When you set your mind to remember any particular fact, your conscious effort should be not vaguely to will that it shall be impressed and retained, but analytically and deliberately to connect it with one or more other facts already in your mind.
The student who "crams" for an examination makes no permanent addition "Cramming" and "Willing" to his knowledge. There can be no recall without association, and "cramming" allows no time to form associations.
If you find it difficult to remember a fact or a name, do not waste your energies in "willing" it to return. Try to recall some other fact or name associated with the first in time or place or otherwise, and lo! when you least expect it, it will pop into your thoughts.
If your memory is good in most respects, but poor in a particular line, it is because you do not interest yourself in that line, and therefore have no material for association. Blind Tom's memory was a blank on most subjects, but he was a walking encyclopedia on music.
Basic Principle of Thought-Reproduction - To improve your memory you must increase the number and variety of your mental associations.
Many ingenious methods, scientifically correct, have been devised to aid in the remembering of particular facts. These methods are based wholly on the principle that that is most easily recalled which is associated in our minds with the most complex and elaborate groupings of related ideas.
Improving your memory and in making a more complete use of your really vast store of knowledge.
Rule I. Make systematic use of your sense-organs.
Do you find it difficult to remember names? It is because you do not link them in your mind with enough associations. Every time a man is introduced to you, look about you. Who is present? Take note of as many and as great a variety of surrounding facts and circumstances as possible. Think of the man's name, and take another look at his face, his dress, his physique. Think of his name, and at the same time his voice and manner. Think of his name, and mark the place where you are now for the first time meeting him. Think of his name in conjunction with the name and personality of the friend who presented him.
Memory is not a distinct faculty of mind in the sense that one man is generously endowed in that respect while another is deficient. Memory, as meaning the power of voluntary recall, is wholly a question of trained habits of mental operation.
Five Exercises for Developing Observation Your memory is just as good as mine or any other man's. It is your indifference to what you would call "irrelevant facts" that is at fault. Therefore, cultivate habits of observation. Fortify the observed facts you wish to recall with a multitude of outside associations. Never rest with a mere halfway knowledge of things.
To assist you in training yourself in those habits of observation that make a good memory of outside facts, we append the following exercises:
a. Walk slowly through a room with which you are not familiar. Then make a list of all the contents of the room you can recall. Do this every day for a week, using a different room each time. Do it not half-heartedly, but as if your life depended on your ability to remember. At the end of the week you will be surprised at the improvement you have made.
b. As you walk along the street, observe all that occurs in a space of one block, things heard as well as things seen. Two hours later make a list of all you can recall. Do this twice a day for ten days. Then compare results.
c. Make a practice of recounting each night the incidents of the day. The prospect of having this to do will cause you unconsciously to observe more attentively.
d. Glance once at an outline map of some State. Put it out of sight and draw one as nearly like it as you can. Then compare it with the original. Do this frequently.
e. Have some one read you a sentence out of a book and you then repeat it. Do this daily, gradually increasing the length of the quotation from short sentences to whole paragraphs. Try to Invention and Thought-Memory find out what is the extreme limit of your ability in this respect compared with that of other members of your family.
Rule II. Fix ideas by their associates.
There are other things to be remembered besides facts of outside observation. You are not one whose life is passed entirely in a physical world. You live also within. Your mind is unceasingly at work with the materials of the past painting the pictures of the future. You are called upon to scheme, to plan, to devise, to invent, to compose and to foresee.
If all this mental work is not wasted energy, you must be able to recall its Three Exercises for Developing Thought-Memory conclusions when occasion requires. A happy thought comes to you—will you remember it tomorrow when the hour for action arrives? There is but one way to be sure, and that is by making a study of the whole associative mental process.
Review the train of ideas by which you reached your conclusion. Carry the thought on in mind to its legitimate conclusion. See yourself acting upon it. Mark its relations to other persons. Note all the details of the mental picture. In other words, to remember thoughts, cultivate thought-observation just as you cultivate sense-observation to remember outside matters.
