100 Things I wish my Dad Taught me. Episode 14. “You move in the direction of your dominant thoughts.”

“You move in the direction of your dominant thoughts.” And whether you ride a road bike, race a car or are simply worried about your kids watching too much tv, what you fear comes near, and what you visualise you manifest. There is a positive correlation between what you think and what happens.

Many people consider labour as the only mechanism dividing those with success from those without. But the concept of going in the direction of our dominant thought overrules that. Certainly I can attest to this because some of my most successful clients do not work hard. They instead, choose work that makes success easier, such as App creation.

App creation simply takes the idea that people move in the direction of their dominant thought and capitalise on it. If people are worried about security, they build a security app. If people are wanting to divest their budget of alcohol storage, they build an alcohol delivery app. If people are worried about catching Covid they build a supermarket home delivery app. It’s really simple. Just find out what the dominant thoughts of a majority of people are and build an app to resolve or provide it.

But there’s also a downside to this. We can think ourselves into bad choices. “You move in the direction of your dominant thoughts.” So, if those thoughts are “how unlucky we are” or “how stressed we are” or “how the world won’t mould to our expectations” we become hesitant and negatively geared. We go on the attack or defensive and then we’re in deep poo.

We all know all this. I’m not telling you anything you’ve not heard before so why do we act like buffoons and have monkeys running around our brain telling us where to go and who to accept and what to eat. Why do we learn good stuff and then, promptly forget it. Well, let’s look at the forgetting topic and see what we can understand.

Forgetting can be infuriating, particularly when you’re trying to learn a new skill or absorb vital information. When you can’t recall the knowledge you need, stress can build and your confidence can take a knock. It may even lead to wasted time, missed opportunities, and costly mistakes.

But when you understand why you forget, you can take steps to prevent it, and make sure that what you learn, sticks!

Let’s use the guru on this and explore Ebbinghaus’s Forgetting Curve, an enduring model that demonstrates how memories are lost over time and what we can do to reinforce the things that we learn, so that we can remember them more effectively. It dates back to the late 19th century, 1885. And hasn’t been beaten as an explanation for memory fade.

What Is the Forgetting Curve?

German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus wanted to understand more about why we forget things and how to prevent it. His research produced the Forgetting Curve – a visual representation of the way that learned information fades over time (see figure 1, below). [1]

Ebbinghaus experimented with his own ability to remember using a list of nonsense syllables, which he attempted to recall after different lengths of time. His experiences and results revealed a number of key aspects of memory:

  • Memories weaken over time. If we learn something new, but then make no attempt to relearn that information, we remember less and less of it as the hours, days and weeks go by.
  • The biggest drop in retention happens soon after learning. This is reflected by the steep fall at the start of the Forgetting Curve (see figure 1). Without reviewing or reinforcing our learning, our ability to retain the information plummets. For example, you may leave a webinar or meeting with your head full of new facts and figures, only to find that you can remember very little of it just hours later.
  • It’s easier to remember things that have meaning. Things with little or no meaning (like the nonsense syllables Ebbinghaus tried to learn) conform most closely to the Forgetting Curve. So, for instance, if you’re listening to a talk on a subject that you don’t really understand or have little interest in, you’ll likely forget it faster than if it were on a subject that you found really engaging or exciting.
  • The way something is presented affects learning. The same set of information can be made more or less memorable, depending on how well it’s communicated. You’ll likely find it easier to remember something that’s been organized logically and presented clearly. But you may well forget that haphazard, scribbled shopping list!
  • How you feel affects how well you remember. Ebbinghaus believed that physiological factors, such as stress and sleep, play a significant part in how well we retain information. Many people experience this as a vicious cycle – they feel stress, which makes it harder to remember, creating even more stress. There’s also strong evidence to suggest that sleep can help our brains to sort and store information

The Importance of Not Forgetting

Memory is important for our survival. Our brains are good at storing information that helps us to avoid physical or psychological harm.

We are particularly good at remembering the things that we need to know – details that are of vital importance to our survival. For example, foods we should avoid, pathways or areas we should stick to, and the people who are important in our lives. We also tend to remember experiences that trigger powerful emotions – such as surprise, fear, success, or relief – for longer.

But this means that many of the things that we want to learn (or that others need us to know) can drop out of our memory all too easily.

This is where the Forgetting Curve comes in!

How to Prevent Forgetting and Boost Your Memory

It’s tempting to think that Ebbinghaus’s work paints a bleak picture of learning. But it’s not all negative. In fact, his research highlighted several things that we can do to retain information for longer. In this section, we look at four strategies you can use to improve your power of recall:

1. Use “Spaced Learning”

The most important discovery Ebbinghaus made was that, by reviewing new information at key moments on the Forgetting Curve, you can reduce the rate at which you forget it!

This approach is often referred to as “spaced learning” or “distributive practice.” (See figure 2, below.)

Even though our memory fades quickly, a review session soon after the original learning can improve it. This session should happen when recall has slipped significantly, but hasn’t fallen so low that you’re essentially starting over.

Reviewing and refreshing information regularly halts the Forgetting Curve. (In figure 2, the dotted part of each curve shows what would likely happen otherwise.) And, although forgetting starts again after each review session, it’s slower than before. That’s why each new curve shown in figure 2 is shallower than the last.

The gaps between your review sessions can be longer as time goes on. So, you might refresh your learning from a lecture the following day, then two days later, then after a week, then after 30 days… and you’ll still know all the key information a month on! Reviewing information like this, at strategic points after you originally learned it, will stretch your recall and strengthen the memories encoded in your brain. You’ll also discover any gaps that you need to focus on and relearn, if necessary.

Note:

Exactly how you time and space your review sessions will depend on a number of factors: the type of material you’re learning, how much detail you need to know, and how long you want to keep it fresh in your mind. And, if other information disrupts or distracts you, you’ll likely have to put in more work to keep your learning strong.

2. Overlearn

Another strategy Ebbinghaus explored was “overlearning” – that is, putting in more than the usual amount of effort when you learn something. He found that doing this improved retention, and slowed the steep drop seen on the Forgetting Curve.

He also pointed out that, by using certain memory strategies, we can improve our chances of retaining even hard-to-learn information.

3. Make Information Meaningful

Do everything you can to make the material that you need to learn clear, relevant and purposeful, and establish a strong reason for retaining it. The more you know how something will benefit you in the long term, the more likely your memory will prioritize it.

Reducing distractions and other demands – known as your “cognitive load ” – should also help with this.

4. Keep Challenging Your Memory

If you come to review some information and discover gaps in your memory, don’t despair! This is the most productive time for stretching your recall . Learning done at this point will be all the stronger because of the mental challenge involved.

If you’re imparting learning or information to an audience, or delivering training, make it as interactive as possible. Even just asking questions will encourage people to sort and strengthen the information in their minds.

Key Points

The Forgetting Curve, or the Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting, is an influential memory model. It shows how learned information slips out of our memories over time – unless we take action to keep it there.

The steepest drop in memory happens quickly after learning, so it’s important to revisit the information you’ve learned sooner rather than later. After that, regular reviews will help to reinforce it. But you can leave longer and longer gaps between these review sessions. This is known as “spaced learning.”

Doing this will help to reinforce your learning and improve your power of recall, so that you can remember what you’ve learned in the long term. Other strategies you can use to improve your memory are: overlearning information, making what you want to learn meaningful, and challenging your memory regularly.

AT the end of your 30 Day Innerwealth Coaching intensive, retention depends on you remembering things. So, the end of the 30 days will be the beginning of the remembering phase. Application and practice, ongoing coaching if needed.

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