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IMG_5468A small Irish man in tight leather pants with a larger than life persona recently reminded me of the power of “peak experiences.” Those who have had the opportunity to see U2 live would likely agree that Bono has a gift for making performances transcendental. He links songs to current events, humanitarian efforts, and activist causes, literally singing for a mission. This, combined with his outstanding flair for the dramatic, make his concerts emotively powerful, thought-provoking, and truly unique.

Ask anyone what they were doing on September 11th, 2001, and they will describe their experience in vivid detail. While intense unpleasant emotions elicit vivid memories, the same holds true for intense pleasant emotions. Abram Maslow defined “peak experiences” as “moments of highest happiness and fulfillment” where we feel unified with the world around us. Like being in a state of “flow,” we lose track of time and self-consciousness; but peak experiences also include transcendental feelings like awe, amazement, joy, and ebullience.

Peak experiences, like weddings, graduations, and certain concerts, to name a few, provide us with landmarks of positive experiences that we can recall and savor throughout our lives. What defines an event as “peak” is subjective. The importance is not so much what makes an experience a “peak,” rather when and how often we have those experiences.

Some people think it is impossible to pursue or create peak experiences, arguing that they need to happen spontaneously and unexpectedly. I agree to a certain extent. However, many of us know that certain types of experiences will likely bring extreme joy into our lives; therefore, we can prioritize them. I attended the U2 Elevation tour in 2001 and knew, based on my previous experience, that the 2009 concert would be equally amazing. The tight black leather pants did not disappoint!


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