This led your memory into being less than what it could be.
The truth is: your memory is probably extraordinary. Your memory would blow your mind if you lived up to it’s potential.
It’s possible remember absolutely anything. You can even remember information you read only once. Your memory may have disappointed you in the past. As you learn how to use it (and how not to,) you’ll see it improve.
Some of you may be worried that you’re not “smart” enough (whatever that means.) I promise you that your memory isn’t limited by your intelligence. Biology isn’t the limiting factor. Anyone can struggle with their memory and anyone can improve it. The more you overcome this belief, the more you’ll strengthen your memory.
There are many misconceptions about what memory is and how it’s supposed to work. That leads to most people having a terrible memory. (Or at least thinking they do.)
By figuring out why your memory sucks, you can work on improving it. Even changing one or two of these factors can dramatically improve the way you remember.
1. You Don’t Give A Damn!
The vast majority of memory problems are related to motivation.
The problem isn’t that the brain is incapable of remembering the information. The problem is that the brain doesn’t think the information is worth remembering.
No… just wanting to score a couple points higher on a test isn’t caring about information. Points are just a number on a sheet of paper. If your brain is just thinking about your score then you won’t remember it.
Instead you can look a little deeper. What feeling would you get knowing that you learned the new information? (Or if you impressed someone or proved someone wrong with the information.)
Having a deeper motivation will improve your memory.
The best place to start is clarifying your motivation for trying to remember it. If you find the right motivation then you can get yourself to remember anything.
2. You Can’t Be Schwarzenegger Without Lifting Once In A While
You’ve probably heard this one before. It’s one of the most common memory problems for adults. People that don’t practice using their memory develop weaker memories. People that practice develop stronger memories.
These days it’s easy to never need to remember information. In seconds you can look up virtually any random fact that you need to know.
You have a phone to store phone numbers.
You have search engines to find random facts.
You have Facebook for relationship statuses.
You have everything you need or want to remember at your fingertips. Memory is almost never required outside of school.
Most students have a lot to gain from developing a strong memory. For that reason, there are times when you should spend the extra energy to remember stuff. Knowing where to look them up isn’t enough when the tests start showing up.
3. This Stuff Is Boring And (Unfortunately) You Know It
If something is boring then you’re going to struggle to remember it. Your brain can remember information that is important to your survival. It’s not designed to remember random facts that have little to do with anything important to you.
Does that mean you can never memorize the periodic table or the list of presidents? Of course not. You just need to find a way to make the information less boring to you. This is usually just an outlook problem.
I may find the periodic table to be a boring list of completely irrelevant information, I am not a chemist (nor do I care to be one.) There are some people that could hardly imagine not having memorized the periodic table. They look at that information and think about the potential awesome that could come from memorizing it. If I asked one of them why they found the periodic table interesting, they could probably convince me that it’s at least a little bit interesting.
Everything is interesting if you’re looking at it right. If the information you’re trying to remember is boring then do one of two things.
Don’t waste your time on it.
Look at it differently until you find it interesting.
4. Timed Repetition Hasn’t Blown Your Mind Yet
When you go out of your way to try and memorize information, it doesn’t mean you’ll remember it. It can be damn discouraging to forget it later. A week or two later, the information that seemed easy to you can suddenly seem impossible to remember.
This is one of the difficult parts of memorization. It’s never permanent.
You need to reinforce information that you’re trying to remember at a lengthening interval.
So… if you learned something new today you should review it tomorrow. Then you should review it a week later. Then review it again a month later. Then review it again a year later. These specific intervals may not be ideal. The important part is that those intervals exist. Working in an lengthening interval is essential.
Reviewing information is another way your brain can label information as important. If you memorize something and never need to use it again then it’s just taking up space. It might as well be forgotten. Teach your brain that you’ll use that information again and you’ll never forget it.
5. The Impossible Still Isn’t Possible
I got a message from one student talking about how he was struggling to memorize a chapter from his textbook. He was trying to memorize the chapter in less than a month. He was trying to do this word for word.
This was his last ditch effort to pass a class he’d been failing all semester.
