Last year, I was in the Greek Island of Santorini, an island that consistently ranks top 5 in the world, and for good reason. The views and sunsets are stunning, especially in the town of Oia.
In that town, I met a friend with whom I was admiring the sunset.
While everyone was passionately taking photos to remember the moment, he wasn’t.
In my curious nature, I asked him why he wasn’t taking any photos?
He told me he didn’t want to ruin the moment.
To which I replied, what good is not ruining the moment if you are not going to remember it?
He assured me that he couldn’t possibly forget something so spectacular.
About 5 months later, we were chatting over email about our time in Santorini, to which I brought up ‘hey remember that amazing sunset in Oia?’
His response was a confused ‘no.’
He had not only forgot what it looked like, but forgot the sunset altogether.
This brings up the topic of this article.
As people, we put way too much faith in our memory.
We get a great idea, come across valuable advice, receive important instructions, or hear a painfully obvious fact and think that it’s just too great, valuable, important, or obvious to forget.
But just like my friend, sure enough, we forget.
Not only do we forget what the thought or idea was, but we forget we even had one in the first place.
In fact studies show that people forget 80% of what we read or hear within the first few hours of reading or hearing it.
Not the first months, weeks, or even days, but the first few hours!
This is because in this day and age, we are bombarded with just too much information. Our mind can’t take all of it in so it keeps what it deems important and discards the rest.
The problem is, what our mind deems important is often different from what we deem important.
We might think a magnificent sunset or a crucial deadline is important, but to our mind, it may not as big a concern.
The types of things that concern our mind are things that are dangerous, that are repeated, or that it can relate to other experiences.
For example, if you happen to touch a hot stove, the mind will remember the experience so you don’t do it again.
If you see or hear something over and over, your mind will go, ‘hmm this keeps coming up, may I should take note.’
…and it will.
If you drop a cup and it breaks, when you reach for something similar like a plate, you mind will associate it to the cup and think if dropped, the plate too might break.
By default, our memories regard certain types information as important, like things that are painful, repeated, associated, etc…
Unless we present information in these ways, the mind won’t remember it.
So, the key takeaway is don’t have full, unconditional faith in your memory. Even on matters you feel are just too important or remarkable to forget.
If you have something you want or need to remember, take proactive action to remember it.
It can be as simple as writing it down, taking a picture or screenshot, even making a recording.
The other option is present the information in ways the mind sees as important, like repeating the information, associating it to other information, or using other memory techniques.
Don’t just assume the thought, idea, fact, date, or appointment will stick because you need it to stick.
Instead, do something to record that thought, idea, or moment.
Otherwise, you may forget it sooner than you think.