How to Enhance an Experience {Mark the Moment Series #2}

Defining Moments

When’s the last time you’ve been to a wedding? A funeral? A graduation?

We usually attend these events because we know the importance of celebrating an important moment. And celebrating a person important to us.

It’s been over a year (October 2) since Jenna, my youngest daughter got married. Weddings are memorable moments. They’re planned, they’re focused, and they’re people-oriented. They’re easy to remember. They’re filled with built-in rituals.

But every day can’t be a memorable moment. Most of life is routine.

So when we do want to mark a particular moment as special, but it doesn’t come with its own celebratory format, how can we?

Moments of Elevation

I’m sharing four ways to celebrate defining moments, one each Wednesday, from research in The Power of Moments by authors (and brothers) Chip and Dan Heath.

Each of these four elements is meant to enhance an experience or life transition that we want to mark as special.

I specifically want to mark my transition from parent to grandparent (thanks to our oldest daughter Morgan).

This week is Element One: Moments of Elevation.

You can use a moment of elevation to enhance

  • (1) a special occasion like those mentioned above, plus birthday parties, retirement parties, baptisms, or
  • (2) an “onstage” moment, such as a championship sports game, speaking at a conference, a band concert, or
  • (3) spontaneous moments, like a sunny day in the park, a baby’s first smile, a worship experience.

To elevate one of these moments, the book recommends you do one of these three things from this first element (next week is the second element, Moments of Pride).

  1. Boost Sensory Appeal

“Boosting sensory appeal is about turning up the volume on reality. Things look better or taste better or sound better or feel better than they usually do.”

At Jenna’s wedding we had beautiful flowers and twinkling lights and special clothes. Peak moments look different; they feel different.

To create your own peak moment, something as simple as dressing up can make an occasion feel different. Light candles for a special meal. Take a meeting outside instead of a board room.

Jeff and I went to a distant location (Maine) to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary last month. The atmosphere was different—cliffs, ocean, lighthouses. Hiking through Acadia National Park is something we’ll remember because it looked different and felt different than our backyard in Alabama.

  1. Raise the Stakes

“To raise the steaks is to add an element of productive pressure: a competition, a game, a performance, a deadline, a public commitment.”

To celebrate 25 years of marriage and to commemorate our transition to a new season of grandparenting, I brought a bag of polished stones with us to Maine. On one set of rocks, I had written the word, “Thanks.” Another set said, “Help,” and a third said, “Wow.”

To raise the stakes, on our first full day in Maine, Jeff and I took three “Help” rocks with us to Portland Head Light (Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse).


As we looked over the Gulf of Maine, Jeff and I each came up with three specific prayers of “Help” for our new season ahead. We then said them aloud to each other and God, then threw each “Help” rock into the water.

One of Jeff’s requests was that the grandkids would have so much fun with us that they would cry when they had to leave. One of my requests was that I would have enough energy to play and keep up with them.

I then bought a lighthouse replica to put in my grandma box as an extra reminder of our commitment moment.


  1. Break the Script

“To break the script is to defy people’s expectations of how an experience will unfold. It’s strategic surprise.”

You likely have informal scripts for how you spend Sunday mornings or who makes breakfast during the week or what you do on vacation.

To break the script, throw in a “delightful surprise” to change a normal routine. The book suggests an exercise called “Saturday Surprise.” The instructions are easy: Break the script on your Saturday routine. Do something totally different than you normally would. See what happens.

Reminiscence Bump

What are the ten most important events likely to take place in a lifetime? A study by Dorthe Berntsen and David Rubin showed these most popular answers (not in sequential order).

  1. Having children
  2. Marriage
  3. Begin school
  4. College
  5. Fall in love
  6. Others’ death
  7. Retirement
  8. Leave home
  9. Parents’ death
  10. First job

The majority of these events happen between the ages of roughly 15 to 30.

“If you ask older people about their most vivid memories, research shows, they tend to be drawn disproportionately from this same period, roughly ages 15 to 30. Psychologists call this phenomenon the “reminiscence bump.

~ * ~

Why does a 15-year period in our lives—which is not even 20% of a typical life span—dominate our memories?”

Psychologists say because of novelty. Many firsts happen during those years. First kiss, first job, first time living away from home.

But we don’t have to stop having “firsts.”

“Surprise stretches time.”

Throw in some novelty of your own this week. You don’t have to use every element to elevate every moment.

But remember every now and again to mark your moments.

  • Invest intentionally.
  • Stay engaged.
  • Live purposefully.

Watch this 3-minute video about improving your experiences.

