Why Experiences Create The Most Amazing Memories

View from the Cliff House, San Francisco, CA

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” –Dr. Suess

Who doesn’t like a challenge? Here’s a very quick and exciting challenge for you. Take a moment to reflect on the greatest and most vivid memories of your life. Seriously, take a brief moment to slow down, stop, and think about it. Which memories comes to mind?

I recently did this challenge and realized the most joyful and vivid memories of my life involve spending time with family and friends, often engaging in activities costing no money at all.

As a child playing ping-pong with my brother on a heavy wooden table so rickety its fold-down metal legs could buckle at any second, and often did, comes to mind. One end of the table would come crashing to the cement floor with enough force to break your toes. An injury-trap waiting to happen, adding another level of suspense and challenge to the game. When we played ping-pong It was not about winning…it was about survival. It was fun.

Or taking memorable car rides through muddy cornfields in Canada’s corn belt with my father during summer breaks from school. He was a young teacher trying to feed a growing family on a young teacher’s salary, so he would take part time jobs inspecting corn crops to help make ends meet. We’d ride along dirt roads in the country for hours, sometimes he’d let me steer, do spin-outs in the fields, and take the car home covered in mud from top to bottom. Mom would ask what happened to the car. We’d look at each other and shrug our shoulders. Laughing. Joking. Bonding.

What memories came to your mind?  More likely than not, memories of fun times shared with people, places visited, and special experiences. Sure, there could have been some amazing birthday or holiday gifts, but even with those, the memories and experience shared with others as a result of the gifts, not the gifts themselves, probably feels most special.  Very few of life’s greatest memories are of material things themselves. Material things may help enhance experiences, but experiences are what creates the most vivid, powerful, and lasting memories.

Experiences can create a wealth of joy greater than riches.

Scientific research supports the idea that experiences bring people more happiness than do material things, and if spending time creating experiences is not an option, the mere anticipation of future experiences ranks a very close second. What does that mean? It means the anticipating of an upcoming trip, a night out with friends, concert tickets, or even a visit to the movies this weekend, gives us something to look forward to. An anticipated experience. The experiential beginning of a potentially wonderful memory.

The value any experience or memory begins the moment we begin thinking about it. We all possess the ability to create such memories and experiences with people we love and enjoy, and once such a positive idea is seeded, it is our responsibility to nurture and grow that seed into reality. We should set a conscious goal to create strong and positive memories that can be cherished and enjoyed forever, for ourselves and the people we like and love.

There is no amount of money that would tempt me to trade the precious memories and moments shared with my father and family, for so many reasons. But most importantly because those memories make me happy, bring me peace, and authentically resonate an irreplaceable quality of life worth living. If I ever have to choose between spending money on creature comforts vs. creating a positive lasting memory with my family or loved ones there is no question which direction I’ll be leaning.

While many memorable experiences unfold naturally, the creation of lasting memories can take planning and be intentional. It simply takes a little time and effort, and maybe a well-thought out expenditure of money, but it does not need to be a lot. If you struggle with planning ideas to create amazing experiences and lasting memories, here are five super suggestions that may help jump start your creative juices:

  • Throw a party – for any occasion. It doesn’t need to be a big party. Do it for someone you care about, or just to gather friends together for the sake of having a party. Use a theme, have a camera, food and beverages, games and fun.
  • Spend quality time – with your parents, spouse, children, friends, or others. Ask others about themselves, get them talking – people love to talk about themselves. This naturally builds rapport and relationship. Remember details and ask about irrelevant details next time you talk to them.
  • Gift experiences – instead of things. How about theater tickets or golf lessons instead of candy or a bottle of wine (though a bottle of wine my lead to some pretty interesting experiences too!). Think of an experience someone would normally not do. If it’s expensive and a mutual friend is involved, suggest others pitch in and make the experiential gift truly worthwhile.
  • Travel – it doesn’t need to be some far off, exotic location, though that’s certainly something to shoot for. Travel or holidays can be a day trip, or even an experience in your own city or area that you normally would not have
  • Spend time in nature – this has a number of tremendous health benefits, including calming .and focusing the mind and connecting us with the sense of a Higher Power. Being in nature can also contribute to well-being, creativity and happiness, along with providing a sense of simplicity and fulfillment.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the pursuit of material wealth (even a lot of it) and attaining possessions, but we must remember that living a quality life is more about balance and perspective. At the end of the day the billion dollar CEO is buried in the same earth as the penniless pauper. In death we take no material possessions with us.

I’m not sure who said it first, but I believe they said it best, “Fill your life with experiences, not things.  Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.”

Be mindful and intentional about making great memories, then enjoy them for a life time. Experiences create the most amazing memories.

Wishing wellness and empowerment your way,

Dr. J

“Daddy…Put Down Your Phone!”

