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3 Ways to Enrich 2018

shutterstock_259280957-compressorYour first kiss. Graduation and your first job. Your wedding day and the birth of your first child. These are the big memories that we all cherish. But there are other little memories that stick out because they had such a powerful emotional impact on you. Moments that enriched your life and bonded you with others.

But you can’t engineer those, right? They just “happen,” like magic. So the years go by, one day rolls into the next, one month to another, and suddenly, boom! Longs is loaded with Christmas ornaments, it’s the end of another year and you’re left blinking and wondering to yourself, “Where the heck did the time go?”

So why leave special moments to chance? Why not do more to create those special memories? Can that even be done? Research says yes.

Face it. As the years tick by life gets monotonous and you get lazy. Well, we’re here to tell you it’s time to stop cutting bait, get off the pot, grab the bull by the horns and get out make some great memories.

But how do you do that? What makes some little moments so powerful? There are three main elements. Number One, with a bullet…

Create Moments of Elevation
Parties. Competing in sporting events. Taking off on a spontaneous road trip. What do they have in common? Moments of elevation are experiences that rise above the routine to make us feel engaged, joyful, amazed and motivated. If you feel the need to pull out a camera, it’s probably a moment of elevation. (Unless you’re taking a selfie. In that case, just put it away, you narcissist.)

So what is it at the core of a moment of elevation that we can add to any event to make it more special? There are three things: sensory, stakes, and script.

Boost sensory appeal: This is why concerts, museums and great meals stick in your memory and why sitting on the couch is so forgettable. Engaging the senses more intensely makes moments stand out.

Raise the stakes: Competing in a sporting event is more exciting than watching one. In fact, betting on a sporting event makes watching one more entertaining (as long as you do it in another state). If there’s something to gain or lose, you’ll be paying attention.

Break the script: Don’t do the usual thing. Don’t just get coffee or have dinner. Boring. Take your default and flip it on its head. Defy expectations and strategically surprise people.

Research shows that when older people look back on their lives, a disproportionate number of their big memories happened in a very narrow window: between ages 15 and 30.

That’s not even 20% of the average lifespan. Is this because our memory is sharper then? Or because young adulthood is a “magic” time? Heck, no…

It’s because after 30 life can get pretty darn boring. After their third decade has passed, most people don’t do anything as novel as falling in love for the first time, leaving home, going to college, or starting their first job.

So months and years blur together because nothing new and shiny happens. But neuroscientist David Eagleman says that when you inject novelty into your life, you prevent the blur. Surprise stretches time. So break the script and interrupt the blur with moments of elevation.

So boosting sensory appeal, raising the stakes and breaking the script can turn little moments into big memories. What else has that power?

Celebrate Moments of Pride
A graduation party. The ceremony where you received your black belt. Or that special session when the parole board declared you “rehabilitated.”

You want to commemorate achievements. When you have your skill noticed by others, you can puff your chest out and take a second to feel really good about yourself. And this is not a “nice to have.” Research shows we need these, as surveys show #1 reason people leave their jobs is “a lack of praise and recognition.” So take the time to appreciate what you’ve accomplished and to let others celebrate with you.

Now, we know what some people are thinking:But I don’t achieve big stuff very often
You don’t have to win a Nobel Prize. In fact, celebrating a silly milestone “breaks the script” and may be even more memorable. And for extra credit, set goals. Build milestones on the road ahead because the more finish lines you set, the more moments of pride you’ll be able to celebrate. Not only will it feel good, it will motivate you. Set goals so you have more moments of pride to motivate you to achieve and have more things to celebrate in the future.

So you’ve elevating and celebrating milestones. Great. But it’s relationships that brings us the most happiness. So how do we make memories that deepen our relationships with others?

Build Moments of Connection
Vacations. Reunions. Holidays. The times that bond us with others where we feel all kinds of warm’n’fuzzies. These are the moments when some of the most powerful memories are formed. But what does the research say deepens the connections you feel with others?

Struggle. Yeah, struggle. No, we’re not saying you should get in an argument with Uncle Jack again. Anthropologist Dimitris Xygalatas (say that three times fast) found that groups that went through “high-ordeals” bonded far more than those that went through “low-ordeals.” Struggling together made people closer. This is why fraternities haze. Why soldiers feel like they are kin.

So what the heck does this have to do with relaxing vacations and get-togethers with friends? Less watching movies and more playing board games as teams. Less shopping and more touch football. If it ends with high-fives, you’re probably in the ballpark.

And even better if it’s a team activity that is connected to meaning. Yes, that even means helping your friend paint their new kitchen and having beers after. You’re helping them turn “that house” into “their home.” Even if it sounds like a chore beforehand, we often look back fondly on those times.

Especially if your friend paints himself into a corner. Best wishes for 2018.

How to Create Happy Memories That Will Last a Lifetime
The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact.

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