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Make the most of these moments - every one of them

February 01, 2019
By Billy Handmaker

“Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment
-”Oprah Winfrey

What a moment! At the postseason basketball tournament, our sixth-grade girls were down much of the game but went ahead with less than two minutes on a shot that hit nothing but net. My generation would call it a Kodak moment. Our girls went on to win the game and move on to the next round in the postseason tournament. The players, the coaches, and the fans all erupted, and I felt lucky to witness the sheer joy on everyone’s faces.

Such is the resonance of special moments in our lives say Chip and Dan Heath, authors of “The Power of Moments.” In their best-selling book, the Heath brothers explain how certain events can alter the course of our existence. We know this intuitively as we celebrate the birth of a child, the first day of school, graduation, weddings, and other happy life-cycle events. Sadly, we also realize that the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or the termination of employment can signal the close of one period and the need to rebuild in preparation for what may come next.

In their book, the Heath brothers explain how we can be intentional in creating moments in our personal and professional worlds. As we do this, we transport our lives to a more meaningful plane than they were before. For moments to be truly extraordinary, they must have elements of elevation, insight, pride, and connection. They should also contain a surprise rather than merely repeating the basics, even if what we’re doing brings positive results.

For a long time now, I have thought that this is how true learning occurs. Students exist at a certain level for a while; typically, they are doing well and they are comfortable. Suddenly, and for lack of a better way to describe it, they have an epiphany where they see the world in a whole new way. It’s as if they now see their lives in color rather than black and white, and as the post World War I song went, “How Ya Gonna Keep ‘em Down On The Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree)?”

It’s the permanent impact of special moments that make them better gifts than things. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research called “Experiential Gifts Foster Stronger Social Relationships Than Material Gifts” attests to this fact. This makes sense intuitively. When families and friends get together, they usually reminisce over shared experiences, they relive trips, or they recount humorous happenings. Repeatedly, I have heard from parents that they have decided to give their children experiences rather than objects; they explain that their children appreciate those much longer than the latest “must have” toy that after a few hours, days, or weeks ends up in the corner of the closet or is lost forever under the bed.

So, as parents and as educators, what does all this mean for us? Obviously, much of our lives happen in the daily and the ordinary. However, if we can be purposeful and create moments that take our children and students to a new place, either literally or figuratively, and allow them to see their world anew, then we will have done a great and life-changing service. As the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “We have more possibilities in each moment than we realize.”