Memory and imagination are inextricably connected. In fact, your memory is imagined. It’s not concrete nor objective fact. But rather, your memory is how you stored, connected, and interpreted a person, place, or thing.
Your memory gets better as you become more imaginative. Very few people have learned how to utilize their long-term memory. And because many people have poor memory strategies they are ineffective learners, they lack creativity, and they lack confidence in themselves.
If you can’t remember something, you didn’t learn it.
Once you become powerful at maximizing your memory, your learning goes from the conscious to the subconscious level much quicker. Once learning becomes subconscious, you have more control and ownership of it.
When something becomes subconscious, you can then use it to create a more powerful physical reality. As Napoleon Hill said, “The subconscious mind will translate into its physical equivalent, by the most direct and practical method available.”
Again, memory is all about imagination. You can’t remember something if you don’t connect it to something else. All learning is simply association — connecting what you currently know with something you don’t yet know.
In this short post, you’ll learn a simply yet effective strategy for:
- increasing your memory and imagination
- which will allow you to direct your subconscious mind more effectively
- in order to create the outcomes you seek (and also create some beyond what you seek!)
Here’s a simple routine to get started:
Ten minutes before going to sleep:
“All of the information that you have ever encountered is contained within your subconscious mind. The subconscious mind never forgets anything.” — Taryn Crimi
It’s common practice for many of the world’s most successful people to intentionally direct the workings of their subconscious mind while they’re sleeping.
For example, Thomas Edison would take time every night, just before bed, to prepare his subconscious mind to chew on, twist, organize, and create powerful solutions to his creative problems.
He was very conscious about this process. As he said, “Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.”
Edison was a memory machine. He was a voracious reader and he remembered practically everything he read. He was able to remember nearly everything he read because he understood the interplay between memory, imagination, and the subconscious mind.
Because he understood the connection between memory and creativity — both of which are simply connecting things — he was able to become one of the world’s most important inventors. His imagination and ability to make new connections was explosive.
You can’t be truly creative without having a powerful memory. And you can’t have a powerful memory without becoming creative. The two go hand-in-hand.
How does this work?
Firstly, memory is not about willpower. Willpower is a linear and brutish approach to accomplishing something. Imagination and creativity are far more powerful methods, which are also non-linear and can stretch in many different ways.
In his book, Unlimited Memory, Kevin Horsley said, “Emile Coue pointed out that, ‘When the imagination and the will are in conflict, the imagination always wins.’ If you ‘will’ yourself to remember, and your imagination is not on the task, you will have zero retention and recall. Your imagination is the place of all your memory power.”
The healthiest memories are flexible, not fixed. You can change them, alter them, manipulate, and expand them. The more imaginative you are in attempting to remember something, the easier it is to remember.
Here’s an example:
- Let’s say you’re trying to remember something from a book you’ve read
- All you need to do is connect the idea or concept to something relevant in your life
- You want to turn it into a visual
- The more of your senses you can connect to the experience, the deeper engrained it can go into your long-term memory
- Once in your long-term memory, it becomes subconscious, and thus far more powerful than something you have to consciously focus on
- When something becomes unconscious, it begins connecting itself to other areas of your brain, other ideas, and other memories
Every time you recall a memory, your whole brain fires and wires new connections together.
So what was Thomas Edison doing a few minutes before he went to bed at night? He was visualizing. He was connecting all of the ideas he was reading with other experiences and memories from his past. His memory was powerful because he was extremely imaginative about the process.
The more imaginative and creative you get about remembering something, the more subconscious that memories becomes. Consequently, you don’t want to place any limitations on how you connect ideas. You can even get a little weird about it.
Research has found that play is extremely good for neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Play, then, is also very good for memory.
As an example of making something imaginative:
- Let’s say you’re trying to remember how memory, imagination, and the subconscious mind work together
- You could think of your memory as a giant floating blob — what specifically reminds you of giant floating blobs? The first thing that comes to my mind is the Pokémon, Gastly
- You then connect that with imagination — which reminds me of unicorns
- So immediately I’m imagining the Pokémon Gastly riding on top of a unicorn
- You then connect memory and imagination with the idea of the subconscious mind — which reminds me of the book, Think and Grow Rich
- So now I’ve got Gastly reading a copy of Think and Grow Rich while riding on top of a unicorn
- To make the experience even more immersive, you could tap into all of your senses, such as smell, taste, and touch — so in this case, Gastly smells like something strange from a chemistry lab and the unicorn smells like a bowl of Lucky Charms; also, when they ride by you can feel Gastly’s smoke, which feels like a thick-moist mist and you can actually taste Lucky Charms
Creativity is all about connecting things together. So inevitably, Thomas Edison was probably thinking in a highly imaginative way about various ideas and trying to connect them together. He gave himself a few minutes to do this before going to sleep, then he’d pass out.
