When people assess an experience , they tend to forget or ignore its length — a phenomenon called “ duration neglect.” Instead, they seem to rate the experience based on two key moments:
- the best or worst moment , known as the “ peak ”
- the ending
Psychologists call it the “peak - end rule.”
When we assess our experiences, we don’t average our minute - by - minute sensations . Rather, we tend to remember flagship moments: the peaks , the pits , and the transitions .
Peak moments can be engineered and can become defining moments
Some moments are vastly more meaningful than others.
ELEVATION: Defining moments rise above the everyday.
- They provoke not just transient happiness, like laughing at a friend’s joke, but memorable delight.
- To construct elevated moments, we must boost sensory pleasures — the Popsicles must be delivered poolside on a silver tray , of course — and , if appropriate , add an element of surprise.
- Surprise can warp our perceptions of time
- Moments of elevation transcend the normal course of events ; they are literally extraordinary .
INSIGHT: Defining moments rewire our understanding of ourselves or the world.
- In a few seconds or minutes, we realize something that might influence our lives for decades: Now is the time for me to start this business . Or, This is the person I’m going to marry .
- The psychologist Roy Baumeister studied life changes that were precipitated by a “crystallization of discontent,” moments when people abruptly saw things as they were , such as cult members who suddenly realized the truth about their leader.
- These moments of insight often seem serendipitous, we can engineer them — or at the very least, lay the groundwork.
PRIDE: Defining moments capture us at our best —
- Moments of achievement, moments of courage .
- To create such moments, we need to understand something about the architecture of pride — how to plan for a series of milestone moments that build on each other en route to a larger goal .
CONNECTION: Defining moments are social —
- Weddings, graduations, baptisms, vacations, work triumphs, bar and bat mitzvahs, speeches, sporting events.
- These moments are strengthened because we share them with others .