The Power of Shared Experiences

Shared experiences cement relationships together and create a foundation for living a joyful life and building out an awesome vision. Whether it be with our spouse, our children, our family, our team, colleagues, or friends, shared experience creates a framework for living and productivity. In this episode David and Donna discuss the need for intentionally creating memories and experiences with spouse, family, friends, and team, and they offer a few critical warnings to keep things within appropriate boundaries.

For the article and the time-stamped episode notes, continue reading. 

The Power of Shared Experiences

[3:36]  I was laying in bed the other night and I thought about a bread company in Bluefield, WV near where I grew up. I remembered going on a field trip to this plant when in grade school and watching them make and package the bread delivered to all of the stores in the area. I remember smelling the baking bread every time we drove through that area of Bluefield. I don’t know why I thought about it, but I realized there were few people that I shared that memory with.

Donna and I have been married for almost 3 years. We have known each other for a little over three years. Our shared experiences are building but they only span a few years and not a few decades. Joyce and I grew up in the same town, we had known each other since I was 15 and we married when I was 19. There wasn’t a lot of life we hadn’t experienced together. Donna married Dave young and they built a life together and had many shared experiences in many exotic places.

[5:37] The context of experience is powerful. When you can go to the same place in memory with someone you are with it magnifies the memory. You gain much delight from sharing the memory and sharing different perspectives of the memory making it come alive.

We each (Donna and I) remember our respective kids first steps, first words, and funny antics, but no one else does. No one else living shared those memories. It is almost as if they are lost because there is no one to share them with, at least no one who can capture the emotion and vividness of them.

Shared experiences create a bond.  [6:07]

Think of a mission trip or even a spiritual retreat where you had a common and life changing experience along with a group of other people. It creates a bond. That bond can either fade or be built upon.

Shared experiences connect us.  [8:19]

Several episodes back we shared two episodes on the topic of community. Connections are important. Life is lived in the context of relationships. If connection is so important, and it is, then shared experiences are vital to building a deep connection.

We share spiritual experiences with our community. [8:46]

This connects us uniquely because when we talk about the deep and meaningful transformations in our lives, the people we share them with understand on a level no one else does.

I have three thoughts on the matter.

  • First, we have to understand the need for shared experiences and not expect a relationship to be developed beyond those experiences.
  • Second, we must be intentional in creating shared experiences in the spiritual, relational, and emotional domains of our lives with the people with whom we are fostering and nurturing connection.
  • Third, we must realize the power of shared experience and exercise caution in what experiences we share with whom.

[9:47]  This is a relational topic and with relational topics there are always layers of application. The application depends upon the level of the relationship. The depth of the relationship, and the necessity of depth of relationship does determine the application. My depth of relationship with my wife necessitates me framing shared experiences with her in a different way than I would with colleagues or team members.

First, The Need for Shared Experiences  [10:50]

We cannot expect a relationship to develop beyond the reach of our shared experience. Being newly married I understand the importance of building memories. For instance, Venice, Italy and Chamonix, France are two of the few interesting and memorable places that Donna and I have been together that we have only shared with each other. We’ve found much joy in those memories. If we had the financial resource to do so we would live the French or Swiss Alps for at least part of the year. We enjoyed each other there. We experienced it together. We need to find more places that are unique to us.

Sometimes I feel I am at the same dance with a different partner. I am enjoying my new partner so much, that I want to experience unique “dances” and places with her. Experiences that are ours alone. Experiences that no one else has shared with either of us.

We encourage younger couples to experience the world around you together. Find mutual interests and invest in those things. Its fine to have a group of guy friends or girl friends, but the health and strength of your long term relationship is going to be the shared experiences you are building now. Believe me, if you are privileged to have your spouse live with you into your later years, the depth of shared experience is going to bring incredible depth to the relationship.

Donna and I have only been married almost 3 years, and we understand the importance of experiencing life together.

