by Len Horridge

Before you start

Creditors have better memories than debtors.

Benjamin Franklin (1706–90)

As with many other things in life, you will get better results if you first get some clarity about why you want to remember something, and the ‘why’ is strong enough to motivate you to do it well.


You would also benefit greatly from setting some goals around the area of improving your memory. Look at the topic on Goal Setting to see how to do this.

One of the biggest enemies of memory is lack of attention. Lack of adequate attention can be caused by multitasking, a common thing in our busy lives. You will find your ability to memorise information much better if you truly focus.

If you are sufficiently motivated, you will pay attention. You will focus. If you are having difficulty focusing, even though there is nothing in particular competing for your attention, then maybe you lack motivation for some reason. If this is the case, you might find it helpful to look at the topic on Motivation.

Get rid of negative beliefs

Negative beliefs – and the negative self talk that often accompanies them – can hinder your ability to improve your memory, so you need to identify and then get rid of them.

I’m no good at this!

Who says? The chances are this idea came from a negative authority figure. Were you, for example, ‘no good at maths’ at school, or did you struggle to learn lists of capital cities and the like for geography exams? Assuming that your school was not so hopeless that it would have been a miracle if anybody learned anything, this probably means that you were badly taught. The teacher did not bother – or perhaps did not know how – to engage your interest. Just think of the people you know who hated history at school, but now watch every history programme they can find on TV, or who thought they were ‘useless at languages’ – until they fell for a foreigner or got a plum job abroad.

I’m too old!

No – see Memory and age – there is no reason why your age should significantly affect your ability to remember.

It’s so boring!

Of course, there will always tend to be some parts of a job that you naturally find more interesting than others, but if there is something you find boring, and therefore hard to remember, you can bet there is someone else you know who feels quite the reverse. So try Modelling – find out how that person approaches the task of memorising the information that you find tedious. You might be surprised how well this works.

I’ll never be able to learn this!

The fact that you haven’t been able to do something until now doesn’t mean that you will never master the skill. Take remembering names, for example: usually, if you have a problem here, it is because your attention is distracted by all the other things that are happening when you meet someone new. Remembering names is an important skill, and there are techniques that will help you; just remember that you have been acquiring new skills all your life, even before you learned to crawl. So never say never!