A recent edition of The New Yorker magazine published an article about neuroscience research on the way the brain retrieves memories.
If you have been my coaching client, you know that your attitude and behavior — the two things that make you successful — are heavily influenced by your memories. For example, if you have experienced a painful failure in the past, you are more likely to avoid taking risks, even when they are smart risks.
Similarly, if you have had successes in the past, you are more likely to take actions to repeat those successes, if you have vivid positive memories about them. The reason that this research is so important is because it shows that we can:
Edit our bad memories so that they don’t hold us back.
Edit our good memories so that they propel us forward.
In other words, you can literally rewire your brain to make you more successful.
Weakening Your Bad Memories
To extract the poisonous fangs of your bad memories, bring the memory into your mind, and then imagine it getting smaller and dimmer, like you are watching a tiny B&W TV.
Now add details that scramble the memory. For instance, if you are remembering a time when you flubbed a presentation, turn the audience (the little bitty audience in the little bitty screen) so that they are all wearing clown suits.
Do this five or 10 times and you’ll discover that the bad memory simply doesn’t sting any longer. If anything, the memory of that presentation will make you chuckle, because you have literally and physically rewired your brain.
Strengthening Your Good Memories
To make your good memories more powerful and motivating, you do the same thing in reverse. You call the memory up as vividly as you can, on a huge IMAX, surround-sound screen. Make it bright and loud.
Most importantly, insert or increase the wonderful feelings that you experienced in that situation.
Do this five or 10 times and you’ll discover that what was once just a happy memory is now a driving motivation. The more you experience the memory, the more you’ll want to make it real again.
I have been using this method on and off for years, without really understanding why it works. Now that I know the neuroscience behind it, I am going to make editing and improving my memories into a daily habit.