The Power of Moments: Review & Critical Reception

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Is Chip and Dan Heath’s The Power of Moments worth reading? What are the four elements that make a moment memorable?

In The Power of Moments, brothers Chip and Dan Heath examine what makes certain moments more special or memorable than others. They propose four elements—elevation, insight, pride, and connection—you can engineer into small, everyday moments to make them exceptional. These lessons are applicable in all areas of life: Make richer memories with your children, increase employee loyalty, and give clients an experience they’ll never forget.

The following The Power of Moments review covers the book’s context, background, and critical reception.

About the Authors

Chip and Dan Heath are brothers and co-authors. Chip is a professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Additionally, he’s worked with 530 startups, helping them refine their business strategies and missions. Dan is a senior fellow at the Duke University CASE center, where he works with social entrepreneurs, helping them broaden their impact and fight for social good.

Together, they’ve written four bestselling books: Made to Stick, Switch, Decisive, and The Power of Moments. Their writing is often compared to that of Malcolm Gladwell, writer of popular psychology books like Outliers and Blink: Like Gladwell, they bring the concepts they discuss to life with entertaining anecdotes. This accessible style has helped many readers connect with tricky ideas around business strategy and human behavior, garnering their books rave reviews around the world.

Connect with Chip and Dan:

The Book’s Publication

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Published in 2017, The Power of Moments is the Heath brothers’ fourth book. Due to the international success of their three previous books, The Power of Moments was highly anticipated and became an instant New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. 

The Book’s Context

The Heaths’ focus on making the most of present moments dovetails with an increasing interest in personal fulfillment and happiness, partly in reaction to our society’s obsession with busyness and the pressure to always be “on.” Tired of being buried in work and social media upkeep as life’s richest moments pass them by, people are increasingly working on turning their focus to engaging more fully with the present (or living mindfully) and accumulating experiences rather than material things

While the book may appeal on a personal level to a preoccupation with living in the now, it also appeals on a professional level to organizations by suggesting ways that they can use memorable moments to retain both employees and clients:

When employees and clients have unlimited choice, organizations must step up and continually create special, memorable experiences that boost satisfaction and loyalty.  

Critical Reception

The Power of Moments reviews are generally positive. Many agree that the concepts of the book are accessible, eye-opening, and strikes a good balance in speaking to both the professional and personal experience. 

Positive reviewers also commend the book for approaching the self-help genre from a new angle—instead of handing out tired clichés or directing readers to make major changes to their lives, the Heaths push readers to reflect on and recognize the life-enriching opportunities they already have. Finally, reviewers like that the Heaths don’t exclusively examine success and why things work—they take care to explore failures and explain why things don’t work.

On the other hand, Publishers Weekly and other negative reviews bring up several points of criticism. First, they suggest that the book’s principles and suggested actions skew too much toward corporations and the ways organizations might use memorable moments to increase client or employee satisfaction and loyalty, rather than discussing ways that individuals or families can apply the principles to their personal lives. 

Second, the Heaths seem to gloss over a glaring question: When you’re engineering special, meaningful moments, can they ever truly feel genuine? To some, the Heaths’ process of analyzing data and pinpointing patterns seems far too rational for real, lived moments. 

Commentary on the Book’s Approach

As mentioned, the Heaths express their ideas in an approachable way, weaving together research and suggested applications of their ideas with entertaining case studies and anecdotes. 

For the most part, they discuss both successful and unsuccessful types of moments in an attempt to convey why the actions they discuss are critical. Additionally, they attempt to strike a balance between professional and personal examples and applications of their ideas (but, as reviewers suggest, the book seems to skew more toward professionals.) 

Commentary on the Book’s Organization

The Heaths start with a discussion of memory, exploring some of the psychological phenomena behind why we remember the things that we do. From there, they build into a discussion of “defining moments”: Memorable and meaningful moments that can be engineered by adding positive, memorable events to experiences such as transitions, milestones, and negative situations. Throughout the rest of the book, they discuss four elements that you can add to these experiences in order to make them defining

  • Elevation
  • Insight
  • Pride
  • Connection

(Note: The Heaths flip-flop between calling elevation, insight, pride, and connection “elements” of defining moments and “types” of defining moments. We’ve chosen to use “elements” throughout—both for consistency and to underscore the Heaths’ point that everyday, forgettable moments become memorable when enhanced with certain elements.)

The Power of Moments: Review & Critical Reception

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Here's what you'll find in our full The Power of Moments summary :

  • How to make everyday experiences meaningful and memorable
  • A look at the four elements that create meaning
  • How your senses can play a role in elevating everyday moments

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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