When my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in 2018, my brother Matt and I wanted to do something very special. We wanted to help them celebrate their lives together. We also wanted to express our love and gratitude for them.
In addition to sending our parents on a nice trip, I had a special idea. We didn’t just want to give them another card from Hallmark. We wanted to give them the best greeting card they had ever received.
Matt and I had each been alive for most of my parents’ 40 years together. So, we decided that we would each create a list of our 40 favorite memories with our parents.
Leading up their anniversary, I kept a running journal- beginning with my favorite childhood memories and going up to the present. I blocked out some times to reflect on my life with them. I also wrote down ideas when they popped into my mind at random times.
My list ended up including isolated experiences with one parent. One example was my Dad taking me to my first NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden when I was seven. There were also recurring memories with one parent. One example was all the times that my Mom took care of me as a kid whenever I was home sick from school. She would take such great care of me on these days that getting sick actually became a fun experience!
There were also lots of memories that we shared as a family. This included traveling to our summer house in Pennsylvania, celebrating holidays and birthdays, and having my parents and Matt cheer me on when I competed in the 2016 Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) World Championships in Canada.
My brother and I intentionally created our lists separately. We thought it would be fun to see how much overlap there was. There ended up being a lot. However, we each came up with unique memories, some of which the other one had forgotten about or did not even know about.
When we shared our lists in-person with our parents, Matt and I went back and forth highlighting our favorite moments and talking about why each was so special to us. Our parents were incredibly touched by this gesture. They said that it was the most meaningful gift that we had ever given them. Reflecting on all these positive memories and sharing them with our parents was also incredibly meaningful for me and Matt.
Favorite Memory Cards
Some estimates report that over 7 billion greeting cards are purchased each year. Over 50% of these cards are birthday cards. Wedding and anniversary cards are also very popular. There are also Christmas/Holiday cards, and other seasonal cards, for dates like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day.
Despite the widespread use of greeting cards, it’s safe to say that most are not very meaningful for the giver or recipient. Think about it. While you have probably received hundreds of cards throughout your life, how many of those cards really impacted you deeply? How many of them have you actually kept?
As for me, I’ve kept the many handwritten cards that my parents have given me over the years. I’ve also kept special handwritten cards from other loved ones, close friends, and colleagues. However, I haven’t held onto any of the mass-produced cards that people have given me without writing a personal note. Chances are that you have not kept any of them either.
Each year, there are billions of wasted opportunities to express true gratitude and appreciation for the special people in our lives. Rather than just purchase and send boilerplate greeting cards, why not use special occasions as a time to let your favorite people know how much you appreciate them? One tangible way to do this is by creating what I now refer to as a Favorite Memory Card.
Great recipients for Favorite Memory Cards
If it’s your first time giving someone a Favorite Memory Card, you could create a lifetime list of your favorite memories with them. This is what my brother and I created for our parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. Another option (either after that card or to begin with) would be to create a card that highlights your top 5-10 favorite memories or your #1 memory over the last year.
You could surprise the other person with your card. Or, you could share this idea in advance and decide to exchange a Favorite Memory Card with someone. The latter is a terrific idea for a significant other- especially on an anniversary, or at the end of the year.
The most natural people to give Favorite Memory Cards to are close friends and family, including parents, grandparents, siblings, significant others, and so on. Why limit yourself to people from your personal life though? Favorite Memory Cards might be even more powerful in the workplace. It is usually far less common to express or receive genuine and specific appreciation at work.
What about creating a Favorite Memory Card for some of your clients, employees, colleagues, or other people that you work with closely? Imagine how much more meaningful that would be for you and for the recipients than sending a card written by someone at Hallmark.
Can you think of a stronger way to end the year (at work or at home) than reflecting on and celebrating your favorite moments together? What a great way to get energized for the year ahead.
Other times for Favorite Memory Cards
Most cards celebrate happy times, like birthdays, holidays, and special occasions). However, cards that signal the end of an era (or even the end of a life) could also be used to honor and celebrate someone special.
Rather than just giving a typical greeting card when some retires, goes away, or passes away, why not recognize your favorite memories with that person by creating and giving them a Favorite Memory Card for your time together? In the case of someone passing away, you could give a Favorite Memory Card to their living loved ones. Think about how much those people would appreciate knowing how the deceased person positively impacted you.
Summary and Final Thoughts
Every year, there are billions of missed opportunities to express genuine gratitude and specific appreciation for the special people in our lives. Rather than giving boilerplate greeting cards, why not use special occasions as a time to let your favorite people know how much you appreciate them and which memories stand out the most?
A Favorite Memory Card could be the best greeting card your special someone has ever received. It will definitely be much more memorable and meaningful for the recipient than a typical greeting card. The act of creating and giving a Favorite Memory Card will also have a much greater impact on you.
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About the author: Pete Leibman is the creator of StrongerHabits.com and he’s the bestselling author of Work Stronger; Habits for More Energy, Less Stress, and Higher Performance at Work. Before writing Work Stronger, Pete worked as an executive recruiter for Heidrick & Struggles, a leadership advisory firm who serves the majority of the Fortune 500. In his free time, he teaches one of the largest group exercise classes in the Washington, D.C. area, and he has competed in the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) World Championships.