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“Action expresses priorities.” –Mahatma Gandhi

It’s Super Bowl weekend.  My 5-year old son and I are downstairs playing in the carpeted rec room of our home.  He’s clad in a miniature-size game-day jersey, pretending he’s the superstar quarterback of the winning team, excited to be romping around, full of energy, playing and interacting with Daddy.

We’ve been tossing around a mini Nerf football, soft enough not to damage the walls or windows as a result of its erratic episodes of flight. He pretends to snap the ball to himself, drops back in the pretend pocket, pump fakes his right arm one time, then throws the football across the room in my direction. A surprisingly perfect spiral.

Half-heartedly I reach upward to catch the ball with my left hand, glancing away from my smart phone where I had been checking emails, or text messages, or social media updates, or something else I deemed urgent at the time.  Then I recall hearing the most pleading, sincere, and wanting tone a 5-year old could ever muster…

“Daddy…Put Down Your Phone!”

Boom. A eureka-moment reality check. A life-changing, priority-altering realization. Not only did I hear my son’s pleading tone…I listened.

Through his pleading tone, dejected body language, and despaired facial expression, my son renewed an already known realization in my mind. The realization that all things seemingly urgent are not necessarily important, and what is important needs to be prioritized. At that specific second, I silently vowed to re-assess and re-focus my priorities, not only toward my child, but in all aspects of my life.

We live in a furious-paced time, in a culture making constant unabashed attempts to demand our attention right now. The expectation of being constantly on and accessible via smart phones, instant messaging, urgent-sounding chimes, alerts and notifications…its madness. But how much of that culturally-ingrained sense of urgency is really important? What about in your life? That’s the question of today. The easy (and correct) answer is really pretty simple. Not much.

The offering to mindfully differentiate that which is urgent from that which is important is strong advice. Good advice. Perhaps most importantly, it is advice that can and should be applied to every aspect of our lives.  If you’re like most everyone I know, your days are increasingly becoming filled with obligations, commitments, and responsibilities. We must force ourselves to stop and ask, “How much of what I’m doing is really important?”

To prioritize what is important in our lives we must stop and think about everything biding for our time. Our work, health, family, friends, community, faith, finances, leisure, and more. Stopping to take stock is the first step, then we must identify what is seemingly urgent from what is truly important (if it’s neither urgent nor important it shouldn’t be on our “must do” radar anyway). Only then can we begin an uncompromising exercise of elimination and prioritization. An eliminectomy.

That which seems urgent will get in the way of what is important, just like the seeming urgency of checking my smart phone got in the way of the important experience I was spending with my son during Super Bowl Weekend.

How do we decide what is urgent vs. what is important? I like the statement by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.

Or, if a task or activity can be put off without dire consequence, it’s probably more urgent than important. If it’s something that contributes to long term happiness, close relationships, personal growth or goals, it’s probably important.

Here are 5 Action Steps I used to re-prioritize my priorities:

  1. Stop Everything. It’s impossible to think when your mind is cluttered with a million-and-one thoughts. Too many thoughts, can’t think. How’s that for irony? So stop, calm the mind, and give yourself a chance to authentically think.
  1. Write down values in priority order. Not tasks, but values. For example – Creator, Family, Finances, Community, Fun, etc.  These are items of personal value that contribute to long term happiness and fulfillment. Values must be known before they can be consciously pursued. Refer back to this list often – the things we see most frequently become ingrained in our subconscious, and will most likely become our reality.
  1. Write down tasks being done on a regular basis. Then identify items to reduce or eliminate that are unnecessary. Time is our most precious commodity, one that is so easily wasted. Reducing the unnecessary will create more time for what truly matters (that which is important).
  1. Group like activities and use technology for efficiency. For example, prepare multiple meals at the same time to avoid a tedious routine every meal, or have a set time for laundry, or checking e-mails or paying bills. When like activities are grouped together they are accomplished more efficiently. Offerings like auto pay to manage monthly bills helps avoid the hassle of opening envelopes, addressing checks, stamping envelopes, etc.
  1. Practice “Present Time Consciousness”. A fancy-sounding term that simply means “focus on what is in front of you with full attention”, one thing at a time with full presence. Make the task at hand the number one priority while it is being done. Avoid multi-tasking whenever possible…it really doesn’t save time, quality is compromised, and it creates stress!

By identifying what is most important in our lives, and prioritizing our actions to align with what is most important, it simply means we are becoming truer to ourselves. It’s an excellent process for everyone to undergo. A task we should pursue with knowledge and courage, helping us reach for our higher potential. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks along the way…we all have them. After all, we’re all just humans trying to become better version of ourselves.

