How to create a wonderful memory

Lots of people seem to let their memories just happen, remembering what they remember, forgetting what they forget. While there’s certainly a place for that approach, I also try to make memories on purpose.

  1. I start by setting myself up for interesting situations by staying interested. I stay curious. I stay aware, as much as possible. I observe.
  2. When I find something that could be captivating, something that could be interesting to remember, I jump on it, or if it’s not immediately available, I pursue it. Some examples: tasting an exotic food, feeling the thrill of a wild ride, talking deeply with a friend, noticing a beautiful sight, or really just trying anything new.
  3. Then, as I’m experiencing it, I pause. This is the hardest part. Instead of just going along with the situation, I take a moment to notice. To do this, I pretend I’m taking a picture – I try to freeze the moment, or slow-mo it.
  4. I link the situation to¬†objects or sensations that are out of the ordinary. I try to note the specific time of day, the unique shadows on the wall, the smells in the air, and so on. The point is to create as vivid a memory as possible so it’ll stand out from the “background.”
  5. From there, though, I lump the memory into an overall theme. Like if it’s a memory about hiking, maybe I’ll group it among my best hiking trips. Or maybe I’ll remember it in relation to the friends I hiked with. It’s important for me to link the memory to some theme because no matter how vivid or distinct the memory is, if it’s not connected to any of my other everyday thoughts, I’ll never remember it. So I create a memory web so I can find the memories again someday.
  6. On top of that, I try to physically record the memory too. Not only does this help me revisit the memory in the future, if I keep the physical record, it also helps me create a stronger memory in the moment. I tend to remember events better if I write them down or take a picture or whatever, even if I never see the picture or the notes again.
  7. Last but not least, I involve others in the memory as well. I talk with those who experienced it with me. I get their perspective. I tell friends who weren’t there, trying to include them as much as possible. That way, later when I struggle to recall the memory, I can think back not only to the original event but also to the story I told my friends.

There’s some evidence that memories get more and more distorted the more we recall them. Supposedly, we tend to add more details to fill in the blanks, and the details end up distorting the original situation.

The way I see it, though, that doesn’t matter as much. Yes, accuracy is important, but remembering is more¬†important. Memories, the kind I’m trying to create here, are about looking back in fondness, thankfulness even.

I’d rather remember the embellished story than forget the accurate account.