I stood in the bow of the raft, balancing myself against the turbulence of the water, and said goodbye to the hundred miles of raging white water that had been my home for the past six days. Beside me stood my son, Scott, and my daughter, Sarah, also saying farewell. I saw tears in their eyes that matched my own as I put my arms around them both and knew the memory of these days together would last forever.
As we later huddled together in the small plane that took us over the mountains, I thought about the special memories we shared from this amazing trip: the towering rapid that crashed over my kayak and sent me swimming to the laughter of my children, the talks we had around the campfire after long days of paddling, and the deeply spiritual night we slept at the site of a Native American campground.
It wasn’t easy to make time for this trip. My responsibilities at work had never been greater. There were urgent and important issues that seemed to come up every day and when I thought about being away for almost two weeks, I wondered how I could possibly do it. Being completely unreachable—no cell service or internet—only compounded my concerns and kept me worried right up until I left the office the night before the trip.
But now, as our trip was ending and our final view of the river faded into the distance through the small window of the plane, I knew that the memories we had created would last forever, long after my day-to-day concerns at work were forgotten, and that the choice to go was one of the best decisions of my life.
Are you filling your life with moments worth remembering?
Take a look at the next few weeks on your calendar. Are they punctuated by special plans for an afternoon spent exclusively with one of your children, a surprise dinner with a close friend, or a weekend away with your spouse?
Or is your calendar consumed by all the responsibilities of your life, leaving the special moments to happen completely by chance, if they happen at all?
Change Your Perspective
Here’s a simple exercise to drive home the importance of planning special times in the midst of your busy schedule: Can you remember your specific challenges at work for this same month last year? The things you were worried about, the deadlines you had to meet, and how important it all seemed? Probably not.
Now, think about what you do remember from last year.
Most likely, you only remember the moments that really mattered. They might be moments you shared with coworkers or with loved ones, big events or smaller, more intimate moments; some might be painful, while others are moments of real joy and connection with the people you love. But this is probably all that you remember from an entire year of your life.
In essence, these memorable moments were your life, the rest were just details. And realizing this will forever change your perspective on the importance of creating them.
If moments are all you will really remember, why not create a life that is filled with great ones?
What do you want your children to remember? The day you took off from work to spend exclusively with them, the night you took them to hear their favorite band in concert, or the adventure trip they will never forget?
What do you want the people on your team at work to remember? The special recognition you took time to give them at a company meeting or the afternoon you spent offering them personal mentoring?
These special memories, and all the others you want your life to include, won’t happen unless you make time to create them. You must take action.
Start by opening your calendar right now and making time in the coming week for one small experience that could become a treasured memory.
Make an appointment with yourself to bring flowers home to your spouse this week. If you’ve promised to attend a ball game or an event for one of your children, block your calendar open for an extra hour before the time you need to leave so that nothing unexpected can make you late. If you have a close friend with whom you haven’t talked lately, schedule time on your calendar to call him or her and mark it as an important conference call.
When you begin to build these kinds of moments into your life, you will be surprised at how much value the people around you place on small things. You’ll quickly learn that what matters are not the big vacations or the expensive gifts you can provide. In fact, too much value is placed on these things, especially when you really know you’re doing them to compensate for all that you haven’t done.
Know What Matters Most
What the people in your life treasure is you. They value an hour of your undivided attention as much as a trip to the beach—a spontaneous stop for ice cream that includes seeing you relaxed and laughing, as much as buying them a present.
These are the real gifts you can give them, and in the process, you’ll create the memories that enrich their life and yours.
At the end of our river trip, Scott, Sarah, and I purchased three identical silver amulets made by one of the river guides. They each contain a Native American symbol representing the Middle Fork of the Salmon river where we had spent the past six days. Since we returned, mine has never left my neck, and they’ve continuously worn theirs.
As I’m writing these words, I can touch that amulet and be instantly transported to a rich set of memories that are some of the most treasured of my life, and I know that they can too. I would not have these memories if I had not consciously chosen to create them, despite my dedication to my work and the demands on me.
And today, I would not trade those memories for all the money in the world. They sustain me and give me strength when I need it most.
Dr. Stephen Covey once said that you can only say no when you have a bigger yes burning inside. Start today to say “yes” to creating a life filled with treasured memories. I promise, you won’t regret it.