Wishing Wellness & Empowerment Your Way,

-Dr. J

The Power of Envisioning A Higher-Version Of Yourself

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As a child growing up near the shore of Lake Erie in Canada, I used to marvel at the rich, black soil found a mile or two inland from the water.  On hot summer days my father would drive our 1976 Chrysler Imperial along the shoreline, windows wide open, and the saturating smell of sweet onions growing in the fields would permeate every breath. These farms produced some of the best green onions in the nation. In the entire world. The reason? That dark, rich, nutrient-filled soil nurtured those plants to their maximum potential. In many aspects, the human mind is exactly like that soil.

Your Mind Is Like A Garden

The nourishing soil of a garden possesses the potential to grow most anything planted in it, good or bad. A garden may be cared for by a responsible, constructive caretaker, or neglected to grow random and unpredictable, but inevitably it will bring forth growth of some kind – this is an irrefutable law nature. If no beneficial seeds are planted in a garden, then a bounty of useless weed seeds will find their way into the ground, and these weed seeds will germinate, grow, and ultimately wind up producing more of their own, choking the life from anything positive attempting to grow.

If you are the gardener of your mind, just as a good gardener continuously monitors their plot of earth, removing harmful weeds that choke the roots of the vegetables and flowers they are attempting to grow, you are responsible for removing the weeds of negativity, fear, non-growth and decline from your mind. Destructive thoughts must be replaced with constructive thoughts, otherwise the destructive thoughts will flourish. When the weeds of destructive thoughts are removed, and the flowers and plants of right thinking are cultivated, nourished and pruned, useful thoughts will grow in abundance, spawning the effects of peace, joy and success in life.

As a person thinks, so shall they become has been a lesson taught with certainty through the ages by some of the most enlightened teachers our world has ever known, including Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Moses, Krishna and more. It’s a powerful statement embodying much more than utopian-sounding ideal; it’s a blueprint for peace, joy and success, yet remains understood, believed and practiced by significantly relative few.

All things visible in our world today were first created in the realm of thought, without exception.  Before computers, the Internet, electricity, someone first had the idea they could exist in their mind.  The greatest beauty of an idea is perhaps its indestructibility. Ideas can exist forever, whether manifested or not.  Ideas harbor the potential of what we may one day become. Potential means possibility, not positively. So, once a positive idea is seeded it is our responsibility to nurture it to reality. If the idea is not positive, we have a choice to terminate it at its root.  In time, our reality will become a mirror of our thoughts, beliefs, knowledge and attitude. Whether realized or not, this is how our individual realities are created.

We are first defeated in our minds, and victorious there as well.

Most of our lives we are taught to think in terms of lack and limitation, dependence and low risk. We are first taught these values in good faith and unintentionally by the perceived authority figures in our lives….our mothers, fathers, teachers and preachers. As children growing, most are constantly conditioned with phrases like, “You can’t do that,” or “Don’t speak until spoken to,” or my personal favorite, “We can’t afford that…money doesn’t grow on trees!” As a result of this subconscious pre-programming most people naturally seek a level of existence well below their true potential. This is scientifically proven. The good news is that a habit of right thinking, with potential unleashed, can be developed through knowledge, repetition and proven techniques. A few simple techniques I’ve learned through the years to retrain the subconscious mind include:

  • Goal Setting: One of the most exciting and rewarding habits we can acquire, setting short and long term goals allows us to develop the attitudes, habits and thinking necessary to move in the direction we want to go. Having goals allows us to see ourselves as we want, as compared to how we are, and helps shape a step-by-step progress toward completion of our goals. Goal setting is a habit that should be worked on, updated, and developed over time.
  • Affirmations: Much of what we think and feel is determined by how we talk to ourselves, and using affirmation on a daily basis is one of the simplest, easiest ways to guide our “self-talk” in a positive way. Affirmations are repeated statements which stimulate our mind with an attitude of expectancy. By choosing what thoughts we allow to start our day or dominate our mental space, we effectively choose what we want to manifest in our reality.
  • Visualization: Vivid visualization goes hand-in-hand with consistent goal-setting and affirmations. Visualization is the process of holding a thought in our mind until that thought creates a mental picture or image of “being there”. The human brain cannot distinguish between a thought that is imagined (visualized) in vivid detail vs. an actual event that occurs. The human brain is that powerful.

It is a duty of our existence to instill in ourselves a strong sense of belief-in-self daily, and our thoughts manifest this duty. This vein of thinking is an absolute truth, and the sooner we accept it as such, the sooner we begin to attract into our lives the blessings we so desperately desire.  Literally, we become what we think. We must be intentional about creating a habit of positive, growth-inspired thinking. Try it…and revel in the eventual result. You, and the world, will be better for your effort.

Wishing Wellness & Empowerment Your Way,

-Dr. J