Dan Heath Is Your School All Practice No Game

* * *

Which strategy can you use this week: (1) Boost the sensory appeal, (2) Raise the stakes, or (3) Break the script?

What do you remember about the last big event you attended? Why? Please share in the comments.

The Four (EPIC) Elements of Marking the Moment:


32 thoughts on “How to Enhance an Experience {Mark the Moment Series #2}

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, we both loved Maine! We didn’t know what to expect. It was such a series of surprises to see how wooded it was and how unpopulated in many areas. I don’t know when we’ll return, but I would love to.

  1. floyd

    Fascinating subject today, Lisa. The most gratifying and memorable things for me are generally the things that require much diligence and perseverance; like the kids graduating, getting married, having kids etc.

    I think, for me, the window of time that has a lasting impact on who we are and the scenarios that shape our world view, is from an earlier age. It might have to do with those events that stand out in our mind vividly.

    I think also as kids in school it’s important to learn how to think as opposed what to think. The best education is the one that creates life long learners. And I believe more importantly believing in God is the cornerstone of wisdom to build a life on.

    The trudging through school, or the practice of it, is logical. But the real test comes in life, and that test is bigger than any sporting event. An event is fun, but I believe is also just a preparation for life.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate this thought-provoking comment, Floyd. So rich with wisdom about measuring our days. Too often I can project too forward into the future instead of staying in this moment, this everyday adventure with God right where we are. Yes, the events are fun, but “regular” life is where we see God’s consistency and faithfulness daily.

  2. Trudy

    I love what you and your husband did with the stones, Lisa. And what an incredible experience those two teachers give their students. Thank you for these tips! Love and hugs!

  3. Bill (cycleguy)

    Very practical and “learnable” Lisa. Thanks for the suggestions. I just got my “Moments” book so I haven’t had a chance to keep up with you other than the overall review of the moments. But you definitely make it so I want to keep reading.

  4. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Sorry it took so long to get here, Lisa. Loved the post, and you do NOT look old enough to be a grandparent. I think there was a time warp somewhere.

    In a life that has physically become a waking nightmare, with pain piled upon other things and once again upon pain, it all blends into a surrealistic twilight that I’d rather not memorialize. The good moments will be saved by God; that’s enough.

    But still, I do try to live every one of them, and do not seek oblivion in opioids. To bear witness to the possibility of joy one must fully embrace the horror.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Well, I feel old enough to be a grandparent on some days. But on other days I feel like we should still be 20-something. I admire your courage to live out each day with as much purpose as you can, Andrew. I can’t imagine. Continue bearing witness to the possibility of joy.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Sarah. It was a memorable trip for sure. We typically love the beach when we want to get away, but this time we wanted to do something different since 25 years is quite monumental. 🙂

  5. Debbie Putman

    I want to try to raise the stakes. I especially loved your idea of the rocks and writing thanks, help, and wow and using those for prayer. That’s something I definitely want to try. And your lighthouse idea to remind you of your prayer for your grandchildren was a great one.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Debbie. I find that I remember better when I have physical things to attach to. If life hadn’t been so hard back then, I’ve often thought I might have liked living with many of the Old Testament symbols. 🙂 But thankfully I did not have to live back then and can enjoy this side of full grace!

  6. Alice Walters

    Thanks, Lisa, for the reminders that we don’t have to wait for The Big Event, whatever that might be, to create a big event. Two of my favorite memories were captured in the routines of our life, both became pivotal, life-changing moments. Prayers that you will experience a big event amidst your routines of life this week.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ooh, how exciting that two of your “regular” moments turned into something special, Alice! I love when things like that happen. I know we can’t totally create that on our own, but it’s nice to have a few extra tools to do what we can do.

  7. Donna Reidland

    What great ideas! I like the idea of leaving stones to commemorate things and I’m intrigued with the “Grandma box.” I do have mementos here and there, actually everywhere, but I like the idea of corralling them. Thanks for sharing. Have a great week-end.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I can’t predict what all will end up in my Grandma Box, but I love the starting of it. Thanks, Donna. My daughter is coming home for the weekend so I look forward to seeing how much the baby is growing inside her!

  8. Jean Wise

    My book just arrived today so can’t wait to read it along with your series. I think many of our trips are also milestones as I learn so much each time and come home with new perspectives. A change, a transformation.

  9. Kristi Woods

    Congratulations on your grandchild as well as 25 years of marriage. Beautiful! Lisa, I loved reading about the stones. You read some of the neatest books. 😉 #faithonfire

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Kristi. I always know that any book by Chip and Dan Heath is going to be an interesting one. This one is no exception to that! They really know how to make ideas stick.

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