While he was sleeping, his subconscious mind started connecting, organizing, synthesizing, shaping, and creating.
Ten minutes after waking up:
Research confirms the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, is most active and readily creative immediately following sleep. Conversely, the analytical parts of the brain become more active as the day goes on. The study looked at morning and evening MRI scans and observed that mornings showed more connections in the brain — a key element to the creative process.
Your subconscious mind has been loosely mind-wandering while you slept, making contextual and temporal connections. Thus, your brain and mind are primed for creation and learning.
Edison certainly woke up early and even wrote in his journal first thing in the morning. He spent his morning in creative activity. Over 3,500 notebooks of Edisons have been found.
The notebooks are filled with interesting observations and insights — many pertaining to unrelated projects, in a flow of associations and connections. Consecutive sketches — some rough and others executed with precision— traverse a vast spectrum of technologies and inventions.
In other words, Edison often journaled in the morning in a stream-of-consciousness manner. He would allow his mind to connect seemingly unrelated ideas together and in due process would often come up with inspired and creative connections.
For example, in one journal entry he was predicting ideas related to potential flight (decades before the Wright Brother’s success) and then getting ah-ha’s related to his work on the telephone.
Here’s how his journal entry began, dated May 26, 1877:
“If you look very closely at any printed matter so that the print is greatly blurred and you see double images of the type . . . one of the double images is always blue or ultra violet=
“Glorious= Telephone perfected this morning 5 AM.”
— — —
In an interview with Tim Ferriss, Josh Waitzkin, former chess prodigy and tai chi world champion, explains his morning routine to tap into the subconscious breakthroughs and connections experienced while he was sleeping.
Unlike 80 percent of people between the ages of 18–44 who check their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up, Waitzkin goes to a quiet place, does some meditation and grabs his journal.
In his journal, he thought-dumps for several minutes. Thus, rather than focusing on input like most people who check their notifications, Waitzkin’s focus is on output. This is how he taps into his higher realms of clarity, learning, and creativity — what he calls, “crystallized intelligence.”
“The possibilities of creative effort connected with the subconscious mind are stupendous and imponderable. They inspire one with awe.” — Napoleon Hill
Pulling all of this together:
- Spend lots of time learning and reading
- The more methodologies to your learning the better — experiential learning and “context-based” learning are often more powerful than simply reading
- As you learn, try to connect what you’re learning in an imaginative way with something you already know
- Have tangible goals you’re working toward and problems you’re trying to solve — as Darren Hardy once said, “Your life can be measured in proportion to the size of problems you’re trying to solve.”
- Spend a few minutes just before bed visualizing the ideas, concepts, challenges, experiences, of what you’re trying to accomplish — also visualize the completion of your project or attainment of your goal
- While you sleep, your subconscious mind will have something powerful and potent to work with, since you’ve creating many different connections throughout your brain related to whatever it is you’re thinking about
- When you wake up first thing in the morning, drink a huge glass of water, go to a quiet place, and start writing in your journal in a stream-of-consciousness manner
- Once you start getting creative ideas, keep writing — it’s usually the idea after the idea that really matters
All of this is related to what psychologists call “epiphany ability,” which is something you can master throughout your life, just like memory and creativity.
The scientific definition of an epiphany consists of 3 crucial elements:
- abandoning the old ineffective thoughts (i.e. breaking mental fixation);
- formulating the new and effective thoughts (forming the new novel associations)
- experiencing the intense thrilling feeling of “Aha”
You can become very good at getting epiphanies or creative break-throughs. You’ll need to be open to new experiences, though. Which apparently is quite rare. Research shows that people become less and less open to new experiences as they age.
You’ll need to develop a powerful memory and imagination strategy. You’ll need to become more playful and free about how you learn and remember things.
Your memory is not objective, it’s subjective. Memory is created and re-created every time it is recalled and associated with something new. Healthy memories are flexible.
Because your memory is flexible and highly imaginative, you have far more creative control into who you become than you probably think you do.
You can become a powerful creative thinker. You can become extremely intelligent. You can become productive and prolific. You can quickly develop expertise in difficult areas.
The question is: will you take the time and learn the skills? Or will you let the invaluable tool of your mind and memory go to waste?
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This article first appeared on Medium.