Defining moments are the small, meaningful moments that make our lives richer and give us fond memories to look back on. But how do you recognize when these moments are happening, and give them the time and attention they deserve?An d how can you engineer more of them?
_The Power of Moments _ teaches you how to elevate moments with delightful and strategic surprise, guide others to transformative truths, multiply your moments of celebration on your journey to a goal, and deepen your connections with the people around you.
1-Page Summary of The Power of Moments
Important and memorable moments—the grand events of your life that make you who you are, like your wedding or the first time you met your grandchild—are naturally meaningful to you. But have you ever thought about the smaller, everyday experiences in your life that hold just as much power, like a day at the beach or a fulfilling conversation with a friend?
**These defining moments—short, memorable experiences that are meaningful to you—are happening around you constantly, if you know how to recognize them. **To do so, you need to learn to think in moments—that is, see the small, everyday events that could shape memories or change perceptions if given a little time, effort, and strategic thought.
Investing in these smaller moments can enhance your life in myriad ways. A well-engineered defining moment can have a tangible outcome like increased revenue from satisfied clients, or improved test scores from motivated students. Other times, you’ll create defining moments with a more personal objective—deeper relationships with your friends and family, a better understanding of yourself and your values and motivations, or children who are confident in taking on new challenges.
The Four Elements of a Defining Moment
There are four elements that often make up defining moments: elevation, insight, pride, and connection. While it’s possible to create a moment that utilizes all four of these elements, most defining moments have just one or two.
- Moments of elevation transcend everyday events and stir up positive emotions like motivation and engagement.
- Moments of insight spark transformative realizations and create meaningful learning opportunities.
- Moments of pride surface and celebrate your best self—the “you” who earns recognition for hard work, crushes goals, and acts with courage when it’s needed.
- **Moments of connection **deepen your ties to the people around you and invite vulnerability.
Knowing how to apply these four elements effectively is what allows you to engineer defining moments out of small, everyday events.
Moments of Elevation
Moments of elevation are characterized by positive feelings like motivation, delight, and engagement. In short, they are the moments that transcend everyday events and shape the memories that you look back on fondly. There are three components to creating moments of elevation: 1) increasing sensory pleasure, 2) raising the stakes, and 3) going off script.
- Increasing sensory pleasure depends on making a moment look, feel, taste, or sound better than what you’re used to in your everyday life. For example, getting all dressed up to go out to a fancy restaurant with your significant other looks, feels, and tastes quite different from eating in your sweatpants on the couch, and it makes for a more memorable experience.
- Raising the stakes means applying productive pressure to the experience. For example, instead of relying on classic classroom learning to teach your students about a historical trial, why not have them prepare and argue the case in front of a real judge and jury? This effectively raises the stakes because only one team can win, and there is an audience.
- **Going off script **means going against what people expect will unfold in a typical situation. For example, pet supply company Chewy regularly gets rave reviews for their off-script customer service—when a pet dies, you expect the company to just cancel your food delivery subscription. However, they go above and beyond your expectations by also sending flowers and a handwritten sympathy card.
Of these 3 components, going off script is the most important—creating “strategic surprises” that go against all expectations allows you to think about and understand the scripts of your life. When you understand your scripts, you can break them in meaningful ways that allow you to reconnect with your life, rather than letting the days, weeks, and months fly by in a mundane pattern.
Moments of Insight
Defining moments of insight spark realizations and transformations that can change your way of thinking or, in some cases, the course of your life. There are two types of moments of insight: moments of insight you create for others and moments of insight you create for yourself.
Moments of Insight for Others
Creating moments of insight for others depends on forcing an audience to confront an uncomfortable truth. **These types of moments depend on 3 essential parts: 1) having clear insight, 2) operating on a short time frame, and 3) letting your audience discover the conclusion themselves. **
- Having clear insight means knowing exactly what conclusion your audience should come to. Then, you need to set up a situation that will cause them to bump into the same exact problems you’ve experienced and subsequently arrive at the same conclusion.
- **Operating on a short time frame **means setting up an experience that will guide your audience to the conclusion in a matter of minutes or hours. The actual moment of insight happens in an instant. You want to make sure there is an “Aha!” moment.
