Following up on yesterday’s topic of prioritization vs. procrastination, today I want to say a few words about motivation with respect to memorizing foreign language vocabulary.
In some respects, we already covered motivation yesterday. We talked about clearly identifying why we want to improve our memory, and I suggested some key questions we can ask ourselves, questions that will help create motivational clarity.
But there is more to say about motivation, so let’s get started.
Why Motivation = Energy
One very interesting motivational exercise is to think about the energy you feel with respect to your goals. Naturally, one experiences different levels of energy throughout the day, but when you approach something like the memorization of vocabulary, take a moment to analyze your energy. Is this truly the best moment to work in your Memory Palaces?
For example, although we may be highly motivated for many reasons, if we work on memorization while tired, bored or distracted by hunger, we may inadvertently reduce our motivation. Over time, this can create a lull and then eventually a sunken ship. What once was a highly motivated goal based upon a dream has become the idea of dream based upon a diminished goal. Unlike dreams, ideas are easily forgotten.
Therefore, it is important that we test our energy levels in order to ensure that we work on our memorization during peak periods. We want to be in this game for the long haul, so we’re going to need a strategy with respect to the energy we can bring to the task of foreign language vocabulary memorization.
Memory Palace Success Requires Daily Scheduling
Part of this means paying attention to daily schedules. If you’re at your best in the morning, then that may be the perfect time to work on vocabulary memorization. Yesterday we talked about identifying which tasks from the Magnetic Memory process we most enjoy, so it would make sense to spend time on these during peak energy periods because better achievement will lead to greater levels of motivation.
We can then ride this upward crest and use its energy to tackle the more difficult tasks. It then follows that the more successful we’ve been with, say, identifying our locations and the stations within them, the less difficult placing the words will be.
Remember, a key principle of the Magnetic Memory Method is that we do preparation and predetermination work in order to reduce, if not eliminate directing any unnecessary energy at the recall of our Memory Palace journeys themselves. We want that energy for building our associations and then magnetically floating to the words later on when we want to access them.
The Stages of Memory Palace Success
There are a few stages we can go through in order to enhance our motivation and the energy we bring to our memorization tasks once we’ve gone through the prioritization exercises I talked about yesterday. These include:
Pre-motivation: This is the stage of knowing we need to increase our motivation with respect to memory work, but not yet knowing what to do or even doing anything to find out what we could be doing.
Ideation: This is the stage where we have started to look into what we can do to increase our motivation, but without having done anything concrete. The ideation stage can also come about by accident. Searching on the Internet often leads to surprise discoveries of different methods that we want to try and then next know we find ourselves looking into them.
If you’re in the Ideation stage now, you can play the Benjamin Franklin game with yourself. This involves writing down a list of pros and cons. On one side a piece of paper you list the benefits of working on your memorization goal, and you list the deficits, or negative consequences of continuing to do little or nothing on the other. Going through this exercise can be tremendously motivating when it comes to using Memory Palaces, usually because the evidence in favor of going ahead with achieving your goal is stronger than the evidence in favor of doing nothing.
Preparation & Predetermination: Having decided to move yourself ahead, it’s time to chart out the steps you will take. You can use the basic plan laid out for you in your Magnetic Memory book (creating one Memory Palace for each letter of the alphabet and at least 10 stations within each Palace).
The great thing about Preparation & Predetermination is that this stage amount to baby steps – important baby steps, foundational baby steps, but easily accomplished baby steps.
Action: By now you should be highly motivated to start populating your Memory Palaces with vocabulary.
Now, some people recommend that we tell others about our goals before taking action. For instance, if you want to have 100 vocabulary words memorized by the end of the month, such people recommend Tweeting your followers, posting on Facebook and just talking about the goal in general, the idea being that this self-revelation will keep you on track.
There may be wisdom in this, but it might also set you up for frustration and discouragement if you falter. (As I discuss in the Magnetic Memory books, procrastination is bound to happen, so recommend Tim Ferris’ idea to schedule procrastination into your schedule instead of letting it plan its way into you).
My personal feeling is that the best goals are kept silent and worked on with personal resolve. It’s kind of like doing something nice, like giving money to a homeless person. There’s no need to go around seeking the approval of others because you’ve done something awesome. In fact, doing so can diminish the value of your generosity. Likewise, you don’t need the approval, acknowledgment or the implied pressure of others to be true to your goals. On the note of “implied pressure,” do you really want to make police officers of your friends?
What I do recommend, however, is talking to people about how you’re working with your memory and the exact steps that you’re taking. I consider this part of the work of memorization because you’re deepening your familiarity with the method and finding ways of adjusting the different components of the system to your own needs.
The fringe benefit is that you will be helping others find new ways to think about their own memory and how they too can motivate themselves to engage in memorization. Assuming the associative material isn’t too over the top, you can even describe one or two of the images you’ve used to memorize different bits of vocabulary by way of demonstrating how the system works. That way you are rehearsing and compounding while educating.
But before any of that, the next part in the Action sequence is, of course, actually sitting down and placing the vocabulary in your Memory Palaces. This is done by carefully selecting the kinds of words you want to work on during designated times of appropriate energy, breaking the words up into component parts whenever possible and then using the time-honored principles of location, imagination and action to aid your recall of the vocabulary later.
Maintenance & Rehearsal: For many of my coaching clients, the Maintenance and Rehearsal stage is the most pleasurable. Here’s where you really get to feel the payoff of your progress. You’ve charted out all of your Memory Palaces and the stations within them and have built yourself a substantial pool of words. Now you can regularly test and refine them.
Of course, the Maintenance and Rehearsal stage is just as likely to fall prey to procrastination as any of the other stages, so be sure to revisit yesterday’s email to keep on track in that department because the Maintenance and Rehearsal stage is ultimately where you are going to make the most gains. And Maintenance and Rehearsal is also the stage in which you are effectively using the vocabulary you have memorized either in reading, listening or speaking.
The Magnetic Memory Method Feedback Loop
Now that everything is working with respect to motivation, you should find yourself to be the proud owner of a Magnetic Memorization Feedback Loop. The more motivation you build, the more motivation you feel, and the more motivation you feel, the more motivation you build. All of this leads to greater momentum, and the next thing you know, you’ll have experienced some very edifying breakthroughs as you move towards your goal.
Next time we’ll talk about perfectionism, when to use it and when to avoid it.
Until then, make sure to teach someone what you have learned about memorization. It’s the best way to deepen your own understanding and to help make the world a better – and more memorable – place. The more we remember, the more we can remember, and the more we learn, the more we can learn.