Our schools and workplaces tell us what we need to know, but they never teach us how to learn. That’s the problem. Techniques to enhance memory are essential for optimal learning.
Our memory is vital to almost every aspect of life. We live in a world where measuring what we know is a measure of intelligence. Standardized testing is easy to administer. Many social systems use this method of assessing and categorizing people. In reality, they do not measure intelligence but the capacity of memory.
Our employers and educational systems fail to teach the necessary skills that make learning and remember this data possible. They tell us what we should know but not how to learn. These tools are available and have been for eons, and it makes you wonder why they aren’t a part of our regular classroom curriculum.
Learning How to Learn
It makes you wonder why these learning strategies are not well known. These are the “best kept secrets” of learning that should be a part of our standard educational curriculum.
“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” ― Albert Einstein
Our mind is a marvelous mechanism with a robust framework for retaining information. We need to find ways to engage our memory and open its potential. Then we can use it for optimal learning outcomes.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
Many people tell us we only use a fraction of our minds’ power. You will find this is true after you learn the secrets that unlock your memory’s power. When we discover the tremendous power of memory, we open the door to an extraordinary learning path.
If we expand our ability to learn and recall information, this also expands our ability to think. When we grow our memory, we also increase awareness. We automatically create connections between different data making memorization much more manageable. Making these connections is the key to solving problems.
Learning how to learn makes learning more information more accessible. If we discover how to use our memory, we can exceed our expectations.
Where Did this Memory System Originate?
These memory methods systems are not new. They date back in history to the Greek Pythagoras (1). People studied memory because they realized it was the highest form of technology. They did not have computers to make calculations, so they learned to understand the mind and memory. They discovered the secrets to unlock our short-term and long-term memory systems. They enhanced their mental capabilities by learning how to improve memory.
We forget that the mind still is the most extraordinary computer. These memory techniques are just as applicable today as ever, and there have been public TV shows on this subject. For example, Jack Lannom ran a TV series in the early 1980s that synthesized and showed these systems.
Learn How To Use Your Memory
Do first things first. Before you try to memorize stuff, train your mind to use its optimal learning capacity. Our memory is not just an asset. It is who we are.
What is memory? Memory is the ability to store and recall information and experiences (2). It is our identity. Our memories tell us who we are and what we can do. It affects thinking and behavior. Like any ability, we can improve it. When we improve memory, we increase our overall mental ability. If you want to be more intelligent, memory is the key to learning how to learn.
There’s a lot more going on with memory than we realize. Memory is like a distorted form of time travel. Our memories can differ significantly from the actual event. The passage of time, our emotional attachment to the event, and cultural programming can all affect memory.
However, by learning to use our minds’ power, we can overcome these tendencies. We all have the innate ability to encode almost infinite amounts of information into our permanent memory.
Best Kept Secrets of Optimal Learning
The key to this superior learning system is leveraging memory’s natural ability. We do this through specific, powerful techniques.
We enhance our memory by using the following elements:
- Focus for Short Periods
- Build a Memory Infrastructure
- Use the Power of Your Imagination
- Engage All The Senses in Learning
- Create Long-Lasting Neuro Connections
- Use Substitution, Association, and Relationship
- Link Memory with Emotions
These are the ingredients of a memorable story. Stories are easy to remember because they are logical progressions. Your walk up the driveway and into your house becomes a memory vehicle. We can visualize this routine easily. Our daily routine becomes a memory device on which we can add data. All the great Sages use compelling stories to teach principles.
Three rules govern our memory, primacy, recency, and regressive repetition. Following these rules, you can make any information a part of your permanent memory that you can recall forever.
The rules of primacy and recency show us it is easier to recall what we learn first and last. The first two items and the previous two items in a sequence are the easiest to remember. These are our memory bookends. The best practice is to break down the information into segments of 5 items or what they call an optimal chunk of data.
Regressive repetition is rehearing the new information on a schedule, which increases with time. Repeat the new data within one hour after the session. Repeat it one more time two hours later, followed by a refresher four hours after. The next day repeat the new information three times, morning, afternoon, and evening.
If you forget something, don’t worry. Review your notes, and then reinforce the data you missed by reviewing it mentally. The next day repeat and review the information twice. On the third day, review the data once. Skip the fourth day. Then mentally check the data on day five. This routine will make the new information a part of your permanent memory. Don’t worry. The more you use the system, the better your memory will become.
When you review the data, do it forwards and backward. Then start at the middle point and check it in both directions. This strategy will immediately recall the data in and out of sequence.
Pick a time when you are ready. Practice with 100% focus. So, no multitasking, especially when you are creating the initial memory. The Japanese Tea Ceremony exemplifies how culture uses a mundane set of activities to practice focus. Learning how to learn needs to be fun for you to keep focus.
You achieve optimal learning with shorter periods with a two to three-minute break in between each session. Start with 2 or 3 five-minute sessions, then stop for 2 or 3 minutes between each session. Then, build up the number of sessions to five or six.
Practice reinforcing your new knowledge. If possible, with an audiotape.
Build a Memory Infrastructure
You will find out there are several basic ways to help create a network for your memories. A memory infrastructure is a mechanism you can use for multiple subjects.
