How do you make use of your peak experiences?

by Francois Coetzee

In managing our own lives and careers we often underestimate the impact of our experiences, positive and negative. The high impact moments, or peak experiences are what shapes us as leaders and individuals. A high impact moment, or peak experience, is one in which we are fully engaged, experience intense emotion and changes the way that we look at the world and our experience of it. Formal explanations often refer only to positive experiences, but I would argue that intense, and often stressful, experiences with negative overtones can also be described as peak experiences, as they, as much as the positive experiences, can change our view and outlook on life.

A peak experience is one that changes us, often leads us to deeper understanding about the world or ourselves and always affect the way we relate to the world and the people in it. Examples of peak experiences may include the birth of a child, the loss of a loved one, the joy of achieving the impossible goal, the unexpected retrenchment from a job you love.

What matters though, is how we analyse and assimilate peak experiences into our internal world.

Consider for a moment one of the peak experiences in your life. A moment that stands clear as a memory. As clear as if it happened yesterday. An experience that shaped you in its intensity of emotion and feeling.

  • What happened? Write down the story.
  • Why was this moment, or experience important?
  • Why does this stand out?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • What emotions coursed through you?
  • What did you hear, feel, smell, taste, say?
  • How did this experience change your point of view?
  • How did this experience change your values, or beliefs about the world?
  • What did you learn from this?