Saturday, May 25, 2013

Memory Training: Focus On Yourself And You Will Focus Your Memory

By Lachlan Haynes

The difference between passing and failing can very often be all about what you can remember - not what you know. As a result, the focus on being able to remember lots of information is absolutely crucial to your success.

But how does our memory actually work? How come we can remember some information without any effort at all (often useless information like the names and theme songs of the cartoons we watched when we were children) yet often we when really want to remember certain things for tests or assignments we draw a blank?

The truth is, our memory works in precisely the manner that it is supposed to work. The real issue is that we have very little understanding (or no understanding at all) of the way it operates and how we can manipulate it to our advantage.

The approach that most students take to memorization (re-reading information or repeating information many times over) is not consistent with the way that the mind creates memory recall. Nonetheless, we just keep on using this technique desperately hoping that something will stick! Unfortunately, while you may retain some small amounts of data this way, it's a really silly approach when you understand how your memory really works.

So let's spend some time getting to know our memory. The ability to access our powerful memory recall and make certain that we can remember everything we need to remember truly is the difference between getting an A or getting a C.

There are many techniques you can use to improve your memory recall but today's lesson is about just one of them - the "What's in it for me" method. This method states that the more you can make something relate to you personally, the more about it you will be able to remember.

It's a simple idea with a simple execution. Your memory will create more memory traces, which in turn increases your memory recall, when it knows that what you are trying to remember is important to you in some way. And how does it know that? Well, it's when it's all about you.

The fact is, if something seems important to you personally, you will be more likely to remember it - and you'll also remember it more vividly and in far greater detail.

You remember to do things that are going to impact you directly (like making sure you buy a ticket to the next Green Day concert). You remember names of people and places and locations that are really going to impact your life. You remember prices of things that you really want to buy. You remember where, what time and with whom you are going out with on Saturday night. You remember the name and phone number of that girl or guy you like.

This recall doesn't happen consciously - it all occurs without thought. You didn't have to do anything special to remember the information. The information was already there wasn't it? You just remembered it without any effort. So, given that we now know this method works, the real question is what do you need to do to apply this method to your studies? Let's look at some basic examples.

If you are learning about something like economic trends (yawn!), imagine how those may impact on your ability to go and buy a new pair of jeans (i.e. your personal buying power as a consumer - yawn again!) Or perhaps think about how it may impact on your ability to get a high paying job after school.

If you are learning about other cultures (for example) you can simply compare their culture to your own. In what ways does the culture differ from your own? In what ways does it match? In what ways is it kind of similar but not really? Asking yourself these questions may seem silly but the more questions you can ask that are actually about you, the more you will remember.

What about names and dates? Well they're easy to remember when given the right context. Do the names mean anything to you? Do you know anyone who has the same name? Does the name remind you of anything you like or dislike? Do you like or hate the name? What about the dates. Do the dates relate to you in any way? Did anything significant happen to you on or around the dates? Did anything else happen to you (or even anyone you know) around that date that could trigger a memory? It should also be noted that you can just make up fake reasons to remember the details (such as, "Oh yes on that date I was riding a flying pig all the way to the moon") and it will still help you remember it. Why? If you create the memory trace in your mind, your memory recall doesn't know the difference; it just knows it's all about you!

Remember, it's all about you! The more you tie something to yourself and make it about you the easier it will be for your memory to create the traces needed to make memory recall a breeze. Try it for a week. You will be glad you did!

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