7 Valuable Memory Lessons My Almost 2 Year Old Has Taught Me

Tips to improve memoryA guest post by Arjen ter Hoeve.

Have you taken any memory lessons to learn how to improve your memory? Or do you just ‘wing it’ like most people around you do? The fact is that just a small percentage of people take formal memory lessons to remember names, dates, numbers and other information.

The painful truth is that just a few memory lessons will help you gain a huge advantage in many situations. You will remember, for instance, names better and that gives people a positive feeling about you and themselves. Your presentations will go much smoother since you will feel more confident about what to say, and you can focus more on the people in your audience.

Here are 7 memory lessons my almost- 2- year old teaches me every day that sometimes amaze me, and often make me smile. In this article, I would like to share them with you.

Memory lesson 1: Put everything in place

Every day I go for a walk with my son. He knows exactly where we are going (and where he wants to go). These days, no matter where we go, he knows specific points on our route and tells me about them.

For instance, at the end of our street, there is a small stone horse, and next to it a leprechaun, hidden in the bushes.

When we are within 10 meters of the horse, he starts running towards it. He pets the horse and starts looking for the leprechaun. This goes on and on.

When driving around in our car, he knows which people live where and directs me towards them. It is all stored in memory routes in his mind.

I am sure you have the same experience as well. You look at certain things when walking or driving. Did you make a mistake the first time you went to a new place? Chances are you made the same mistake the next time as well (or at least remembered that you make it last time).

There is a wonderful technique called “the memory palace.” My son uses this all day long when he points out all kinds of things. As adults, we don’t use it as much as we could or should. I learned to use the memory palace technique years ago and have to tell you… it is great to use it to store all kinds of information.

In short, the technique tells you to take your home (for instance), and take for example 10 items in your living room. Then create a logical route between the items. There you have it, your memory palace with a route you know going from one item to another.

To remember information, you connect the things you like to remember to the items in the room. As you probably understand by now, you can create as many rooms as you like with lots of items in them. It is just up to your imagination how much you are able to recall!

Memory lesson 2: Repeat as often as possible

My son loves to go through his books and tell me what images he sees. He enjoys giving me the names of his stuffed animals. In fact, the first thing he says to me when I enter his bedroom is the name of his favorite animal. Then he continues to tell me the other things he sees.

The same goes with singing songs. Often just before the song is finished he would start to tell me that he wants to sing it once again. You can’t imagine the many times I sang songs in the car with him. Over and over and over… and over again.

Now I know you don’t have the time to repeat things all day long. But what happens if you have important information for your studies and you repeat saying them (maybe in your mind) when working out? Or you skip one TV show and use that time. Or for people who are really into watching TV, you use the commercial breaks to repeat what you want to learn. This little tip can also be used to read books, articles, emails, and to do other small chores. Commercials become peak productivity moments!

One great thing I saw when I was doing a puzzle with my son was that he could tell me the name of each and every piece I showed him. The speed he did this with was almost so high, that I thought… he isn’t even thinking.

We tend to over-think the things we do. Next time maybe we need to do less thinking and just more doing. Your mind knows the right answers, but you just make it blurry by over-thinking everything…

Memory lesson 3: Don’t judge, have an open mind

My son is kind of like a blank slate. He knows some things, but for the rest, it is up to us to feed his brain with what’s good and what’s not. We tell him what things are called and how he should act.

Most of the time, he takes the things as they are. Sure, there are moods when he is not that willing to ‘play’ and learn new things. But most of the time he is. And he does this with a very open mind. I tell him stuff, he repeats. This makes me more aware of the things I say and what I do as well :).

For adults, this “have an open mind” idea is very difficult. I notice this in training courses a lot. When people receive an exercise, they say they are going to do it the way it was explained. But what happens next is that old habits and previous experiences mess things up.

We all know what’s best and just doing things without questioning or having an opinion is difficult, very difficult.

Test this right now. Go to your bookshelf, or browse through the emails or e-books you received on how to be more successful or productive, or any other topic for self improvement.

Do the things you read really work?

I am sure they do. So why don’t you practice them each and every day? Why are you collecting techniques and thoughts without taking action?

From now on, when you hear something from a person who knows what they are talking about… simply do, don’t judge, accept and grow (and good luck doing that :) ).

Memory lesson 4: Tell what you learned

The next lesson my son taught me is kind of annoying. What he does is repeat information over and over again. And every time he wants me to tell him he is right.

Still, it is a valuable lesson.

He was incompetent in so many things. Now he is teaching me all the stuff he learned and it makes me aware of how fast he is learning new things. Interesting fact… he doesn’t know he is learning. He just does because he doesn’t have to think if he should, what the implications could be, etc. He does, because it is still in his nature.

You should do the same. Don’t just learn something. Go out and tell others about it. Become a teacher yourself in that topic. That is the best way of learning to master it!

Memory lesson 5: Enjoy to learn, play all day

Do you enjoy what you do? Do you go to work most of the time feeling happy?

