Memory: How to Develop, Train and Use It

Akin to this, and supplementary to it, is the plan of selecting a route to be traveled, on your city map, endeavoring to fix in your mind the general directions, names of streets, turns, return journey, etc., before you start. Begin by mapping out a short trip in this way, and then increase it every day. After mapping out a trip, lay aside your map and travel it in person. If you like, take along the map and puzzle out variations, from time to time. Get the map habit in every possible variation and form, but do not depend upon the map exclusively; but instead, endeavor to correlate the printed map with the mental map that you are building in your brain.

If you are about to take a journey to a strange place, study your maps carefully before you go, and exercise your memory in reproducing them with a pencil. Then as you travel along, compare places with your map, and you will find that you will take an entirely new interest in the trip–it will begin by meaning something to you. If about to visit a strange city, procure a map of it before starting, and begin by noting the cardinal points of the compass, study the map–the directions of the principal streets and the relative positions of the principal points of interest, buildings, etc. In this way you not only develop your memory of places, and render yourself proof against being lost, but you also provide a source of new and great interest in your visit.

The above suggestions are capable of the greatest expansion and variation on the part of anyone who practices them. The whole thing depends upon the “taking notice” and using the attention, and those things in turn depend upon the taking of interest in the subject. If anyone will “wake up and take interest” in the subject of locality and direction he may develop himself along the lines of place-memory to an almost incredible degree, in a comparatively short time at that. There is no other phase of memory that so quickly responds to use and exercise as this one. We have in mind a lady who was notoriously deficient in the memory of place, and was sure to lose herself a few blocks from her stopping place, wherever she might be. She seemed absolutely devoid of the sense of direction or locality and often lost herself in the hotel corridors, notwithstanding the fact that she traveled all over the world, with her husband, for years. The trouble undoubtedly arose from the fact that she depended altogether upon her husband as a pilot, the couple being inseparable. Well, the husband died, and the lady lost her pilot. Instead of giving up in despair, she began to rise to the occasion–having no pilot, she had to pilot herself. And she was forced to “wake up and take notice.” She was compelled to travel for a couple of years, in order to close up certain business matters of her husband’s–for she was a good business woman in spite of her lack of development along this one line–and in order to get around safely, she was forced to take an interest in where she was going. Before the two years’ travels were over, she was as good a traveler as her husband had ever been, and was frequently called upon as a guide by others in whose company she chanced to be. She explained it by saying “Why, I don’t know just how I did it–I just _had to_, that’s all–I just _did_ it.” Another example of a woman’s “because,” you see. What this good lady “just did,” was accomplished by an instinctive following of the plan which we have suggested to you. She “just _had_ to” use maps and to “take notice.” That is the whole story.

So true are the principles underlying this method of developing the place-memory, that one deficient in it, providing he will arouse intense interest and will stick to it, may develop the faculty to such an extent that he may almost rival the cat which “always came back,” or the dog which “you couldn’t lose.” The Indians, Arabs, Gypsies and other people of the plain, forest, desert, and mountains, have this faculty so highly developed that it seems almost like an extra sense. It is all this matter of “taking notice” sharpened by continuous need, use and exercise, to a high degree. The mind will respond to the need if the person like the lady, “just _has to_.” The laws of Attention and Association will work wonders when actively called into play by Interest or need, followed by exercise and use. There is no magic in the process–just “want to” and “keep at it,” that’s all. Do you want to hard enough–have you the determination to keep at it?

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