- **Letting your audience discover the conclusion themselves **means guiding your audience toward the conclusion, but not telling them what to do or what to think. Doing so only invites resistance and argument.
As an example of these three elements in play, imagine that you work on the website design of a major retailer. You know the site isn’t user-friendly, but you’re not able to get your higher-ups to approve funding to do a UX overhaul. You arrange a one-hour meeting with them where you pull up a retail website and ask everyone to accomplish a simple task such as making a purchase or leaving a review. It soon becomes obvious that the site is unreasonably difficult to use. Your higher-ups quickly become frustrated—you’ve given them an unusable mess of a site to work with! You agree with their frustrations and then make your big reveal: except for the products, this website and its functions are an exact copy of the company’s website. This is how clients feel when they are interacting with your site. This is the “Aha!” moment.
You’ve put together an excellent moment of insight: you knew exactly what you wanted, you created a short, one-hour meeting to reveal your site’s problems, and your higher-ups realized by themselves how unusable your site really is.
Moments of Insight for Yourself
Creating moments of insight for yourself depends on putting yourself in situations that expose you to the risk of failure.** **Putting yourself in these situations leads to what psychologists call “self-insight”—an understanding of your values, abilities, and motivations.
When you put yourself in risky situations, either you will succeed or you will fail. While success is certainly a reason to celebrate, that’s not what moments of insight promise. **Moments of insight always promise a meaningful learning opportunity. For this reason, failures should be celebrated as well. **
Say you take a risk and leave your secure corporate job to open up a café. After a year, you realize that you hate being a small business owner and crave the structure and overhead supervision of the corporate world. Closing up shop and heading back into the corporate world certainly feels like failure, but you should celebrate the experience because it gave you clear insight into what your values really are.
The Value of Mentors
Self-insight is a great reward for taking on new challenges, but actually pushing yourself into these situations is very difficult—this is where mentors come in handy. Mentors apply the type of productive pressure that helps spark defining moments of insight and coax out your best self.
As a mentor, you have to remember that it’s not just about encouraging your mentee to live up to your high standards. Great mentors use a four-part formula: high standards + assurance + direction + support. You want to send the message, “I have high expectations, but I know you can reach them. I will present new challenges to you, and I will have your back if you fail.”
This last part is very important—you should not aim to protect your mentee from failure. Rather, you should normalize failure, celebrate it for the learning experience it is, and offer support when it happens. This creates mentees who are willing to put themselves in situations that have the potential to multiply their moments of self-insight.
Moments of Pride
Moments of pride are where you are at your best—such as when you are receiving recognition, facing and defeating challenges, or acting with courage. **There are three main ways to create moments of pride for yourself or for others: **
- **Recognizing the efforts and accomplishments of others **
- **Building small, achievable milestones into the journey toward larger goals **
- **Rehearsing courage so it’s ready when you need it **
Recognition is the easiest way to create a moment of pride. It takes very little effort, and pride has a special sort of afterglow that is remembered for a long time.
When practicing recognition, your focus should be on the frequency of your praise, not the grandeur. People feel most satisfied when their efforts are being recognized consistently, not just when they accomplish a big goal.** Furthermore, meaningful and effective recognition is personal**—you want to tell someone, “I see the effort you’re putting in, and more importantly, I see you.”
Building in Milestones
Another way to create moments of pride is to build multiple milestones into long-term goals. Goals are often too large and ambiguous, and it’s all too easy to get lost along the way between Here and There. Furthermore, if a big, unattainable goal is your only benchmark of achievement, it’s likely you’ll never earn your moment of pride—instead, you’ll just end up frustrated and discouraged.
Building small, achievable, and fun milestones into the journey toward your big goal is important to staying motivated and engaged. Firstly, they are concrete and create a clear roadmap in the right direction. Secondly, because they are based on your motivations and interests, you’re more likely to stay motivated and engaged with them. And lastly, because they are easily achievable, you grant yourself multiple occasions to feel encouraging moments of pride.
For example, if you want to lose weight, it’s best to abandon the old, vague roadmap of “eat healthy and exercise.” Think of small goals that feel like causes for celebration to you: switching to using the stairs instead of the elevator, cutting out soda for 30 days, going for a drink with friends when you hit 10,000 steps for the day, logging 50 Zumba classes.
