Permission-based Memorization

800px-Permission_(6602323811)Dear Memorizers,

I’ve been practicing bass today, some ridiculously complicated stuff that I often have a hard time motivating myself to learn and implement, particularly soloing over chord changes.

Why should getting myself “in the shed,” as my favorite YouTube bass teacher Scott Devine calls it, be so darn difficult? I love bass, after all, and constantly feel blessed that I play such a beautiful instrument.

I really can’t explain it, but it seems that a lot of people struggle with this gap between authentic desire and a lack of motivation.

So there I was, noodling away on my bass in a completely unstructured way instead of focusing on alternating between roots to fifths and roots to thirds when I remembered something I have used for years to get myself to open up the dictionary and memorize vocabulary.

It’s this: I give myself permission to work on vocabulary memorization.

Let me tell you, this is a lot different than saying: I have to memorize ten words today. And I have to preplan the journey beforehand in my Memory Palace before I do it.

When I talk like that to myself, I build up resistance. The resistance gets even worse when I tell myself that I must.

Working with Memory Palaces is kind of like working out at the gym, after all, the sort of activity where you’re really glad you’re doing it once you feel that plateau hit and you’re super impressed with yourself when the workout is finally done.

But “have to” and “must” really dampen the mood. Especially considering the fact that memorizing thousands of words can seem far more numbing than merely lifting weights or running around the track.

So here’s what to do instead (on bass, Memory Palace-assisted vocabulary memorization, or whatever it is you might be inadvertently resisting even though it’s something you really want to do):

Give yourself permission. Say something like: “Today I am allowed to spend ten minutes predetermining a path through one of my Memory Palaces, and once that’s done, I’m allowed to open the dictionary and memorize ten new words.”

It’s hard to underestimate just how good this can make you feel about engaging in the activities that will allow you to reach your goals until you’ve tried it.

And if you never have any problems motivating yourself to memorize vocabulary, congratulations. You are a mnemonic titan!

Until next time, teach someone else what you’ve learned about memorization. Teaching a skill is one of the best ways to learn it and helping people improve their memory is one of the best ways we can make the world a better place. The more we remember, the more we can remember. And the more we learn, the more we can learn.

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