Human memory is such an incredible tool. It is an effectively unlimited repository that not only stores procedures and instructions that enable us to walk, ride a bike and play the piano but it records a summarised version of each episode in our life. Ultimately, these collective, memorised episodes shape who we are and guide our decisions through life.
But we also regularly experience the limitations of our memory. Can you recall what you were doing this time last week, last month, last year? Do you remember all the details of the last phone conversation you had with a friend. Have you ever forgotten where you left your wallet, keys or car?
When we look back on our life, why is it that some experiences remain vivid and distinct yet others have faded completely? What is it that distinguishes those unforgettable moments?
In researching these extraordinary moments, brothers Chip and Dan Heath, from Stanford and Duke Universities respectively, noticed that, across different people, positive defining moments commonly shared four elements:
- Elevation – feeling intense positive emotion and a deep sense of engagement;
- Insight – experiences of profound realisation, and ‘aha’ moments;
- Pride – feeling that we have contributed to something worthwhile, being acknowledged by others for our work;
- Connection – feeling a powerful bond with others due to a common experience or shared struggle or goal.
Are these elements present in your most vivid positive memories?
These features sometimes occur incidentally or serendipitously but they can also be cultivated. Next time you really want to create an unforgettable experience for yourself, someone else, or a group of people, check to make sure there is opportunity for elevation, insight, pride and connection.