This method can easily be applied to a team setting as well; it’s often hard for team members to figure out how they can contribute to the big-picture goals of an organization. You can guide and motivate them with built-in milestones that multiply their opportunities for moments of pride. To accomplish this, you’ll want to ask yourself three questions:
- What matters to my team? What are their motivations and interests?
- **What is attainable in a short period of time? **What feels like it’s within reach?
- **What are uncelebrated milestones we can bring attention to and celebrate? **
Milestones can also be retroactively built in—that is, you can dig up milestones achieved in the past and celebrate them in the present. This takes some foresight on your part; progress is very difficult to recall by memory alone, so you’ll want to create an ongoing record of progress to look back on**.** Imagine taking a video every week while you learn ukulele for one year. At the end of the year, you’ll have a tangible reminder of just how far you’ve come. Bringing attention to previously-uncelebrated milestones attaches moments of pride to your progress.
A third way to create a moment of pride is to do the right thing when it’s called for. We feel a great deal of pride when we act with courage—when we stand up for someone else, call out injustice, or fight for something we believe in. While these moments are of course defining for you, because they show you what you’re made of, they can be defining for others, too. In a way, your moment of courage is contagious because people are much more likely to do the right thing when they see someone else doing so, and they have more convictions in their beliefs when they feel supported.
Moments of courage often happen spontaneously and are not really something you can engineer. You can, however, prepare for these spontaneous moments with “preloaded responses.” Preloaded responses are your predetermined reactions to situations you might encounter. Practicing these prepares you to do the right thing straight away, without pausing to think about it.
Imagine that your colleague makes a racially insensitive remark to another colleague. Without preparation, you’d likely be caught off-guard and would do nothing in response. However, what if you’d had a preloaded response at the ready? “I know that Mary makes insensitive jokes to her friends about Julie. That’s not right and it won’t stop unless I bring it to HR. The next time I hear her make a remark like that, I’ll say, ‘Mary, that’s a really inappropriate thing to say. I’ll be reporting you to HR.’” Chances are, if you’d had this response prepared, you would have been primed to speak up in defense of your colleague right away.
Preloaded responses shift your thinking from “What is the right thing to do?” to “How can I get the right thing done?” The second way of thinking skips the deliberation of the first step—you already _know** **_what to do—and goes straight to the action that can create a moment of courage out of a spontaneous situation.
Moments of Connection
Moments of connection are experiences that strengthen our relationships with other people. They are more meaningful because they are shared with others, either in groups or one-on-one.
Strengthening Group Relationships
In group relationships, connection is found in shared meaning. Shared meaning can be created by 3 strategies: 1) Creating a shared moment, 2) Allowing for voluntary struggle, and 3) Reconnecting with work’s meaning.
- **Create a shared moment: **The social reality of being together with a group of people working toward the same cause is essential to understanding the magnitude of the group’s impact. Imagine an environmental defense organization getting all their employees together for an annual event where they discuss their goals for the year—it’s easy for their members to feel re-energized about the mission when they see just how many people are sharing their fight.
- Allow for voluntary struggle: People naturally create strong bonds when they are struggling together, but they need to have chosen to be part of it. People who are forced to take on extra work become resentful and disengaged, whereas those who choose to struggle will have a genuine connection to the work and to others who do the extra work for the same reasons. The environmental defense organization opens up a university mentorship program that members can volunteer to be part of; it’s a lot of extra work, but they’ve chosen to be involved and feel more connected to their colleagues in the same boat.
- **Reconnect with work’s meaning: **Group members need to know that their work is much larger than themselves—you have to cultivate a group’s sense of purpose by showing them the impact of their work. Purpose is what allows people to see beyond their mundane or difficult individual tasks and feel a significant connection to the larger mission. The environmental defense organization could accomplish this at their annual event by bringing in speakers who can personally attest to the positive impact of the organization’s work on their lives.
Deepening Individual Relationships
Contrary to popular belief, individual relationships don’t naturally deepen over time. Rather, they plateau if they are not maintained with moments of connection. To build defining moments into a relationship, your main focus needs to be on your _responsiveness _to other people. It’s in the moments that we feel our partners are listening and responding to us—showing responsiveness—that our relationships grow stronger.
