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About Your Memory – FOCUS is Key



“FOCUS Is The KEY-word”



What is the problem with my memory?”

That’s a question I am always asked. And the answer, (about 95% of the time) is “the biggest problem anyone can have with their memory is thinking they have a problem.”

And why do they think that?

Because they expected their memories to run without first putting the key in the ignition. And the ‘key’ is FOCUS.

That key word FOCUS is your memory’s best friend.

And speaking of keys, did you ever forget where you put yours…or forget where you parked your car…or forget what you came to the garage for…or forget why your head’s in the refrigerator?

Well, you’ll be happy to know you didn’t forget- you just never ‘got’ in the first place. That’s because you didn’t start up your mental motor by putting the key in the ignition. In other words you didn’t focus on that which you’d now like to recall. And without having first focused, you can’t get your memory in drive.

In order to surely recall something you first have to focus your attention on that info you’d care to collect. Then you have to follow through by knowing what to do with what you paid your attention to.

Not knowing what to do with what you paid your attention to is like having a gorgeous Mercedes, with a master motor, and a tank full of high octane gas all ready to go, but you don’t know how to drive. Even with a golden key in your hand, how far would you get?

And your memory is like the Mercedes. It can run just as smoothly but won’t go anywhere if you don’t know how to drive it.

And that takes FOCUS.

And What, exactly, Constitutes FOCUS?

I’m so glad you asked.

To focus entails knowing what you care to remember and giving it your attention. It’s like hitting the SAVE key on your mental computer. It involves observing the info both visually and auditorily and thereby collecting it. As an example:

You could have been sitting in someone’s living room all day long and not remember what color the carpet was if you never focused on it.

I often use the lesson of the Lincoln Penny (See last month’sAbout Your Memory’ columnGetting Brain Friendly With Your Memory”) You’ve seen one a zillion times but probably wouldn’t know, if I asked you, which profile of Lincoln was showing. That’s because you never paid attention to the fact it was his ‘right’ profile.

The next step in focusing, after paying attention, is knowing how to connect the new info you just paid attention to, to known info, in order to save it for later recall.

You can do this with Facts, Figures, Names, and Faces, by asking yourself  “What does that make me think of?”. That’s the best way to connect the ‘new’ to the ‘known’. In the case of Lincoln’s ‘right’ profile, just connect with the fact you already knew that Lincoln did ‘right’ by the people.

In the case of the carpet (make it green), think of it as grass. And in case you want to remember the name of the hostess- (make it Mary Taylor)- if you ask yourself “What does that make me think of?”, you might come up with ‘she’s merry and sews a lot.’(Taylor becomes ‘tailor’… get it?)

That’s focusing!

It’s all in paying attention by observing and listening, and then saving the info by collecting and connecting.

Comprehension Is A Must

When you are focusing on facts be sure you understand cognitively what those facts mean before you commit them to memory. Filling your memory bank with information, which is meaningless to you, is a waste of effort.

It’s like children mindlessly repeating “The Pledge of Allegiance” by rote (mechanical repetition with no intelligence involved) and not having any idea of its meaning. What’s the good in that? (That occurrence bothers me so much I wrote a book about it- “Do You Know Richard Stans?”)

Just Remember To Focus

It’s the Key to your memory and it’s your memory’s best friend.


F- Focus…Pay attention, know what you want to remember and collect it.

O- Observe…Look and listen, see and hear the details both visually and auditorily.

C- ConnectMake a mental connection from the new collected info to your known info.

U- UnderstandBe cognitive of the meaning of that which you are collecting.

S- SaveLock it in by reviewing your connection.


Now… Put your key in the ignition-give it a quick twist-and GO!


The Lady On The Mountain

[Hermine Hilton, one of America’s most popular speakers, is the author of several books on memory including “ The Executive Memory Guide” (Simon&Schuster), “50 Ways To A Better Memory”, and her latest book titled “Fuhhgeddaboutit!” (How To Stop Worrying About Your Memory). You may have heard her on Radio or seen her on Television with David Letterman; Charlie Rose; Matt Lauer; Bryant Gumbel or a host of others. She is the creator of Sonik Memory and the memory motivator for the Fortune 500 companies from Nordstrom to NASA, and is known internationally from the Netherlands to Nigeria, Turkey to Thailand, Italy to Israel, and almost all other points on the planet. (She is also known as ‘The Lady On The Mountain’ to those of you in Malibu who drive Corral Canyon.)]


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