The number association system is one of the most basic but powerful memory devices. If you have a shop with tools, one of the best ways to keep track of them is to place them on a pegboard on the wall. Place the devices in the most logical order. Then draw around the outside of the instrument to create an outline or silhouette of the device. This way, you never have to think about where it belongs. You look for the shape, and you know where it belongs. If you look at the pegboard, you can also see which tool is missing. This way, you never lose a tool, and you stay organized.
The storyline system is another powerful memory system. Pick your favorite story, break it down into segments, and there is your device. You can use any narrative that has a memorable progression. You can also create a story using the routines from your daily life.
Name association system will increase your social credibility with minimal effort. Imagine being able to remember the names of everyone you meet. Yes, it is not only possible; it is fun.
Use the Power of Your Imagination
Your imagination is the key to creating memory associations. Whatever you develop these cues with the imagination, strengthen the connection to this inexhaustible creative source. The more you use it, the more powerful it becomes.
The more outlandish the visualization you create, the better. Use the power of your creative mind to create unique sights, sounds, smells, textures, and feelings. And, this links with our next element.
Engage All the Senses in Learning
When you create memories using this strategy, it is essential to engage your senses. Don’t just create an image. Create an exaggerated outlandish image: Do something with it. Use different colors. Turn your pictures into videos that make sounds and smell. Those cookies are purple, and they smell like cinnamon and taste like chocolate. They make you feel marvelous. Get the idea.
Create Long-Lasting Neuro Connections
Think about a spiderweb. The web is the visual cue to help you remember. Like a spiderweb, we connect the memory using several memory enhancers. Using several of the enhancers will make the memory easy to recall.
We start by creating a unique and memorable item in our immediate memory. It makes it possible to link the data into our short-term memory. Dynamic repetition solidifies the data in our long-term memory. This memory enhancement technique is one of the best kept secrets.
You can use this process quickly to lock in and remember people’s names. For example, you meet someone named Sonny. One of the most straightforward name associations is with the Sun. So, you associate sunshine coming out of their eyes. You make the image personal. Feel the Sunshine on your face and happy emotion with it. From that point on, you will always be able to recall Sonny’s name.
Substitution, Association, and Relationship
These three elements are the threads of the story. When you incorporate them into your narrative, it makes recall much more straightforward. These elements can help us recall unusual names or long data strings. What you do is break down the term into syllables. You substitute the syllables for objects or create distinctive and memorable associations for each syllable. Then you relate everything using a story. It turns unusual and lengthy processes into an account you can easily recall.
For example, we want to create something to use as a memory anchor for number one. We visualize the number 1. Then we pick something that reminds us of this shape, like a flagpole, a pen, or a sail mast.
We make it unusual, something we can remember. We envision it on a playground with a chord attached to the flagpole. The clip on the rope bangs against the pole, making a noise. To make it even better, paint the flagpole your favorite color. It is a lovely sunny day. Using this flag pole as the memory anchor, we can use it along with any number of things. We can add or associate other stuff to it. In this example, we start with an association, then engage our imagination to add sound and feelings.
Link with Emotions
The last element is linking everything together with emotion. Our feelings get our hearts involved in the learning process. In our example above with Spiderweb Connections, we used Sonny’s name. We associated a happy feeling in the mix.
Memory Method Systems
There are several memory infrastructure systems. These structures, like our pegboard example, are the best kept secrets of memory enhancement. We can expand each of these frameworks almost indefinitely. Another way to increase your memory’s effectiveness is by using an audiotape to walk you through the technique, reinforcing the memory framework. Make your recordings of the data you want to memorize. Hearing your voice will also help to cement the process.
The framework of these memory methods includes:
Sensory Symbol Systems
These systems involve all the senses to create a pegboard— it uses creative visualization, all five senses, and emotion as memory linking devices.
We can use themes to create significant groups of data. Creating a topic for a grouping makes it easy to distinguish from other parts of a more extensive data sets. For example, you use snowflakes to signify the group of numbers from 400 to 499. Once you learn all the individual numbers, all you do is sprinkle some snow to make them 400s
This aspect of the memory works in conjunction with other memory systems. For example, you may have a theme for a group of numbers from 90 to 100. This theme would be airplanes. So, all the numbers in this theme would have something to do with aircraft.
These are subsets of data arranged around a topic like the solar system’s planets or the special recipe steps.
This system combines elements of the above methods to create multilayered data levels. You can memorize vast amounts of data in and out of a sequence using a well-known story like the wizard of oz, for instance. It’s what some call the memory palace. Using a storyline, you can memorize large data sets, even a whole textbook.
Discover how to use all your memory capabilities to create a robust data infrastructure. It will enhance your ability to absorb and recall information quickly.
If learning how to learn can increase our overall mental ability, why isn’t this common knowledge? Why are we not taught these fundamental tactics? It would seem like an obvious priority to teach people how they use their memory before you have them use it. Before you tell people what they need to know, it makes sense to teach them how to know it. Learning how to use your memory correctly is the key. It will make remembering what you need to recall fun and effective.
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(1) Memory and storage of information, human-memory.net/memory-storage
(2) Retrieving Memory, human-memory.net/memory-recall-retrieval
(3) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia
Sorry for not following the grammar rule to hyphenate the term best-kept. It’s intentional, so we could use the google keyword, which did not use a hyphen. Crazy.