The Power of Moments (Chip Heath, Dan Heath)

In The Power of Moments, New York Times bestselling authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath explore why certain brief experiences can jolt us and elevate us and change us — and how we can learn to create such extraordinary moments in our life and work.

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In The Power of Moments, New York Times bestselling authors Chip and Dan Heath explore why certain brief experiences can jolt us and elevate us and change us—and how we can learn to create such extraordinary moments in our life and work.

While human lives are endlessly variable, our most memorable positive moments are dominated by four elements: elevation, insight, pride, and connection. If we embrace these elements, we can conjure more moments that matter.

This book also delves into fascinating mysteries of experience: Why we tend to remember the best or worst moment of an experience, as well as the last moment, and forget the rest. Why “we feel most comfortable when things are certain, but we feel most alive when they’re not.” And why our most cherished memories are clustered into a brief period during our youth.

Many of the defining moments in our lives are the result of accident or luck—but why would we leave our most meaningful, memorable moments to chance when we can create them? The Power of Moments shows us how to be the author of richer experiences.


Show notes

In this episode, you’ll learn...

  • What defining moments are and the traits they have in common:

  • A defining moment is “a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful”

  • Defining moments tend to be created by one (or more) of four elements: elevation, insight, pride, and connection 

  • Why and how to create defining moments by using those elements

  • It is no one’s job to create a defining moment; we must choose to invest in creating these for ourselves and others: to enrich our lives. To connect with others. To make memories. To improve the experiences of customers, patients, or employees.

  • The first step to creating more defining moments for ourselves and others is to begin teaching ourselves to think in moments:

    • Transitions should be marked

    • Milestones should be commemorated

    • Pits should be filled

  • How we tend to forget the duration of an experience and instead rate and remember experiences based on the peak-end rule (the ending, plus the peak as either the best or worst moment)

  • Moments of Elevation:

  • These are defining moments rise above the every day. They provoke not just transient happiness (like laughing at a joke) but memorable delight – sometimes with an element of surprise – and transcend the normal course of events; literally extraordinary.

  • Moments of elevation tend to be most memorable in our lives

  • We remember first times and novel experiences most

  • Moments of elevation tend to be:

    • Social peaks – birthdays, weddings

    • Moments when the stakes are just higher – competing in sporting events; giving presentations, performing in a play

    • Moments that spontaneously rise above the everyday – road trips, the first time you kiss a new person

  • To elevate a moment, do 3 things:

    • Boost sensory appeal – turning up the volume on reality (weddings have special food and drink and flowers and music and attire)

    • Raise the stakes – add an element of productive pressure (a competition, a game, a performance, a deadline, a public announcement… do people feel compelled to take photos? You’ve probably raised the stakes well!)

    • Break the script – defying expectations of how an experience will unfold, strategic surprise

  • Moments of Insight

  • These are defining moments that rewire our understanding of ourselves and our world. They deliver realizations and transformations

  • In a few seconds or minutes we realize something that might influence the course of our lives. They often seem serendipitous, but we can also engineer them or lay the groundwork.

  • The 2 strategies for creating moments of insight: we can cause others to “trip over the truth” and we can prompt ourselves to “stretch for insight”

    • Helping others to "trip over the truth”      

      • The recipe: 1) a clear insight, 2) compressed in time, 3) discovered by the audience itself

      • For when we want to guide others to discover and confront uncomfortable truth

      • You often can’t appreciate the solution until you discover and appreciate the problem on your own!

    • To stretch for insight, place yourself in situations that expose us to the risk of failure

      • Self-insight rarely comes from staying in our own heads; studying our behavior is more fruitful.

      • Learning who we are, what we want, and what we’re capable of is a lifelong process. One of the few ways to accelerate it – to experience more crystallizing moments – is to stretch for insight.

      • Mentors can also help us stretch for insight

  • Moments of Pride

  • These defining moments capture us at our best – in moments of achievement or courage. 

  • To create moments like this, we need to understand “the architecture of pride” and how to build in milestone moments or practice courage.

  • The 3 principles of creating moments of pride:

    • Recognizing others

      • This is the simplest way to create moments of pride for others

      • Make it personal not programmatic

      • Express gratitude for others! A great side effect is that it increases your happiness, too, not just the recipient’s

    • Multiplying meaningful milestones

      • It also multiplies the pride we experience

      • Success comes from pushing to a finish line but milestones along the way compel us to make that push because they’re within our grasp

      • Rethink the way we set goals to include more milestones; instead of ambiguous (“learn Spanish”) choose milestones where you “level up” along the way (“be able to read the headlines on a Spanish newspaper”)

    • Practicing courage

      • Moments that demand courage often arrive unexpectedly; we can’t always prepare. Too often we let the moment pass us by and then wish we’d done or said something differently. To be ready, simply practice courage. Some ideas:

        • Exposure therapy – learning how to handle fear is a critical part of courage

        • Mental rehearsal enables you to anticipate how you will react so you can pre-load a response.  Create implementation intentions: If X happens, then I will do Y.

        • Make sure your practice takes courage! Practice quiets the anxiety that can cloud your mind in a tough moment

      • Courage is contagious. Your moment of courage might be a defining moment for someone else.

  • Moments of CONNECTION

  • These defining moments are social – weddings, graduations, baptisms – and are strengthened because we share them with others. 

  • These defining moments deepen our relationships with others

  • 3 strategies to create moments of connection for groups:

    • Create a synchronized moment

    • Invite shared struggle

    • Connect to a larger sense of meaning

  • To deepen personal relationships, responsiveness is the “secret sauce” of connection. Responsiveness includes 3 things:

    • Understanding – my partner knows how I see myself and what is important to me

    • Validation – my partner respects who I am and what I want

    • Caring – my partner takes active and supportive steps in helping me meet my needs

  • To build intimacy with a new friend or partner, consider how you can be practice responsiveness — and also consider “turn-taking” to share about yourself and ask questions that enable your partner to reveal who they are to you; push intentionally beyond the superficial

Defining moments are worth investing in with our time, energy, focus, and intention to give our own lives — and others’ lives — more meaning.

Bookmarked activity

Create a Defining Moment

Consider how you might create a defining moment of elevation, insight, pride, or connection for yourself or others.  

For elevation, maybe you can break one of the usual scripts in your work or personal life. Could you help someone else “trip over the truth” for a moment of insight?  How might you recognize someone else’s talents or efforts to create a moment of pride, or practice courage in your own life? Maybe you can create a moment of connection with a partner, friend, coworker, or client.

Remember, it takes intention to create a defining moment.  It’s easy to delay or let these chances pass us by — but these are among the most memorable and meaningful moments we’ll ever have.  With a little extra time and effort, we can change our experience of our own lives, or someone else’s.

Share your takeaways

If you’ve read this book, we’d love to hear about it! Let us know if you created or experienced a defining moment, or had any aha moments about where your joy comes from or how to create more of it by emailing us at You can also leave us a voicemail at 929-515-BOOK (2665).


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