There are 3 elements to effectively practicing responsiveness:
- Mutual understanding: You know what is important to me and who I am
- You walk in the door after work, very upset. Before you say anything, your partner notices that something is wrong and asks what happened.
- Validation: You respect who I am and my wants and needs
- You tell your partner about your awful day at work and they listen attentively, asking questions to help you explore your feelings.
- **Caring: **You actively support me and help me get what I want/need
- After you talk, your partner asks if you want advice or just needed to vent. You just needed to vent, so they give you a hug and make dinner so you can relax.
Responsiveness, and the feeling of being truly heard and seen, is vital to any individual relationship, be it with a family member, with your students’ parents, or with one of your clients. **For more personal relationships, the formula takes a slightly different form: responsiveness + vulnerability = intimacy. **
This formula is quite simple in practice—you share something (vulnerability) and wait to see if your partner shares something in return (responsiveness). If this exchange takes place, you have both opened up the possibility to continue deepening your relationship. **It’s important to note that this intimacy, the invitation to continue the relationship, does not come from responsiveness or vulnerability alone—it’s essential that both parties take turns in sharing and responding. **
This turn-taking does not happen naturally—one person needs to take the first step to get the cycle started and spark a moment of connection. Compare the girl who became your best friend after you talked all night at camp when you were 12 to the uncle you’ve made mere small talk with every single holiday for the past 30 years; **recognizing an opportunity to take the first step of vulnerability is the difference between a relationship that flourishes and one that plateaus. **
What Defining Moments Can Teach Us
Small, yet important moments are happening all around you every day. Once you know how to look for them and invest in them with elevation, insight, pride, or connection, you can make these ordinary moments into defining, meaningful experiences. Seeking out and working to multiply meaningful moments in your life, fighting the everyday flatness that dulls life and causes it to speed by, is a way to refocus on what’s important. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of addressing only those things that feel most urgent or fall back on plans that feel most practical. Will you remember those urgent, practical choices? Or will you remember the defining moments that you invested in?
Full Summary of The Power of Moments
Chapter 1: Defining Your Defining Moments
Important and memorable moments, the grand events of your life that make you who you are, often happen naturally—you probably remember your wedding or the first time you met your grandchild. But have you ever thought about the smaller experiences in your life that hold just as much power?
These are your defining moments—short, memorable experiences that are meaningful to you. They’re called defining moments because, though they may be small, they have the potential to change the way you think, shape your perceptions of an event, or establish new connections.
**These everyday defining moment…
Read the rest of the “The Power of Moments” summary at my new book summary product, Shortform.
Here’s what you’ll find in the full The Power of Moments summary:
- 1-Page Summary
- Chapter 1: Defining Your Defining Moments
- Exercise: Reexamine Your Defining Moments
- Chapter 2: Spotting Investment-Worthy Moments
- Exercise: Find Opportunities for Defining Moments
- Chapters 3-4: Moments of Elevation
- Exercise: Rewrite Your Script
- Chapters 5-6: Moments of Insight
- Exercise: Engineer an Aha! Moment
- Exercise: Explore Positive Outcomes of Risk
- Chapters 7-9: Moments of Pride
- Exercise: Give Recognition and Break Down Goals
- Chapters 10-12: Moments of Connection
- Exercise: Recognize Opportunities for Responsiveness
- Exercise: Practice Responsiveness and Vulnerability
I’ve been building Shortform for the past year. It’s the book summary product I always wanted for myself. I was never satisfied with the summaries from what was on the market, and so I built Shortform for myself and readers like you. If you like my book summaries, you’ll love Shortform.
Shortform has the world’s best summaries of nonfiction books and articles. Even better, it helps you remember what you read, so you can make your life better. What’s special about Shortform:
- The world’s highest quality book summaries—comprehensive, concise, and everything you need to know
- Broad library: 1000+ books and articles across 21 genres
- Interactive exercises that teach you to apply what you’ve learned
- Audio narrations so you can learn on the go
- Discussion communities—get the best advice from other readers
Sound like what you’ve been looking for? Sign up for a 5-day free trial here.