Most adults don’t really like what they do and it shows. They just do it because it has to be done. If they don’t do it, there will be no food, shelter, cable TV, holidays, iPads, a second car, and all those things we really need.

But what if you could do what you love even if you made a little bit less money – would you enjoy your life more?

Or take this wild idea: Suppose you could do what you love. And rather than working, you’d play your time at work, doing what you are good at while enjoying learning new things… and getting paid at least the money you make now. Would that be something you like?

Enjoying what you do is something that starts between your ears. It is the same as with being happy. You can choose to be happy. Just like Anthony Robbins said: “People ARE not depressed, they DO depressed.” Change your view, enjoy the changes.

My son loves to play. For him, almost everything is playing. He learns without even knowing he is learning. When I take him to bed, he is not that happy anymore because he knows playtime is over.

Start enjoying the things you do from now on. It will make it easier, you will become happier, your stress levels will drop, your health levels will go  up, and you will become a nicer person to yourself and others.

Studying or remembering information that was memorized when you were having fun is a lot easier to recall than when you make it a stupid and not-so-nice experience. Change your attitude and make studying fun again (I am sure you had fun when you were learning to walk, talk, and eat as a toddler)!

Memory lesson 6: Create a routine

What do you do when you get out of bed? Do you do the same routine every morning? Does this make your life easier?

My son loves his routines. He knows what time to take a bath, where we eat, what books we read, and what route we use to the shop.

These are all routines to him.

Doing that with him makes it easier for me as well. And when I make a mistake (like just recently when we were going to drink milk, but it was in the kitchen and not the dining room), he makes it clear things are not as they should be.

Do you sometimes lose your keys? Or forget if you locked your car doors? Or did you miss a document you wrote?

Chances are, you did it without thinking and you did it differently than you usually do.

So what happens is that your keys end up in the fridge, the doors are closed, and the document is right there on your desktop (but not where you usually save it).

Make routines. Hang your coat at the same place. Consciously lock your car (say it to yourself for instance).

These routines help you retrieve information from your brain as well because it is stored in a correct way. Think of your memory as a closet. Your information can either be thrown into it and forgot about, or you can create neatly sorted out piles. The organized closet is much faster to go through.

It is the same with information you have to remember. When you do it in a nice manner, you will lose it a lot less.

Memory lesson 7: Don’t feel bad about mistakes (and forget quickly)

What is a mistake?

For me a mistake is only made when you made an error and

1. You did not learn from it, and

2. You did not correct it.

When you try and try, and then when you finally succeed, you did not make lots of mistakes. You learned new things (or just got lucky… that is also possible).

The moment you learn from what you did, you will not make the same mistakes again – you learn instead. Same with your memory. Use it, fail often and learn lots.

When my son is doing his wooden puzzles with five to ten pieces, he tries until he succeeds (or he is interrupted by me to eat some fruit). He doesn’t feel bad if it doesn’t fit. He simply tries.

Do that as well. Stop feeling bad when you mess up. Take responsibility, correct it and learn from it. You will grow once you do this.

Another and final thing which is important in this is forgetting: You should forget about your losses (and probably also your winnings). Don’t take past experiences along with you into the future if they are not helping you.

For instance, when my son got his hand stuck between the door and the doorpost, he cried… really loud… for about 2 minutes.

The rest of the day, he did not tell me he had pain in his finger. This is something most adults would have talked about, to everybody we could talk to, for days…

Don’t do that. Once it is over, let it go. You will feel so much better!

Bonus Memory lesson: Be determined (a.k.a. beg, shout, scream, and cry to get what you want)

So here is the bonus in this list of memory lessons.

There are moments my son doesn’t get what he wants immediately. He starts to repeat what he wants, draws more attention to it and perhaps talks a little louder. He also pulls on my pants for attention (and then points towards it or says what he wants).

He makes sure there is nothing in the world that will stop him from getting what he wants. In the past he would scream or cry. Fortunately, that is hardly ever the case anymore. Still, if it is needed, he will!

What do you do when you don’t get what you want? Ask for it twice perhaps and then give up?

My question would then be… did you really want it or was it something unimportant that you didn’t need anyway?

Know what you want and then do anything/everything needed to get what you want. If it is important (and it is because you know that you want it), you do what is in your power to get it (and a little bit more).

The round up for these memory lessons

So there you go, the memory lessons I have learned from my little boy. This is what I suggest you do with this article:

Action point 1: Take one of the lessons and practice it for a week

Action point 2: Identify in other people what lesson they are explicitly NOT using. This will get you focused  on what you probably need to do as well (and you can help others at the same time).

Action point 3: Understand that growing needs to go hand in hand with change. Be willing to change and you will start growing into the person you want to be.

Enjoy the memory lessons and report back what you have learned.

Arjen ter Hoeve is a coach, family guy, writer, friend who has a passion for creating balance in mind and information. He can also be found sharing his ideas and techniques on his website where he talks about making information clear to create amazing results.