When’s the last time you’ve been to a wedding? A funeral? A graduation?
We usually attend these events because we know the importance of celebrating an important moment. And celebrating a person important to us.
It’s been over a year (October 2) since Jenna, my youngest daughter got married. Weddings are memorable moments. They’re planned, they’re focused, and they’re people-oriented. They’re easy to remember. They’re filled with built-in rituals.
But every day can’t be a memorable moment. Most of life is routine.
So when we do want to mark a particular moment as special, but it doesn’t come with its own celebratory format, how can we?
Moments of Elevation
I’m sharing four ways to celebrate defining moments, one each Wednesday, from research in The Power of Moments by authors (and brothers) Chip and Dan Heath.
Each of these four elements is meant to enhance an experience or life transition that we want to mark as special.
I specifically want to mark my transition from parent to grandparent (thanks to our oldest daughter Morgan).
This week is Element One: Moments of Elevation.
You can use a moment of elevation to enhance
- (1) a special occasion like those mentioned above, plus birthday parties, retirement parties, baptisms, or
- (2) an “onstage” moment, such as a championship sports game, speaking at a conference, a band concert, or
- (3) spontaneous moments, like a sunny day in the park, a baby’s first smile, a worship experience.
To elevate one of these moments, the book recommends you do one of these three things from this first element (next week is the second element, Moments of Pride).
Boost Sensory Appeal
“Boosting sensory appeal is about turning up the volume on reality. Things look better or taste better or sound better or feel better than they usually do.”
At Jenna’s wedding we had beautiful flowers and twinkling lights and special clothes. Peak moments look different; they feel different.
To create your own peak moment, something as simple as dressing up can make an occasion feel different. Light candles for a special meal. Take a meeting outside instead of a board room.
Jeff and I went to a distant location (Maine) to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary last month. The atmosphere was different—cliffs, ocean, lighthouses. Hiking through Acadia National Park is something we’ll remember because it looked different and felt different than our backyard in Alabama.
Raise the Stakes
“To raise the steaks is to add an element of productive pressure: a competition, a game, a performance, a deadline, a public commitment.”
To celebrate 25 years of marriage and to commemorate our transition to a new season of grandparenting, I brought a bag of polished stones with us to Maine. On one set of rocks, I had written the word, “Thanks.” Another set said, “Help,” and a third said, “Wow.”
To raise the stakes, on our first full day in Maine, Jeff and I took three “Help” rocks with us to Portland Head Light (Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse).
As we looked over the Gulf of Maine, Jeff and I each came up with three specific prayers of “Help” for our new season ahead. We then said them aloud to each other and God, then threw each “Help” rock into the water.
One of Jeff’s requests was that the grandkids would have so much fun with us that they would cry when they had to leave. One of my requests was that I would have enough energy to play and keep up with them.
I then bought a lighthouse replica to put in my grandma box as an extra reminder of our commitment moment.
Break the Script
“To break the script is to defy people’s expectations of how an experience will unfold. It’s strategic surprise.”
You likely have informal scripts for how you spend Sunday mornings or who makes breakfast during the week or what you do on vacation.
To break the script, throw in a “delightful surprise” to change a normal routine. The book suggests an exercise called “Saturday Surprise.” The instructions are easy: Break the script on your Saturday routine. Do something totally different than you normally would. See what happens.
What are the ten most important events likely to take place in a lifetime? A study by Dorthe Berntsen and David Rubin showed these most popular answers (not in sequential order).
- Having children
- Begin school
- Fall in love
- Others’ death
- Leave home
- Parents’ death
- First job
The majority of these events happen between the ages of roughly 15 to 30.
“If you ask older people about their most vivid memories, research shows, they tend to be drawn disproportionately from this same period, roughly ages 15 to 30. Psychologists call this phenomenon the “reminiscence bump.
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Why does a 15-year period in our lives—which is not even 20% of a typical life span—dominate our memories?”
Psychologists say because of novelty. Many firsts happen during those years. First kiss, first job, first time living away from home.
But we don’t have to stop having “firsts.”
“Surprise stretches time.”
Throw in some novelty of your own this week. You don’t have to use every element to elevate every moment.
But remember every now and again to mark your moments.
- Invest intentionally.
- Stay engaged.
- Live purposefully.
Watch this 3-minute video about improving your experiences.
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Which strategy can you use this week: (1) Boost the sensory appeal, (2) Raise the stakes, or (3) Break the script?
What do you remember about the last big event you attended? Why? Please share in the comments.