"How to Remember Anything, Anytime"

by Frederic Patenaude

Today we're going to talk about mental fitness. It's great to keep your body fit, but let's not forget about the brain. After all, as with every function of the body, if we don't use it... well, you know the rest. Before we realize it we can't remember a thing and the mind isn't as sharp as it used to be.

Everybody should know some memory tricks. In addition to training your brain, they are extremely useful in your everyday life. If you had known about them in school, you could have been first in your class with less effort than most other students put into their home-works.

The memory trick I'm going to share with you is extremely useful for remembering a long list of items in a specific order. (By the way, this whole article is based on the book “The Memory Book: the Classic Guide to Improving Your Memory At Work, At School, and At Play” by Harry Lorayne & Jerry Lucas.)

For example, you could learn the 12 zodiac signs and their order, or a shopping list, or the chronological events that led to World War I, or anything you want. I frequently use this trick when I want to remember ideas I come up with anywhere, anytime.

For example, when I'm on my bike, I often come up with ideas. Things I need to do, things I want to remember, and so on. I've got nothing to write these ideas down, and no possibility to do so while on my bike, but with this memory trick I can remember them, even if there are 10, 15 or 20 items!

How do you do that? Simply by using original associations.

The first principle to understand is that, 'You Can Remember Any New Piece of Information if It Is Associated to Something You Already Know or Remember.”

There are some things we learned in school that we never forgot simply because our teacher gave us a basic trick of association. For example, you might have learned the lines on the music staff (E, G, B, D, F) using the sentence Every Good Boy Does Fine. EGBDF - It worked. You remembered it for the rest of your life.

You could come up with a few tricks like this to remember a few things, but it would be pretty limited since those obvious associations are not always easy to come up with.

The memory trick that I learned from Harry Lorayne is based on the basic principle of association, but it adds a twist to it. Here's the revised principle: “You Can Remember Any New Piece of Information if It Is Associated to Something You Already Know or Remember in Some Ridiculous Way.”

Why the ridiculous way part? To simply put it, doing this will force you to use your imagination like you never had before and will enable you to come up with any association you want, which in turn will enable you to remember anything, any time.

Let's see how this works in practice.

Say you have a list of eight things you want to remember. We'll narrow down each item to one key word or two maximum. For example, if the first item is “Confirm with my airline for the departure time of my flight tomorrow,” then just the word AIRPLANE might be enough for you to remember.

So suppose you want to remember the following list, in the following order.


Okay, so first we have AIRPLANE. The image is simple. But with just one item you can't apply the memory trick yet. You have to link AIRPLANE to something else.

So, what we'll do is form an association, in some ridiculous way, between AIRPLANE and the next item on the list, which is TELEPHONE.

The image you create in your mind SHOULD be ridiculous, funny, hilarious, crazy, illogical, absurd, or even indecent. Don't come up with something logical or possible. Your mind won't remember it that way.

So what could the image be? Well, it could be an airplane flying that has the shape of a telephone, or an airplane filled with passenger-robots that look like telephones, or some other crazy idea you might come up with.

So you have that picture, in your mind, and you hold it for a few seconds. Remember to have fun doing it! Don't try to remember the word or the concept. Remember the image associated with that word.

Now what we need to do is to form an association between TELEPHONE, and SING, assuming that we got the first association and its mental image down.

Well, how about a telephone that SINGS instead of ringing. It sings like Pavarotti, and even becomes alive and does it with a smile!

Try to come up with your own association. Remember that it needs to be ridiculous or impossible.

You don't spend minutes doing this. Really, all it takes is a few seconds to create the association, and a second or two to “flash” that mental picture in your mind.

We'll go fast for the rest.

Associate SING with LIBRARY. Maybe picture a public library where all of the clerks are singing.

LIBRARY and YOUR FRIEND JAMES. Picture your friend James (or Janie, John, Jean-Pierre) as a clerk in the public library, dressed up like a book.

YOUR FRIEND JAMES and ORANGES. James is pigging out on oranges like never before in his life. He ate a whole case of oranges and has orange juice all over his face!

ORANGES and CAR. Your car is filled with oranges. As you open the door, hundreds of oranges fall over you!

CAR and DINNER. You decide to show up for dinner in your car, crashing through the kitchen wall in your car, opening the door of your car while inside the kitchen, and saying “Hi!” to your dinner guests!

Now, let's go back to the beginning. Don't go back or read what's ahead in the article. What was our first item? AIRPLANE. Now try to think of the other items that follow without referring to the article. Think about that airplane for a moment. What does it remind you of? TELELPHONE, of course!

And the TELEPHONE reminds you of... SING! SING reminds you of? LIBRARY... which reminds you of YOUR FRIEND JAMES... which reminds you of ORANGES... which reminds you of CAR... which reminds you of DINNER!

How did it go? You might have had trouble with a few. Perhaps you just read the article without trying to make those mental pictures. That's not the way to do it. If you did make the mental pictures, they will have stayed in your mind, whether you're aware of it or not. But if it didn't work out, then you need to go back and STRENGTHEN your associations, making sure that they are funny, ridiculous or impossible. And also make sure that you really see them in your mind.

You might want to take a piece of paper and a pencil and try to write down the list on your own, in the right sequence, without missing any item. Try it.

Now, let's do something else. Try it backwards! Think of DINNER, what will it make you think of? Try it and see if you can get all 8 items correctly, in the reverse order.

See how it works? Now try it with your own list, and you'll be amazed by the results. With this memory trick, you'll be able to remember any list of items, any time, in any sequence you want.

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