The Power of Moments: Why Certain Moments Have Extraordinary Impact
Authors: Chip Heath and Dan Heath
“That’s the charge for all of us. To defy the forgettable flatness of everyday work and life by creating a few precious moments...what if we didn’t just remember the defining moments of our lives but made them…These extraordinary minutes, hours, and days, they are what make life meaningful.”
The premise behind, The Power of Moments is the psychological concept of the “peak-end rule” which accounts for the way in which humans recall/remember experiences. People are much more likely to remember the highest and lowest aspects of an experience and the end of an experience, in other words, people think in moments. The Heaths argue that powerful moments can be created through incorporating a combination of one or more of the following qualities: elevation, insight, pride, and connection.
Moments of Elevation: In order to create moments of elevation, the Heaths suggest you do one or more of the following: boost sensory appeal, raise the stakes, and/or break the script.
Example: Sophomores at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, California participate in The Golding Trial (or the Trial of Human Nature). After reading Lord of the Flies, students participate in a mock trial in a courthouse to defend one of two possible arguments (humanity is inherently good, or humanity is inherently evil). Months are spent preparing for this public academic event and parents, community members, and other students come to watch the trial. The Golding Trial boosts sensory appeal by actively engaging students in their learning, it raises the stakes by creating an academic competition which will be viewed by others, and it breaks the script by taking students and teachers out of their classrooms and away from the monotony of an English class (read a book, talk about the book, write about the book, repeat).
Moments of Insight: Creating these moments involves tripping over the truth and/or stretching for insight
Example: When growing up, Sara Blakely’s father would ask her and her siblings, “what did you fail at this week?” as they sat around the dinner table. This question was designed to help Sara and her siblings stretch for insight. Rather than viewing failure as a problem, Sara’s father helped her view failure as a learning opportunity. Sara’s ability to stretch herself and grow in the face of obstacles help her pursue the development of her invention: Spanx, despite being shot down by numerous businessmen who could not relate to women’s desire for shapewear. Due to her perseverance, Sara become the youngest female self-made billionaire.
Tip: Mentors are in a prime position to help others trip over the truth or stretch for insight. The formula for effective mentorship: high standards + assurance + direction + support = self insight.
Moments of Pride: Creating moments of pride involves one or more of the following:
recognizing others, multiplying milestones, and practicing courage.
Example: Keira, a sixth grader with low self-esteem and recently divorced parents, loves chorus. Upon her first day of choir class, Keira’s teacher tells her that her voice doesn’t blend in with the other girls and that she should just pretend to sing. This crushed Kiera. She loved singing and
was told by family and friends that she was good at it. After that incident, Kiera began acting out for some time. While enrolled in a summer camp for gifted students between 7th and 8th grade, her camp chorus teacher noticed Keira was only mouthing the words during practice and asked
to speak with her after class. After warming up to her teacher, Kiera began to sing with her.
Upon hearing Keira sing, her teacher took her face in her hands and said, “you have a distinctive, impressive and beautiful voice. You could have been the love child of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.” After being recognized by her teacher, Keira felt a weight drop off her shoulders. She began to pursue singing and landed lead roles in high school musicals. This example illustrates the power of recognizing others
Moments of Connection: In order to allow moments of connection to come to fruition, we must create shared meaning, deepen ties, and/or make moments matter
Example: Stanton Elementary School in Washington DC was severely struggling, so-much-so that the district decided to reconstitute it. They dismissed the principal and other administrators in order to start fresh. One particularly weak spot for the school was family involvement. In order to combat this issue, Stanton Elementary decided to do something drastic; home visits for every family at the school over the summer. During these visits, teachers would ask parents: “Tell me about your child’s experiences in school. Tell me about yours; What do you want your child to be someday?; What do I need to do to help your child learn more effectively?” At first, families were skeptical of these meetings, however their skepticism soon turned to enthusiasm. One teacher was even stopped on the street by a parent, annoyed that they had not yet received their home visit. A month into the school year, during back to school night, 200 parents showed up. Only 20 had been present the previous year. That year, truancy dropped from 28% to 11%,
academic performance improved, and suspensions went from 321 to 24. The home visit moments were powerful and allowed families to feel connected with their children’s school and created
Courtesy of Jessican Biddulph, Sonoma State University, Graduate School of Counseling, Spring 2019.