My family and I traveled to Yosemite National Park in 2014 to do some hiking and camping before I hit my first semester at Ohio State that fall. Literally a day before we left, I had a small blister pop up on my arm.
It was larger than normal poison ivy but I’ve had poison ivy plenty of times so I wasn’t worried. (Isn’t this how all overly dramatic stories begin?) Until the next day when I pulled my jacket off in the San Francisco Airport. To my horror, the blister had grown and spread in the mere 5-6 hours of flying we had just completed. Over the next 7 days, it got so bad that we had to visit a medical clinic so I could get some steroids to fight what we then knew was poison oak.
The funny thing is, even though I remember the discomfort of having blisters all over my left arm, that’s not what I remember most about that trip. I started listening to Chip and Dan Heath’s book The Power of Moments recently and understood why. Our brains are wired to remember defining moments. Sure, I remember the poison oak, but I even more vividly remember our 15-mile round trip hike to Cloud’s Rest near Half Dome.
I remember taking our goofy family “WHAT!?” pictures because it was out of the ordinary.
I remember running into an astronomy club on a mountain and getting to see the most unbelievable display of stars with professionals to describe what I was looking at.
Looking back, I see how I remember defining moments in my life or even just a vacation.
The premise of the book is this: significant, memorable moments don’t have to just happen to us. They can be designed into life.
And more specifically, you can design defining moments into other people’s lives.
Chip and Dan outline defining moments as those that occur through four different avenues: elevation, pride, insight, and connection. Here they are.
Moments of Elevation
These are through something unexpected. It is doing an activity that is out of the ordinary. My dad took me on my first fishing trip when I was 6 years old. That was a defining moment for me because it wasn’t anything I had ever experienced in my day to day life.
Moments of Pride
These are moments in which you or someone else has a sense of pride about something. For me, college graduation commencement created a sense of pride in me (oh my word was engineering difficult), making it a defining moment.
Moments of Insight
These involve helping you or someone else realize something new. I realized when I edited my first short video with some friends that I loved filmmaking.
Moments of Connection
These can involve showing particular interest or care for others. A friend of mine wrote me the most meaningful letter I have ever received about six months ago. That was a moment of connection when I read that letter.
This book changed how I think about impact because it put into understandable language the reason I feel a particular way about every big (defining) moment I remember. So this week I am going to take it to heart and create a moment of connection by writing a letter of gratitude to someone I know.
If you want to design moments that are powerful in your life or others, the Heaths say do things that fit into these categories. You will create meaningful memories that last!
What are your biggest memories and how do they fit into the four kinds of moments? I want to hear from you in the comments!