To train yourself in thought-memory, use the following exercises:
a. Every morning at eight o'clock, sharp on the minute, fix upon a certain idea and determine to recall it at a certain hour during the day. Put your whole will into this resolution. Try to imagine what activities you will be engaged in at the appointed hour, and think of the chosen idea as identified with those activities. Associate it in your mind with some object that will be at hand when the set time comes. Having thus fixed the idea in your mind, forget it. Do not refer to it in your thoughts. With practice you will find yourself automatically carrying out your own orders. Persist in this exercise for at least three months.
b. Every night when you retire fix upon the hour at which you wish to get up in the morning. In connection with your waking at that hour, think of all the sounds that will be apt to be occurring at that particular time. Bar every other thought from your consciousness and fall asleep with the intense determination to arise at the time set. By all means, get up instantly when you awaken. Keep up this exercise and you will soon be able to awaken at any hour you may wish.
c. Every morning outline the general plan of your activities for the day. Select only the important things. Do not bother with the details. Determine upon the logical order for your day's work. Think not so much of how you are to do things as of the things you are to do. Keep your mind on results. And How to Compel Recollection having made your plan, stick to it. Be your own boss. Let nothing tempt you from your set purpose. Make this daily planning a habit and hold to it through life. It will give you a great lift toward whatever prize you seek.
Rule III. Search systematically and persistently.
When once you have started upon an effort at recollection, persevere. The date or face or event that you wish to recall is bound up with a multitude of other facts of observation and of your mind life of the past. Success in recalling it depends simply upon your ability to hit upon some idea so indissolubly associated with the object of search that the recall of one automatically recalls Formation of Correct Memory Habits the other. Consequently the thing to do is to hold your attention to one definite line of thought until you have exhausted its possibilities. You must pass in review all the associated matters and suppress or ignore them until the right one comes to mind. This may be a short-cut process or a roundabout process, but it will bring results nine times out of ten, and if habitually persisted in will greatly improve your power of voluntary recall.
Rule IV. The instant you recollect a thing to be done, do it.
Every idea that memory thrusts into your consciousness carries with it the impulse to act upon it. If you fail to do so, the matter may not again occur NOW! to you, or when it does it may be too late.
Your mental mechanism will serve you faithfully only as long as you act upon its suggestions.
This is as true of bodily habits as of business affairs. The time to act upon an important matter that just now comes to mind is not "tomorrow" or a "little later," but NOW.
What you do from moment to moment tells the story of your career. Ideas that come to you should be compared as to their relative importance. But do this honestly. Do not be swayed by distracting impulses that inadvertently slip in. And having gauged their importance give free rein at once to the impulse to do everything that Persistence, Accuracy, Dispatch should not make way for something more important.
If, for any reason, action must be deferred, fix the matter in your mind to be called up at the proper time. Drive all other thoughts from your consciousness. Give your whole attention to this one matter. Determine the exact moment at which you wish it to be recalled. Then put your whole self into the determination to remember it at precisely the right moment. And finally, and perhaps most important of all
Rule V. Have some sign or token.
This memory signal may be anything you choose, but it must somehow be directly connected with the hour at which the main event is to be recalled.
Make a business of observing the Memory Signs and Tokens memory signs or tokens you have been habitually using. Practice tagging those matters you wish to recall with the labels that form a part of your mental machinery.
Make it a habit to do things when they ought to be done and in the order in which you ought to do them. Habits like this are "paths" along which the mind "moves," paths of least resistance to those qualities of promptness, energy, persistence, accuracy, self-control, and so on, that create success.
Success in business, success in life, can come only through the formation of right habits. A right habit can be deliberately acquired only by doing a thing consciously until it comes to be done unconsciously and automatically.
The Mental Combination Revealed Every man, consciously or unconsciously, forms his own memory habits, good or bad. Form your memory habits consciously according to the laws of the mind, and in good time they will act unconsciously and with masterful precision.
"'Amid the shadows of the pyramids,' Bonaparte said to his soldiers, 'twenty centuries look down upon you,' and animated them to action and victory. But all the centuries," says W.H. Grove, "and the eternities, and God, and the universe, look down upon us—and demand the highest culture of body, mind and spirit."
A good memory is yours for the making. But you must make it. We can point the way. You must act.
The laws of Association and Recall are the combination that will unlock your memory. Apply these laws, and the riches of experience will be available to you in every need.