The Power of Moments

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If you are reading this, there is a good chance you had some powerful moments that connected you to the Sanborn camp experience in memorable, transformational ways (that, plus Jerry and the office staff are remarkably good at keeping up with address changes when those birthday cards get returned).

You have spent at least four (or a lot more) weeks of your life at camp and–over time–those weeks have been distilled down to memories which tend to focus on the peaks, the pits and the transitions. So, no matter how many summers you were at Sanborn, you will recall certain moments–but not others. In their new book, The Power of Moments, Chip and Dan Heath tease out how our most powerful and lasting memories come from both profound and simple moments that have four elements in common.

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For a moment to become meaningful, it must involve a “peak” experience, provide individual insight, evoke a sense of pride or gratitude and be shared with others. If you consider those elements, it is obvious why you remember–in such detail–the summit of your first Colorado 14er with your camp friends: it is literally a “peak” with awe-inspiring views; climbing a mountain requires personal fortitude and chutzpah (especially if you are 11 years old); you are surrounded by people who are suffering and celebrating with you; and it gives you an incredible sense of pride and accomplishment. Even the “pit” moments become memorable: a terrifying lightning storm that caused the horses to run away becomes an experience that bolsters confidence, pride and community because we not only survived, we had fun doing it.

The Power of Moments isn’t just a “why you remember stuff” book–it is a call to action for businesses, organizations, educators, families and individuals to intentionally craft and create more memorable, powerful moments in our everyday lives. The book includes a “three-part recipe” to create moments of elevation. If we 1) boost sensory appeal, 2) raise the stakes and 3) break the script, we can create novel, memorable experiences for ourselves and those around us.

If we can “boost sensory appeal” by wearing costumes, playing musical instruments, changing our environment (often by going outside), then we renew our curiosity and awaken our sense of wonder. If we can “raise the stakes”, push ourselves physically or mentally, add healthy competition, or accomplishment deadlines (how much can we do by then vs. we have to do this much by then), we create buy-in and excitement for ourselves and our teams.

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The most memorable thing one can do to create a peak moment is to “break the script”–this is where you start driving your kids to school on a Tuesday…and then end up in the ski hill parking lot. Breaking the script requires planning, effort and coordination–but for any of you who had counselors who woke you up to watch a meteor shower, who (as a surprise) carried a whole watermelon/inflatable alligator/sparkling cider/stove and hot chocolate to the summit, who asked you to come down early and help the wranglers with chores at the barn, or who cultivated a living unit built on respect, fun and community–you already know the power of script breakers and dream makers. We know that “the world of children is made possible by the world of adults” but, sometimes, those adult-y adults need to mix it up a bit for the amazement and sense of wonder of the other people around us.

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To do these things, we have to “beware the soul-sucking force of reasonableness”–and what we do at camp (climbing a mountain with 12 ten year olds) is always safe, but rarely “reasonable”. In contrast, a high school principal quoted in the book said, “We run school like it is a non-stop practice. You never get a game”–students rarely experience “peak” moments in school and most of us rarely experience peak moments in our workplaces…yet it is these moments that make life fulfilling, rewarding and aspirational.

Dan Heath gave one of the keynote presentations at the 2018 American Camp Association conference and he admitted he was in a room with a group of people who “already know a lot about creating meaningful moments.” He acknowledged that “camp people” are really good about building peak moments because we often have the tools and the time to be very thorough and intentional about crafting those moments and traditions. Yet we think EVERYONE can be “camp people”–and the Heath brothers have provided a road map…just don’t forget the skis.

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Ariella Rogge
About Ariella Rogge

Ariella started her career at Sanborn when she was twelve. After five years of camper and five years of Sanborn staff experience, she continued her work with kids in the high school classroom. Ariella and her family returned to Sanborn in 2001 to take on the Program Director role which she held til 2012. She and Elizabeth Marable became co-directors of High Trails in 2013 and then Ariella became the High Trails Director in 2020. In the fall of 2022 she became the Director of Sanborn Western Camps, overseeing the director teams of both Big Spring and High Trails. She lists mountain golf, Gymkhana, climbing mountains and making Pad Thai in the backcountry as some of her favorite activities at camp. Ariella received a B.A. in English from Colorado College and is a certified secondary English educator,an ACCT Level 2 Ropes Course Technician, an ARC lifeguard and NREMT and WEMT. She lives in Florissant in the summer and in Green Mountain Falls during the school year so she can stay involved with the busy lives of her husband, Matt, and two teenage sons, Lairden and Karsten.