Many of us worry when we forget something seemingly important. We berate ourselves and imagine an intolerable future in which we continue lose more of our memory. (Ever beaten yourself up for up for failing to recall everything in your Certificate in Financial Planning exam?)
But how many of us realise that are actually hardwired to forget? We’re meant to forget!
Physiologically, we’re pretty much the same as we were 10,000 years ago when our ancestors lived in caves. And you can probably imagine that back then it was vitally important to forget where we saw the herd of deer two weeks ago in favour of where we saw it two hours ago.
On the other hand, when faced with a drooling sabre tooth tiger, I’d be willing to bet that our ancestors didn’t stand around scratching their heads, racking their brains, “Is the same one that we saw last week, you know the one who ate uncle Charlie?” But instead, remembered only too well, its significance and reacted appropriately and without thinking.
Somewhere deep in their brain, a memory was triggered. And the significance of the memory too – that is to say this object or event represents mortal danger. So without having to struggle to recall what to do next, that automatic, unconscious part of the brain had them respond in such a way as to keep them safe, Perhaps by running away or by throwing a rock and frightening it off.
Now, because we are built pretty much the same way we were back in those days the same thing applies to us, but our circumstances, our environment has changed enormously.
When something really is threatening our safety, such as a car travelling faster than we first thought as we cross the road, we will react automatically, such as stepping back onto the pavement or quickening our pace to the other side.
Our brain is still set up, as it was 10,000 years ago, to easily retain information that directly affects our safety.
And quite frankly, your revision, even for a very important exam, for your Certificate in Financial Planning simply does not fall into that category!
No wonder you struggle to remember what you’ve slogged over.
And in fact, statistics show us that most people forget 80% of what they’ve revised within two weeks! Is it any wonder you feel like you not making any progress?
But never fear! There are things you can do to get your brain to remember even the most tedious information.
Do you remember learning to tie your shoelaces? I think I have a vague recollection, but a much clearer recall of my niece learning to tie hers 20 or so years ago. And also watching other little people concentrating so hard on the tricky business of shoelaces, it seems to me that the first thing you have to do is to stick the tip of your tongue out of the corner of your mouth before you start!
Then there’s something about rabbit ears and going down the bunny hole… and the point I’m making is, when we learn to tie shoelaces we eventually do so because of repetition. Someone shows us and talks us through the process. It seems like a mighty complicated deal to start off with but we give it a go. And the point is we keep trying and we keep revisiting that new skill, over and over again, because you need repetition for a better memory of that skill or piece of information.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you can tie shoelaces now while at the same time engaged in an involved conversation about something else entirely. In other words you’ve become unconsciously competent at tying shoelaces.
And this is what you have to do when revising. First you have to spend enough time with information in the first place for it to sink into your brain and your notes need to be brain-friendly. And finally you need to revisit that information on a regular basis until it becomes second nature.
There are, fortunately enough, speedy ways of doing this that don’t oblige you to spend all of your time going over stuff you’ve already learnt for your Certificate in Financial Planning exams, and instead leave you with plenty of time to make progress.
So repetition for a better memory works – indeed it’s the way to make the information stick around in your head – available to you whenever you need it – again and again.