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Why It's So Important to Preserve Ordinary Moments

We can't predict what we'll want to remember later in life.

Key points

  • Our ordinary moments are more valuable than we might think.
  • We know we'll want to remember extraordinary events but fail to realize the importance of ordinary ones..
  • Capture your ordinary moments now; you might want to remember them later.
Source: fizkes/Shutterstock

If you spend enough time on Instagram, you can almost feel the pressure to live an extraordinary life. And, indeed, having epic adventures somewhere exotic can create some unforgettable memories.

But what about our ordinary moments? Like meeting a friend for coffee on a Tuesday? Or a Thursday afternoon sculpting playdough with the kids in the kitchen?

We often just let these ordinary, everyday moments pass by. We probably won’t write about them in our journal. And, unless the kids get playdough up their nose, we might not even Instagram it.

But according to Harvard researcher Ting Zhang and colleagues, these ordinary moments might be more valuable to us than we realize. In one of their studies, they had participants write about conversations they’d had, report how extraordinary they thought the conversations were, and predict how much they would enjoy reading about the conversation in the future.

When they followed up with the participants seven months later, they found that participants were more interested in reading their conversations than they had predicted they would be—especially when it came to the ordinary conversations.

They found a similar result when they asked people to document ordinary or extraordinary experiences in their romantic relationships. Again, people underestimated how interested they would be to revisit their ordinary moments in their relationship.

As the researchers explain, we generally know that we will want to remember extraordinary events, but we fail to realize how much we will want to remember our ordinary events in the future. This isn’t too surprising given how often we make inaccurate predictions about how we will feel and what we will want in the future.

In this case, our prediction errors might result from mistakenly expecting our future states to be like our current states. And if we find our experiences to be mundane today, we might assume that we will also find them to be mundane when recalling them in the future. In reality, however, we view our experiences differently when looking back on them.

So, don’t discount your ordinary moments as being unimportant; they might be more meaningful than you realize. Pay attention to those casual coffee conversations with friends. Take pictures of your kids playing with playdough on a Thursday afternoon even if they don’t get it up their nose. Write about your ordinary experiences in your journal.

Capture your ordinary moments. They may seem mundane now, but you might want to remember them later.

© Jen Zamzow, Ph.D.

Facebook/LinkedIn image: KANGWANS/Shutterstock


Zhang, T., Kim, T., Brooks, A. W., Gino, F., & Norton, M. I. (2014). A “present” for the future: The unexpected value of rediscovery. Psychological science, 25(10), 1851-1860.

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