A person with wind-blown hair covering their face.

Trusting Your Natural Memory Centers Will Make You Thrive

Indulging your in-built memory creates a net positive for your life.

“Don’t forget the ranch!”

The pizza would be ready at 5:30. I had a few hours until then. And whatever I did, I needed to remember to ask for ranch. If you’ve never had ranch with pizza before, try it. It’s awesome. I’m told this is just a California thing, but still, give it a chance. Keep in mind though, not all ranch is the same. The ranch of a particular establishment makes a huge difference. If the place has bad ranch, you’re better off dipping your pizza in a glass of milk (which, if you can’t tell by my tone, I don’t recommend doing).

But I digress. Back to the story. I needed to remember this simple task. And I did not want to risk forgetting it.


See the ranch, be the ranch

What would you do in this situation? If you’re like old me, you’d set a reminder on your phone, right? In my case, I wouldn’t just set one reminder, or even two. I’d set probably three or four different reminders. And if I was feeling particularly forgetful, maybe even an alarm on my phone.

Overkill? Absolutely. But effective… unless I forgot my phone.

On this Friday afternoon, however, I did no such thing. Instead, I closed my eyes. I imagined myself walking into the restaurant and up to the front counter. I saw myself asking for our food. Then, as the young employee handed me the box, I imagined myself saying, “Oh, and can we get some ranch too, please?” At that, the teen would say sure and would hand me a container or two (or five).

That was it. I didn’t write a single thing down.

Risky? You betcha. But did it work? Yessiree, Bob. Hours later, without the aid of a single reminder, alarm, or timer, I somehow remembered to ask for a minuscule sub-item. How? How did that happen and, better still, how can you learn to do the same? I’ll tell you. But first, I have a couple more examples.


The Fonz lives on

78. I wanted to read to page 78. And I was on page 57.

I tend to second-guess myself. So in situations like this, I would normally write down the page I wanted to end on. At least, I used to. Now I don’t. Instead, I do something silly. Let me explain.

First, I split 78 into the numbers seven and eight. Then I imagine something in my life that I associate with each digit.

Let’s start with seven. There’s a game I play with my family. It involves a deck of cards. When the number seven appears, we all throw our hands in the air. So in my mind, I imagine seeing that card. I see the number seven in red. And I see everyone throwing their hands up. At that, seven is locked into my mind.

Then I do the same thing for eight. This time I imagine Arthur Fonzarelli (aka The Fonz). I don’t know much about Happy Days. I’ve only seen bits and pieces. But I know that at some point (or maybe all the time?), Fonzie says Ayyyyy. And in my mind, Ayyyyy sounds pretty similar to eiigghhtttt. And at that, eight is locked in as well.

Ta-da! Memory stored!

This process takes maybe a minute or two. It takes a little longer than writing it down, but it’s more fun and builds confidence in my ability to remember things.

I’ve got one more example for you.


Wilson! Wilson!

“Hi. I’m Corey.”

“Hi. My name is Tom.”

You want to remember his name. So what do you do? In my case, I would do one of two things:

  1. Repeat his name to myself 50 times and still end up forgetting it five minutes later,
  2. Or I would just skip the repetition and forget it as soon as he told me.

Either way, the result would be the same. I’d never remember the guy’s name. Today I don’t have that issue though. Assuming I do my little trick. Again, it’s silly. But again, it works. The key though is to, ironically, remember to do it in the moment.

When someone tells me their name, I close my eyes for a few minutes. Just kidding. That would look insane. What I actually do is immediately associate their name with someone well-known in my life (a neighbor, celebrity, author, etc.). In the case of Tom, I would associate the name with Tom Hanks. I would hold Hanks’ image in my mind for a moment. Then it’d be locked in.

Whenever I’d see the gentleman above, I’d think of Tom Hanks. And in that recall, I would remember the correct name: Tom.


A magician never reveals their secrets

These tricks work well for short-term memory. I haven’t experimented with them long-term yet. Though I have noticed that if I remember someone’s name, but believe I’ll never see them again after our introduction, the name gets released into the ether to never be remembered by me again. So there is some trial and error required.

But why does it work? How am I able to remember something small and obscure – like asking for ranch – hours later? How am I able to remember names at a gathering of people? And how am I able to remember page numbers like 67, 76, or 167?

I have no idea. Thanks for reading!

Just kidding. Though part of that is true. I’m no scientist. I have no data to back this up. I only have my theories. And my theory is this: the tactics I described are different, yet similar. They involve making a conscious action to remember something. Yes, I do often associate one thing with another. And that may help to a certain extent. But I almost treat that part like an insurance policy. As in, if all else fails, I know I can picture Tom Hanks.

But I often don’t have to. Rather, the name Tom just appears in my mind.


A literal top of mind

You’ve heard the expression top of mind, right? Well, what if that was literal? What if your consciousness literally sits at the top of your mind? At a place where you have the easiest access to recall.

When you meet someone, their name may enter through your consciousness, but it often gets shoved down deep in the psyche as soon as you’re told it. After all, you have too much going on to keep track of something so mundane. You’re too busy trying to think of what to say next. And so the information gets relegated to your subconscious – which is great, the subconscious is amazing, but if you think you have a lot going on, that pales in comparison to what the subconscious is doing all the time.

So while the subconscious may hold onto the name, it may not be able to produce it as soon as you want it. After all, it’s making sure your heart remains beating and your lungs remain filled. Priorities.

Therefore, by consciously spending time with the name, you are preventing it from sinking into your mental nether regions. Whether through association or other little games, you are intentionally storing it in your consciousness where it can be quickly retrieved. At least, that’s my little theory of it. I might be completely wrong. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I brought home the ranch.

When you need to bring it home as well, try out the tactics I described.

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