No matter how old—or young—you are, you can create memorable moments by adding touches of novelty to your life.
Look for novelty
There's an oft-told—and very true—story in our family about my Uncle Edmund Taylor (see “Happy 100th Birthday, Uncle Edmund!”), who famously enjoyed pushing his loved ones slightly beyond their comfort zone to instill character, courage, and fortitude. One day—already in his 80s—he led a group of young adults on a rigorous hike up a nearby mountain trail. About halfway up, a fast-moving storm moved in, and before too long, the hikers were wet and cold. Most were anxious about the deteriorating weather and ready to turn back. “Turn back?” my uncle responded with intimidating gusto. “We can't turn back…we're making memories!”
This story came to mind when I read about a fascinating conversation Jordan Harbinger had with Dan Heath, the co-author (with his brother Chip Heath) of The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact.
He cited research showing that novelty is a key element in those events of our lives we consider “memorable.” He thinks this factor is one reason we feel that time speeds up as we get older and become victims of the “reminiscence bump.” This refers to a finding from interviews with hundreds of people of all ages 50 and older about their most memorable life experiences. “They tend to disproportionately cite memories from roughly the ages 15 to 30,” reported Heath. This apparently happens because, during the ages of 15 to 30, we are having a higher number of new/first-time experiences than at any other time in our lives: our first kiss, our first love, our first marriage, our first child, our first job, etc. These are novel, therefore, more memorable.
Let's reframe that!
This “reminiscence bump” could be depressing for those of us who are older than 50 and think that our most memorable days are all behind us.
Don't fall for that!
No matter how old we are, we can use the novelty principle as a lever for creating memorable moments by considering how to get more novelty into our lives. And, truthfully, as Dan Heath suggests, the older we get, “a little bit of novelty can go a long way.”
Five easy ways to add novelty to your life
Let these get you thinking about what might spark your own memory-making creativity. Have fun with this.
- Study something new.
Take a class online or offline (The Great Courses are terrific, but search the Internet for “free online courses” and you'll be amazed at how much is available). Read a textbook. Study a language. Pick even a small topic that piques your curiosity and read everything you can find about it for the next six weeks. This month, I am jumping feet-first into the study of the ancient philosophy of Stoicism and journaling about it every day. It's opening up a whole world of ideas and thought. Memorable.
- Plan an unusual outing.
Visit a museum or art gallery you've never been to. Attend a house tour. Visit a working organic farm. Take a tour of a manufacturing plant. Join a guided bird walk. My husband and I recently went on a wildflower walk led by a professor at a local college. We were treated to one of the largest wild stands of Trillium in the East. We also recently visited the George C. Marshall House in Leesburg and were thrilled to learn more about a man who deserves our attention and respect. Both memorable.
- Go to a lecture that's outside your normal interest area.
Our friends John and Katherine Morrison invited us to join them for a lecture and tour of a Maxfield Parrish exhibit at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. We thoroughly enjoyed learning about the art scene in the 1920s and 1930s and realizing the impact Maxfield Parrish had on art, illustration, marketing, and design. His prolific use of a particular shade of blue earned that color the moniker “Parrish Blue.” Memorable.
- Say “Yes” the next time you're inclined to say “No.”
Instead of staying home to watch TV, go on and get out to that birthday party you've been invited to. Attend a fundraiser for a charity that tugs at your heartstrings. Go with your friends to that new movie everyone's talking about. This is one I need to work on because my husband and I are so busy we'd rather stay home in the evening and not go anywhere. But what might we be missing? Memorable moments, no doubt.
- Dust off that passion project.
Do you have a half-written poem, short story, book, or screenplay on your computer or in your filing cabinet? You know…the one you keep thinking about or talking about? I've got a draft manuscript myself that's been languishing for years—a 40-day devotional with the working title Stepping Stones to God. And there's a book in my head that's begging to be written! I will definitely be making a memory the day I see them for sale on Amazon.
What novelty action can you take this year?
Uncle Edmund was right: they were making memories that day on the mountain, even if the novelty involved was less comfortable than some might have wished. Everyone there that day remembers it vividly. And, if truth be told, they may be slightly proud that they persevered and lived to tell the tale.
There are at least 12 weeks left in this year (2018). What can you do to gently shake things up in your life by adding a little novelty and making a few memories? Thunderstorms, danger, and discomfort are not required.
I'd love to hear about them–in the comments below or on the HeartspokenLife Facebook page.
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