Learning how to learn the best kept secrets of optimal learning

The Best Kept Secrets of Optimal Learning

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 key to optimal learning.

Our memory is important to almost every aspect of life.  We live in a world where measuring what we know is a measure of intelligence. This is because standardized testing is easy to administer and measure.  Many social systems use this method of assessing and categorizing people.  In reality, they do not measure intelligence but the use of memory.

Our employers and educational systems fail to teach the basic skills that make learning and remember this data possible.  They tell us what we should know, but don’t give us effective tools to learn it.   The crazy thing is, these tools are available and have been for eons.

Learning How to Learn

It makes you wonder why these learning strategies are not well known. These “best kept secrets”, 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 powerful framework for retaining information.  We just need to find out ways to engage the full capacity of our minds.  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 the power of our minds.  You will find this is true after you learn the secrets which unlock to power of your memory.  When we use the full capacity of our memory, we open the door to other abilities of the mind.

If we expand our ability to learn and recall information, this also expands our ability to think.  When we expand our memory also increases the bandwidth of our awareness, we can make connections between different data.  Making these connections is the key to solving problems.

Learning how to learn makes learning more information easier.  If we discover how to use our memory, then we can exceed our own expectations.

Where Did this Memory System Come From?

These types of memory methods system are not new, they date back in history to the Greek Pythagoras.  One story from this time illustrates how they used this power of the mind. The legend goes the Greek poet Simonides creates a mnemonic memory method in response to witnessing a tragedy.  He just gave a poem before a large crowd in Thessaly. Simonides went out for a moment and the roof of the hall collapsed, crushing all of those in the hall.

People studied memory because they realized it was the highest form of technology.  They did not have computers to make calculations, so they worked 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 enhance memory.

We forget that the mind still is the greatest computer. These memory techniques are just as useful 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 on how 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.  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 smarter, 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 from the actual event.  The passage of time, our emotional attachment to the event, and cultural programming can all affect memory.

However, learning to use the power of our mind, 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

best kept secrets of optimal learning

The first step in accessing the mind’s ability is learning how to engage attention fully. This means creating attention-grabbing, long-lasting associations.  The key is combining several elements.  The more unusual, the better.

We enhance our memory when we add the following ingredients:

    • 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 wonderful story.  Stories are easy to remember because they help us think of things in progressions.  This creates both short-term and long-term memory recall.  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 last two are the easiest to recall.  These are our memory bookends.  So, 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.  Then again, 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.  The next day repeat and review the data twice.  Increases the time between reviews by a factor of 2X.  This will make the new information a part of your permanent memory.


Pick a time when you are ready.  Practice with 100% focus.  This means no multitasking, especially when you are creating the initial memory.  The Japanese Tea Ceremony is an example of 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.  Take a break of 2 or 3 minutes in 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 types of ways to help create a network for your memories.  A memory infrastructure is a mechanism you can use over and over 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 tools in the most logical order.  Then draw around the outside of the tools to create an outline of the tool.  This way, you never have to think about where a tool goes.  If fits the outline.  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 story.  You can also create a story using the routines from your daily life.

The Name association system is one that will help you increase your social credibility with very little 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 create with the imagination draws upon your inexhaustible creative source.  This makes the memories you create both short-term and long-term memories.  The more you use it, the more powerful it becomes.

The more outlandish, the better.  Use the power of your creative mind to forge unique sights, sounds, smells, textures, and feelings.  Which brings us to our next element.

Engage All the Senses in Learning

When you create memories using this strategy, it is important to engage all of your senses.  Don’t just create an image. Create an exaggerated outlandish image: Do something with it.  Use different colors.  Have your images make sounds and smell.  Those cookies are purple, 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.  This is the visual cue to help you remember how making connections can make a memory easy to recall. We start by creating a unique and memorable item in our immediate memory.   This makes it possible to link the data into our short-term memory. Dynamic repetition solidifies the data in our long-term memory.  This process 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 easiest name associations is with the Sun.  So, you associate sunshine coming out of their eyes.  You place this image, with the feel of the Sun on your face and the happy feelings along 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 that make recall possible.  These elements make the topical system a tool to recall unusual names or long strings of data.  You break down the name or object into syllables.  Then you substitute the syllables for objects or create unusual and memorable associations for each syllable. Then you relate everything using a story.  This turns unusual and lengthy processes into a story you can easily recall.

For example, we want to create something to use as a memory anchor for the number one.  We visualize the number 1.  Then we pick something that reminds us of this shape, like a flagpole, a pen or the mast of a sail.

We make it unusual, something we can remember.  For the flagpole, we envision it on a playground with a chord that has a metal clip.  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 nice sunny day.  So, using this flag pole as the memory anchor, we can use it along with any number of things.  We can add or associate other things 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.   This gets our hearts involved. Our heart is the home of both our emotions, intuition, and imagination.  In our example above under Make Spiderweb Connections, we used the name, Sonny.  We associated a happy feeling in the mix.

Memory Method Systems

There are several common memory infrastructure systems.  This is the core of the best kept secrets.  We can expand each of these frameworks almost indefinitely.  Another way to increase the effectiveness of your memory is by using an audiotape to walk you through the technique.  This reinforces the framework.

The framework of these memory methods includes:

Sensory Symbol Systems

These are systems that involve all the senses to create a pegboard.  This includes creative visualization and kinesthetic integration.

Theme Systems

These are used to create major groups of data.  Creating a theme for this grouping makes it easy to distinguish from other parts of a larger set of data.

Sequential Systems

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 airplanes.

Topical Systems

These are subsets of data arranged around a topic like the planets of the solar system.  Or perhaps the steps for a special recipe.

The Story

This system combines elements of the above systems to create multilayered levels of data.  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.  This is what some call the memory palace. Using a story, you can memorize large sets ofdata,a even a whole textbook.

In Conclusion

Discover how to use all the capabilities of your memory to create a powerful data infrastructure. This 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 information 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.  This will make remembering what you need to remember fun and effective.

We hope you found this article helpful, maybe even thought-provoking.  You will find more interesting posts on our blog page. Use the search option on the blog page to find articles by key terms, topics, or category.

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Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia
Memory and storage of information, human-memory.net/memory-storage
Retrieving Memory, human-memory.net/memory-recall-retrieval

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