The Beauty of Memory

Memories have always been a mysterious and intriguing entity, not only because we often find our life goals and dreams embedded within them but more than that, memories captures the essence of our lives that cannot be reversed, cannot be transformed and cannot be changed.

But it can be distorted.

How many times have we felt confident about remembering something but later realise that our recollection prowess isn’t as great as we thought it to be? How many times have we relate to our friends about a past incident but later realise – upon asking others who were present at the incident- that we are mistaken about the dates or that the situation wasn’t quite as we have described? How many times have we informed someone about an incident but realise that certain portions are actually being made up – not because we do this intentionally but because our mind fills up the memory gaps by themselves to make our mental imagery more complete.

Memories are powerful but we cannot and should not trust it completely. Memories can deceive us, even if we will it not to. Why? Because our mind cannot capture every minute detail of every scene and incident. Our mind will only remember the interesting or striking aspects of every encounter that we have in our lives. As for the rest, the mind will cease to recall over time. I call these intervals where our minds fail to capture the details the “memory gap”. Think back of one past event has happened five to ten years ago this is prominent to you. How much do you recall?  There is a high chance that only the most interesting details are retained in your memory.

This is the reason why the most interesting person that we remember is always the most beautiful/handsome one, or the most intelligent one, or the most vocal one, or the most flamboyant one or the most impressive one (at least to us). This is also the reason why someone who goes the extra mile to help us earns themselves not only a token of appreciation in our hearts but a deep mental imprint on our minds as well. Imagine meeting a colleague who goes out of his/her way to take time out of his or her lunch hour during work to buy you a rather impressive watch. Wouldn’t that leave you with a lasting impression? Or imagine someone who takes the time and effort to buy lunch and bring it to your house. Wouldn’t you be deeply impressed? When we try to recall the highlights of a movie, wouldn’t the most interesting aspects of the movie come to your mind? As for some movies, we can’t recall anything at all because there is nothing noteworthy about the entire movie. “Forgettable film” – a common description used by movie critics – has its point.

Our minds always capture the interesting aspects of our lives, and throw the rest out. But does this mean that there are no uses for our memories?

Not necessarily.

The flip side of our memory remembering only the interesting and prominent incidents in our lives is positive. Think about it. What are memories? Memories are merely a carefully selected stream of thoughts, the latter of which we generate almost on a daily basis, in every second and in every moment. In another words, thoughts are the ingredients of memories. Some thoughts we forget but for those which we remember, they become memories. Memories are simply retained thoughts that are repeated over and over again in our minds.

Here is where it gets tricky. Our thoughts are usually positive, neutral or negative. For most of us, it’s usually a mishmash because we usually do not develop a habit of selectively choosing the thoughts we want. Hence, when our thoughts become memories, we have sad memories, happy memories, exciting memories and the like. And because of this, our moods and temperaments fluctuate rather greatly as well.

Thus, to optimally and strategically utilise our memories, we should selectively choose the memories that bring back fond feelings of our past, memories that make us laugh, memories that are memorable, memories that are positive ad memories that enable us to become better individuals in character and personality, in mind and body, in strength and spirit.

Make memories work for us.

For positive memories, we create mental imprints in our minds through repetition. As for memories that evoke negative emotions, we draw any lessons that can be learnt from the experiences and then discard them.

For positive memories, we can think of funny moments when we make a fool of ourselves to evoke laughter to de-stress.  We can think of the love given by our loved ones with gratitude so as to encourage ourselves to live life meaningful and to give back to others. We can also think of happy moments which will enable us to live life positive and bring a smile to our faces. We can think of our past achievements to encourage us to do better next time.

Extrinsic motivations such as monetary rewards and promotions may work well but what is more essential to personal success is actually intrinsic, such as the utilisation of our memories to enable us to become a better person.

You have the choice.

Be the weaver of memories by choosing the right fabric.


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