Daniel Kahneman, Nobel prize winner, speaks of experiencing selves and remembering selves. The idea is that what we experience in the moment and what we remember are two very separate forms of experience. Each day you live a full day and yet, over time, you only remember a relatively small number of moments. Which ones do you remember?
Kahneman’s work shows that we have a whole series of biases that not only skew our lived experience but equally skew our memories of those events. Indeed, according to his research, biases such as the ‘peak-end rule’ and ‘duration neglect’ heavily influence our remembering self. The peak-end rule suggests that we primarily remember the most emotionally intense point (the peak) and the end of an experience. Duration neglect, on the other hand, suggests that the length of an experience does not significantly impact our memory of it.
These biases imply that our memory is not a perfect recording device. Instead, it crafts a narrative, picking out specific moments while downplaying or even omitting others. And it is within these narratives that our memories, and hence our sense of past and self, are formed. From personal experience, I am really mindful of how experiences finish. On holiday, each and every day is important to the experiencing self but the last day or two are really special for the remembering self. Keeping that in mind changes how enjoyable holidays seem in retrospect.
This leads us to ask: How can we shape these narratives? How can we intentionally create more memorable moments?
Although our memories may not always be accurate representations of any external reality, they play a pivotal role in shaping our world. They are the threads we use to weave the tapestry of our lives. With that in mind, it is not about striving for absolute accuracy as much as creating richness and significance in our lives. It is about recognising that we have the power to curate our experiences and, in turn, the stories we tell ourselves and others. For example, a daily gratitude journal is likely to create more positive memories by intentionally focusing on some key positives that day.
Questions in the Image:
- What was my most memorable moment today?
- What was memorable about it?
- How might I create more memorable moments?
- How do my biases influence what I remember?
Want to Learn More Around This Topic?
Listen to Daniel Kahneman’s talk on experiencing versus remembering selves: Two selves: experiencing-self and remembering-self
Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day – sitting on the train just now watching the countryside go by I am curious: What will I remember about this journey? Over time, will I even remember that it happened not to mind what happened during it? How many train journeys have you taken in your life? How many do you remember?
What Thoughts Would You Like to Share? My name is Tom O’Leary, and I envision a world in which curiosity shapes leadership. In this world, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning. My mission is to shift leadership focus from authority, over-measurement and control to curiosity, learning and innovation, empowering leaders to prioritise the essential. My journey, lived in a number of countries and through various languages, has always been driven by a profound sense of curiosity. In fact, life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential. I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.