The Moments of Your Life
There are random events, conversations, and songs that trigger nostalgic feelings. At those times we tend to remember impressions or moments from the past much more than a clearly defined timeline of everything that happened. Even though the memories are incomplete and probably not wholly accurate, they are emotionally powerful. In the Heath brother’s latest book, The Power of Moments, they explore why certain moments not only stay with us but shape us as well.
We tend to remember the best or worst moments of an experience (the peak) and the ending (peak-end). When people recall short events like a vacation or long experiences like college, there is a disproportionate emphasis on beginnings and endings and the worst and best days. My family put thousands of miles on our wood paneled station wagon during the 1970’s exploring America. When my family reminisces, we either talk about the car troubles, the bad hotel rooms, the unexpected illnesses or the beauty of the Grand Canyon, picnicking at Yellowstone Park, and experiencing something for the first time like crossing the Mississippi River. We don’t spend time trying to remember every place or reflect on why or how decisions were made about where to go and where to stay.
Looking back, it often seems like those most powerful moments were outside of our control. We played a role in being there but what made it special, the amazing sunset or an act of incredible kindness was the work of another. The Heath brothers attempt to analyze what makes the moment powerful, so we can proactively create those moments for the people we lead and serve. They identified four elements of which at least one must be present.
- Elevation – allows us to experience something out of the ordinary
- Insight – helps us see the world differently, more accurately, and with greater understanding
- Pride – provides the opportunity for us to demonstrate our best
- Connection – creates a shared experience
Additionally, they identify some natural opportunities to create moments like transition points (beginnings and endings), milestones such as retirements and achievements, and difficulties like the loss of a loved one.
To create a powerful moment requires intentionality, awareness, and desire. The Heath brothers share several examples that sharply contrast with what we often provide – a perfunctory “who’s turn is it to be recognized.” One of the most powerful examples is the story of Eugene O’Kelly the former CEO of KPMG. He was 53 years old with a great job and a great family and was told he had cancer and only three months to live. In those remaining months, he became intentional about the relationships that meant the most. He designed each encounter to be a meaningful and memorable good bye. He wrote, “I was living a week in a day, a month in a year, a year in a month.”
Obviously, a terminal diagnosis creates an urgency that most of us fortunately don’t have to face. But we also recognize that getting through the day and breaking our routines just enough to remembers birthdays and work anniversaries is not exactly living life to the fullest. Time passes and moments slip away all too quickly. Ask anyone who has experienced their own retirement party. We all have the opportunity to create powerful moments for the people around us. It takes effort but, in some organizations, it becomes part of the culture and creates an incredible bond between people and purpose.