprehend how cold it was walking to school in the snow with canvas tennis shoes.

“Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.”  — Pablo Picasso

My favorite shoes were an emotional draw to my peer group. Massive advertising contributed to the appeal. My favorite pair of shoes neither fit me nor kept me warm and yet they were my favorite.

Don’t let that passion fool you. At 12 years of age my emotions swayed fast. I was wearing Reebok’s the next year because my canvas shoes fell apart. The emotional connection was not strong enough to justify another year of shoes but the memories remain.

What emotion are you spending on favorites that haven’t continued to earn their value?

The passion or belief you have

Having a favorite music artist and following them their entire career is not uncommon. Then again the groupies thin after time. The true die-hard fans have an unwavering belief they hold onto about their favorite artist that transcends the work.

I’ve had a love of all things Disney for decades.


Nearly all my vacations in the last 20 years have involved some aspect of the Disney brand. I’ve inflicted, mostly with pleasure, my favorites on my children when they’ve come along for the experience. Without question, I’ve filled out detailed questionnaires about myself and my family and given my fingerprint to Disney in the honor of sharing my time with their characters and attractions.

Be careful when you follow the masses. Sometimes the “M” is silent.

Hindsight, I think about is other opportunities I’m missed for clinging so passionately to one favorite. While I don’t regret a single vacation or experience with Disney I question my own blind belief that there was only one best way to spend my time.

Blind devotion rarely gives anything in return. My eyes are open with the amount of time and resources I have available. It’s okay to have more than one favorite. Having more than one favorite does not diminish my appreciation for either.

Allow yourself multiple favorite experiences and things. You are not cheating on one when you enjoy the other.

An ingrained value

Our experiences define us. Early in life our family is our world. We expand our world to educators, then friends and other social circles. Hobbies and interest are often shaped by our early interactions. The instrument of choice may be shared with a family member. The dinner table conversation often shaped our political views as well as food preferences.

Emotion is king to keep passion going, the ingrained favorite has the deepest roots.

For years I served the same meal my mother worked to create on Thanksgiving. My favorite Thanksgiving was one from my teen years where I had to work and my dad and I shared a 1/2 baked pizza we picked up the night before. I held onto the tradition of a turkey dinner as my favorite because it was all I knew.


I found my own values and defined my favorites when I let go of pleasing and honoring others. This is just turkey we’re talking about abandoning, not a relationship or a commitment. It was a simple sway the first year to ham and then a bolder move to enchiladas, or pizza and a movie. Now Thanksgiving is about sharing time or appreciating the company of others and food is a side.

How many people attend a particular University because of family history? There are foods we label favorites as well as foods we won’t try because of the experiences and values we gained at a very young age. So many potential favorites overlooked for the sake of tradition.

What new favorite tradition is awaiting you? Honor your history while you test new experiences for the next favorite.

The ease or improvement experience

A new product or experience that makes life better is destine to be a new favorite. I remember having a favorite type of pen and type of pencil in school because of the ease they provided. A new type of razor, nail clipper or running shoe is bound to earn your loyalty if it makes your life easier.

Apple products are favorites because of their attention to design and the experience they provide. The fandom of Apple iPhone and iPads make them favorites without comparison. Users are hooked and thirst for more features with the latest versions. The ease of use brings in an emotional tie further bonding the item as a favorite.

“We’re very simple people at Apple. We focus on making the world’s best products and enriching people’s lives.” — Tim Cook

Ease brings skill and conditioning. With skill and conditioning comes comfort. Where there is comfort change is difficult. It’s hard to get a new favorite if you won’t let go of an old one. The trick is to resist complacency and want more. If a favorite is defined by the ease it creates, continually expect and want even more.

Apple feeds it’s followers more with every version release and every version. Where could you use a little more ease in your life?

The afterglow

I had a friend once tell me that their favorite thing was that feeling your teeth had after you had them cleaned at the dentist. Ugh! That is not a mutual favorite. The point is the afterglow effect is very powerful and can make some experiences a favorite.

I’ve heard of bucket lists that involve visiting every roller coaster in the US because of the thrill and exhilarating feeling the rider gets from the experience. Foodies and their trek to experience exotic cuisine may have them tasting morsels that would make the average person cringe. It’s not what we do but how what we do makes us feel that makes a favorite.


The concept of runner’s high is an example. I asked a trainer friend why people ran and her answer was insightful. She shared that many of her clients run because of how it makes them feel afterward. The running part was a burden done to experience the afterglow feeling of completion.

“Happiness does not come from doing the easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demands our best.” — Theodore Isaac Rubin

My personal favorite fueled by afterglow is mowing lawn mowing. This may be your most heinous activity, similar to how I feel about both running and teeth cleaning. With every step I take I am a powerful force upon the grass in front of me. No matter the lawn’s condition, my action will leave a clean and level cut. It’s one of my favorite things to do when I need to feel accomplished.

Heed caution when seeking a favorite afterglow experience. It’s all too easy to want the feeling and forget about the action. Beware the action that does not provide a positive connection to the afterglow. Consider the impact of over indulging in stimulants that harm your body for the temporary feeling they provide. Where do you find the joy of afterglow?


Your favorites tell a story about you. It’s inherently personal and connects to your emotions, your experiences or your personal reward and afterglow. Use awareness in what you define as a current favorite versus a great memory. Your favorites will change over time just as your taste buds and physical ability change. A change in favorites does no dishonor your prior preference, it only shows your continual maturity and openness to new things.

What are your favorites?