[13:08] This relates to a work team as well. Since this podcast is about the calibration of the the LIFE of the spiritual leader, we do need to consider the impact of shared experience on a leadership team. You have to do a portion of your life together. It is so important for a leadership team, be it a board, a staff team, a leadership team, an executive team, whatever, to share experiences. We believe retreats and enjoyable relationship building activities are essential to the development of a strong team. If you want to just come and “punch the clock”, do your work stuff, and not engage with the team, it isn’t going to be a very strong team. At least in the way I view the importance of relationship.

Now, understand, we consider the depth of the relationship when we consider the depth of the shared experience. I’m not talking about the kind of shared experiences pertinent to the relationship. Team meetings that include prayerful concern for the lives of the team members, an occasional staff dinner with spouses, perhaps an occasional retreat where a couple of days can be spent together dreaming and visioning and working on both strategic and tactical initiatives together. It is important to celebrate wins together. After a big day or a hard push, to throw a little party and celebrate is really important to cementing the power of the shared experience into the connection of the relationship.

It goes without saying that shared experiences are so vitally important in the raising of our children, the development of friendships, and the living of our lives. My best buddy and brother are cemented together because of family vacations taken together over 2 decades.

Be willing to make investments commensurate to the level of relationship you desire.

[shareable]Make relational investments commensurate to the level of relationship you desire. [/shareable]

Second, Intentionally Create Shared Experiences in the Spiritual, Relational, and Emotional Domains of Life  [17:18]

We’ve already talked a lot about the need for shared experiences, lets talk about intentionally creating shared experiences and the kinds of experiences we need to focus upon.

We must be intentional. We organically create shared experiences, and those are the best kind, but being intentional to consider how we are doing with living life together is important.

Third, Be Cautious of the Power of Shared Experience  [23:15]

Inappropriate relationships can develop through the emotional bond of shared experience. Again, think of the levels of relationships and the layers of shared experience. Keep shared experiences at the appropriate level and layer.

A natural progression of two people sharing emotional experience is intimacy. Intimacy is a good thing if it is in proper bounds. It is devastating when it transgresses proper boundaries.

[shareable]Intimacy is good when within proper boundaries and devastating when it is not. [/shareable]

[24:40] There is an appropriate intimacy with a brother or sister, a friend or a colleague. When we wade into the waters of shared experiences that deepen our collegiate and team connections, such shared experiences can generate incredible results.

I’ve observed many occasions in which intense and genuine spiritual experiences translated into an emotional connection that progressed into devastating intimacy. The spiritual emotions can quickly morph into intimacy. Be on your guard. Do not cross the lines, pull back at the very first sign of shared experience beginning to move you into a level of relationship inappropriate to the boundaries of the proper and healthy relationship with a colleague or team member.

Calibration Tools: Lifting Those We Love and Lead [25:35]

First consider your marriage and family relationships. [26:00]

  1. What significant experiences have you shared in the last 6 to 12 months? Were they significant experiences to the building and deepening of your relationship? [26:10]
  2. Discuss and dream with your spouse or family about your next adventure. What are some doable options? [26:41]
  3. What are some ways you could increase the level of your intentionality in the creation of shared experiences. Admittedly, the best experiences are things that just happen, but what intentionality do you need to build into your relationship? [27:43]

Second, consider your next relational layer. Do you need to need to intentionally pursue shared experiences with friends who are very important to you? [28:11]

  1. Life changes, we go through different seasons, but some relationships are important and are worthy of continued investment. Is there a friendship that you need to make an investment in? [28:27]
  2. Do you have new and developing relationships you would like to expand upon by intentionally pursuing shared experiences with them? What might that look like?

Third, consider your leadership teams, staff, or colleagues.  [29:27]

  1. Are your “meetings” more than just business? How can you inject relationship building into your team meetings? [30:08]
  2. Is there a book you could read together as a team? What conferences or learning opportunities might you experience together? Should you initiate a team retreat complete with some team building exercises? [30:49]
  3. What other opportunities might you intentionally create to “do a little life together” with your team. [32:07]

Finally… [32:33]

Be intentional in creating shared experiences, seize the moments of opportunity, and a lifter of those you love and lead, create a context of shared experience as a foundation to build upon.


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