Try this short thought experiment.
Imagine some benefactor has given you an unlimited budget to go on the holiday of your dreams. You can go anywhere you want, do anything you want. You start planning. Where would you go and what would you do?
But there's a catch to this holiday. You are not allowed to take any photos or videos. No posting to social media. No journal. No souvenirs. And you and everyone who went with you on the holiday will take a pill at the end that will wipe it from your memory. Afterwards, it will be for you as if the holiday never happened.
How does this change the way you feel about planning and going on the holiday? Does it change what you would do? Would you even bother to go at all?
Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman poses this thought experiment in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. He uses it to illustrate the difference between two selves each of us has: our experiencing self and our remembering self.
The experiencing self goes on the holiday and has a good time while it’s happening. The remembering self looks back on it, creating memories and stories about it. The remembering self gets to enjoy it over and over again, which is why we feel cheated by the idea that we wouldn’t be able to keep any memories of our dream holiday. We would lose the greatest part of its value.
Kahneman says, ‘Memories are all we get to keep from our experience of living, and the only perspective that we can adopt as we think about our lives is therefore that of the remembering self.’
It’s the remembering self that maintains the narrative of our lives and the remembering self that makes our decisions.
Because I want to give my remembering self some good stuff to work with, sometimes this means my experiencing self has to do some things it doesn’t feel like doing just at the moment, or some difficult or scary things it doesn’t want to do at all. That’s the price of having a good story to tell later.
What kind of stories do you want to be able to remember from your life and work?
As a leader, what kind of stories do you want your team to remember about their work?
What do you need to do now to start creating those stories, or to remember the ones you’ve already made?