Your memory is just as good as mine or any other man’s. It is your indifference to what you would call “irrelevant facts” that is at fault. Therefore, cultivate habits of observation. Fortify the observed facts you wish to recall with a multitude of outside associations. Never rest with a mere halfway knowledge of things.
To assist you in training yourself in those habits of observation that make a good memory of outside facts, we append the following exercises:
_a._ Walk slowly through a room with which you are not familiar. Then make a list of all the contents of the room you can recall. Do this every day for a week, using a different room each time. Do it not half-heartedly, but as if your life depended on your ability to remember. At the end of the week you will be surprised at the improvement you have made.
_b._ As you walk along the street, observe all that occurs in a space of one block, things heard as well as things seen. Two hours later make a list of all you can recall. Do this twice a day for ten days. Then compare results.
_c._ Make a practice of recounting each night the incidents of the day. The prospect of having this to do will cause you unconsciously to observe more attentively.
This is the method by which Thurlow Weed acquired his phenomenal memory. As a young man with political ambitions he had been much troubled by his inability to recall names and faces. So he began the practice each night of telling his wife the most minute details of incidents that had occurred during the day. He kept this up for fifty years, and it so trained his powers of observation that he became as well known for his unfailing memory as for his political adroitness.
_d._ Glance once at an outline map of some State. Put it out of sight and draw one as nearly like it as you can. Then compare it with the original. Do this frequently.
_e._ Have some one read you a sentence out of a book and you then repeat it. Do this daily, gradually increasing the length of the quotation from short sentences to whole paragraphs. Try to find out what is the extreme limit of your ability in this respect compared with that of other members of your family.
Rule II. _Fix ideas by their associates._
There are other things to be remembered besides facts of outside observation. You are not one whose life is passed entirely in a physical world. You live also within. Your mind is unceasingly at work with the materials of the past painting the pictures of the future. You are called upon to scheme, to plan, to devise, to invent, to compose and to foresee.
If all this mental work is not wasted energy, you must be able to recall its conclusions when occasion requires. A happy thought comes to you–will you remember it tomorrow when the hour for action arrives? There is but one way to be sure, and that is by making a study of the whole associative mental process.
Review the train of ideas by which you reached your conclusion. Carry the thought on in mind to its legitimate conclusion. See yourself acting upon it. Mark its relations to other persons. Note all the details of the mental picture. In other words, to remember thoughts, cultivate thought-observation just as you cultivate sense-observation to remember outside matters.
To train yourself in thought-memory, use the following exercises:
_a._ Every morning at eight o’clock, sharp on the minute, fix upon a certain idea and determine to recall it at a certain hour during the day. Put your whole will into this resolution. Try to imagine what activities you will be engaged in at the appointed hour, and think of the chosen idea as identified with those activities. Associate it in your mind with some object that will be at hand when the set time comes. Having thus fixed the idea in your mind, forget it. Do not refer to it in your thoughts. With practice you will find yourself automatically carrying out your own orders. Persist in this exercise for at least three months.
_b._ Every night when you retire fix upon the hour at which you wish to get up in the morning. In connection with your waking at that hour, think of all the sounds that will be apt to be occurring at that particular time. Bar every other thought from your consciousness and fall asleep with the intense determination to arise at the time set. By all means, get up instantly when you awaken. Keep up this exercise and you will soon be able to awaken at any hour you may wish.
_c._ Every morning outline the general plan of your activities for the day. Select only the important things. Do not bother with the details. Determine upon the logical order for your day’s work. Think not so much of _how_ you are to do things as of the _things_ you are to do. Keep your mind on results. And having made your plan, stick to it. Be your own boss. Let nothing tempt you from your set purpose. Make this daily planning a habit and hold to it through life. It will give you a great lift toward whatever prize you seek.