Now… I’ve memorized large chunks of big textbooks but not out of necessity. I did it out of pure novelty (and development of nerd cred.) It’s possible to memorize your textbook but you sure as hell shouldn’t have a tight deadline to do it.
The truth is, if I was in that student’s shoes, I’d be screwed too. Even with my years of practicing crazy memory tricks, I would be under some major pressure. I wouldn’t be able to thrive. (Instead I’d be using those crazy memory tricks to prioritize important information. Then I’d only get that important stuff to stick. And heck, I’d work not to get in that tough spot in the first place.)
Memory isn’t a bucket that you can drop information in and keep. Memory is a chain that needs every link to connect to another link.
Sometimes the links fail to connect while you’re not immediately holding that connection. Those disconnected links will be lost. It’s not easy to connect information. It’s difficult. Any attempt to simplify it past a certain point will end up just reducing your ability to remember it.
Have reasonable expectations with your memory or you’ll never be able to live up to them.
6. You Haven’t Been Replaced By A Robot (Yet)
Memory is a bodily function. It benefits from every other aspect of your body being in a reasonable spot to work at full efficiency.
Don’t ask me why you’re struggling to study half way through an all-nighter. The problem is obvious.
You’re trying to study when your brain is screaming, “SLEEEEEEEP!” Your memory will suffer if you don’t sleep well. (Sometimes the reduced efficiency is worth it but I’d never recommend it. It’s too rare a situation.)
This goes with many other areas of your life as well. If you’re not eating enough food then it makes sense that your memory isn’t working at its peak. If you’re living slovenly and hardly ever moving from your chair then your memory will struggle. If you’re running marathons all day and everyday then again, your memory will struggle.
Memory needs your whole body working in alignment to work at its peak efficiency.
7. Stress Murders Motivation
“I need to remember this or my life is over!”
No… That’s just a bold face lie to try and stress yourself out. Look at it reasonably.
Excessive stress is just as bad lacking some of the factors in number 6. Stress is great for improving your ability to perform physical acts like escaping angry baboons. It’s not great for creative tasks like trying to store something in your memory.
A certain amount of stress is okay. It may even be ideal. Then again, it’s much easier to get excessively stressed than to not get stressed enough. Everyone around you is reinforcing how important grades are. Very few people are reinforcing how unimportant your grades are in the grand scheme of things.
Be very careful not to get too stressed out about school.
8. Everyone’s Lied And Now You’re Using It Wrong!
If I were to slam a nail with the handle end of a hammer and say “this hammer sucks,” you’d look at me like I were nuts. That’s how I feel about most people looking to improve their use of memory.
Most people are using their memory wrong. They believe that, since it can remember certain random things like the smell of a hottie or a the look of a hottie or the taste of… chocolate, that it can also easily remember the random information that it’s reading out of a textbook. That’s just not the case though.
The thing about memory is it needs to think something is important to remember it. Assuming Darwin was right, remembering hotties comes naturally. Remembering food is also natural. Remembering the leader of France in 1872 is not natural unless he or she happens to be physically attractive or tasty.
Reading information is a terrible method of trying to remember information.
Remembering information is best done through the actual recall of hard to remember information. Reading the first side of a flash card doesn’t help you remember information very much. Remembering that second side of the card is using your memory in the right way.
Of course, that’s not the only way people use their memory wrong but that’s a subject explored throughout this article. Don’t expect to use your memory wrong and still remember stuff.
9. You Think Your Vacuum Is Jealous
(You think your memory sucks that much.)
The more you think your memory sucks, the more your memory is going to end up sucking.
This may sound like positive thinking hoohaa or gobbledeegook but it’s true. The human body is at the mercy of its own self-imposed limitations.
So… thinking you can fly can’t make it possible to fly. Thinking you can’t remember something can create limits on your ability to remember something.
You need to accept that your memory is pretty darn boringly average. That’s the statistical case so you might as well believe it. Average memories are powerful enough to do virtually anything with the right study tools.
(Now don’t you go crazy and start thinking that you might have an extraordinary memory because well… gosh darnnitt you might end up proving yourself right.)
Your memory doesn’t have to continue sucking. By learning to fight off these 9 reasons your memory sucks you can make the most out of your memory. More importantly, you will be able to score higher grades with less stress than ever.
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