Your experiences and the memories you create from them ensure that your past has been worthwhile, your present is fully appreciated, and your future is full of promise
Dean Martin sang about them and Bob Hope thanked us for them. We all have them, but what creates memories and why is it important to accumulate as many of them as possible?
I have no idea if my own personal categorization of memories has any metaphysical significance, I just know that I tend to sort my memories in one of two ways. Mine are either born out of tradition and, therefore, some form of repetition or they are created out of singular significance. I will do my best to explain.
What I will refer to as the traditional or cumulative memories are the ones that are created by multiple experiences over an extended period of time. For me anyway, these tend to be my most treasured with a few exceptions sprinkled in on occasion.
I have a host of great memories from the many dinners we have shared together as a family over the years. Most of those dinners were enjoyed around our kitchen table. I may not be able to tell you about one specific dinner or what meal we were enjoying at the time, but I remember the laughs and the discussions and the feeling I had during those times as if I was enjoying them all over again right now.
I have been fortunate to thoroughly enjoy my work, especially my time at the credit union. I have many fond memories from this time, but I tend to think most about the accumulation of the strategies, the people, the decisions, and the results as a whole, than I do about one particular event or situation.
I think of my childhood and my high school and college years in much the same way, especially as I get older. Some of the specific memories have started to get a little fuzzy, but the general way in which I remember those times prevails.
These are the types of cumulative memories that I am talking about. There are also the singularly significant as well.
The first time I met my wife, the moment each of my kids were born, and my first day on the job at the credit union are all great examples of singularly significant memories. They are wonderful and they stand out for reasons that are probably obvious.
By the way, I also clearly remember my first black eye, the time I didn’t make the basketball team, and the day my grandmother died. Not pleasant memories, to be sure, but equally as important as the positive ones because they all have contributed to who I am, how I think, and the decisions I make.
All of these types of memories are important. I do not mean to suggest that the cumulative kind are more important than the singularly significant. I do believe, however, that there is something to be said for the number of memories you accumulate and that the more of them you accumulate, the fuller and richer your life becomes.
The human mind and the virtually infinite database it represents is unrivaled and unmatched on this earth or any other. Much of that capacity goes to waste, however, if it isn’t filled with experiences that are indicative of a life well lived.
What constitutes living is up to you to decide, but I would suggest that if you are creating memories worth recording from experiences worth noting, you are well on your way to living a life well lived.
If you buy that thought, let me share this one. A cumulative memory is one that is developed over time and repeated, meaning that if you are enjoying those types of memories, you have found an experience worth seeking again and you have some ability to replicate it.
By definition, a singularly significant memory does not come around too often and if you were to spend your time waiting or hoping for one, you might end up a little disappointed. Additionally, you might be doing something wrong if you experience singularly significant bad memories over and over again.
That black eye that I mentioned, I was in kindergarten when I received it. I remember the girl who gave it to me and you can bet that I made sure I never did anything again to invoke her to punch me in the eye. In other words, I learned from that experience and I made sure I never made that mistake again. To be clear, I picked up a few more black eyes as I got older, but never for the same reason or from the same person.
I guess what I am trying to convey is that your definition of your life, whether you define it right now or much later, will always be based on the experiences and memories that you have accumulated. At that moment, when you look back and assess what you have done and what you have been about to that point, I think that you will want that definition to be as rich and colorful as possible. I don’t think that you should expect your experiences or memories to be devoid of the bad times and events, but I do think that you will want the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you learned from your mistakes and that you grew as a person during times of adversity.
In order to have all of that at your point of reflection, you will need to have maximized your cumulative memories to the fullest, absorbed and basked in the singularly significant positive memories, and persevered through the not so pleasant times.
Memories and learning go hand in hand. You learn from your memories and you cannot create memories without a willingness to learn. The more you can successfully fill your internal database with useful experiences and knowledge, the closer your database will be to capacity and the closer you will be to living your life to its fullest potential.
Your experiences and the memories you create from them ensure that your past has been worthwhile, your present is fully appreciated for the opportunity it affords you, and your future is full of promise and new adventures.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.