Video Update: How to Build a Stronger Memory

By: Jodi Baker Email
By: Jodi Baker Email

For anyone who’s forgotten a name, had a hard time cramming for an exam, or who panicked over giving a presentation – it all comes down to memory. A local memory coach said with some simple strategies, anyone can improve their recollection.

Dennis Rourke wrote the book, “The Lost Art of Human Memory,” and has been coaching people for years. His client list includes executives and managers at Boeing Aircraft, Union Pacific and the U.S. Air Force.

Rourke advises clients to link the things that are difficult to remember with things are easier to remember. “We're very good at remembering places, things that are silly, images, things that may be painful or frightening,” he said.

“If we build images like that and you learn to do that very quickly and put them in specific places, that you already have organized in your mind, like your own living room, you can quickly put whatever it is you want to learn in a space where you can go back and get it."

Rourke demonstrated how he by asking people to call out numbers from one to ten, but out of order, and random objects to go with them. As soon as the list was called off, he’d put them back in order and read each and every one back correctly, using an organization system that he’s developed over time that works for him.

Number seven’s object was a car transmission. “When you say number seven, I picture a cow,” he said. He always pictures a cow to represent the number seven, based on a consonance sound system he uses.

“The item was an automatic transmission and I pictured that cow had an automatic transmission in its belly, moving it along. That’s all it took to bring my mind back to the image.” Everyone’s brain works a little differently, though, he said, so recall methods will vary.

For Bob Kelly, Director of Development for Lakeside Hospital, visualization proved to be extremely powerful. He turned to Rourke earlier this year for help in studying for a crucial healthcare certification. The test was going to be four-hours long, and Kelly fewer than a third of those who take it, pass the test the first time out.

“I’m 60 years of age and I haven’t studied for a test like this in years and years,” he said. There was added pressure, he said, knowing he’d be the first in his department to take the test. He wanted to set a good example.

He said Rourke helped Kelly take what was on his note cards and translate them to objects around his house. For instance, “I looked up at this picture and I said I can take three or four images and plant them in that picture and it worked.”

Rourke said cues that are bizarre, humorous, perhaps even offensive, tend to work the best. "We try to learn those things that are the fastest reactions in the mind because those are usually the strongest - things like survival, things that are silly, things that don't fit, things that are painful - and we make images that use that so that the mind immediately tends to it."

For someone who has a hard time remembering where they set their keys down, he suggested imagining them coming to life and scratching the surface of where they’re placed. Later, that image and that location should come back easily.

The techniques worked for Kelly. “He was able to sort of fire up my imagination and enliven it and make it more vivid,” he said. “It exercised whatever parts of my brain, and I came out of it with a better memory."

Rourke offers lunch workshops for businesses. He has a longer workshop, coming up Saturday, November 10th. It will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at UNO’s Scott Conference Center, 6450 Pine Street. The cost is $195, which includes a book and study materials. To register or learn more, visit the link below.

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