MANY people believe that they are born with either a good memory or a bad one.

The truth is that most of us have an untrained memory and a poor recall system — which means that we can actually take steps to better remember events, passwords, faces, names, dates and so on.

There are many professional courses you can attend and books you can read to help you improve your memory. I have conducted many such courses and trained people on how they can boost their level of recall.

However, the biggest challenge for many people is having the discipline to continue their memory exercises after the training is over. 

Even if you do not attend training courses, it is still possible to improve your memory: You just need to keep two things in mind. 

First, you need to develop a positive mental attitude. Tell yourself you are on the road to developing an excellent memory so that you will be a more effective and efficient person.  

Second, you must be committed to using some proven techniques of memory enhancement until you reach a stage when they become part of your daily life.

You should also note that people have different learning curves and some take longer to learn than others. 

To improve your memory and your ability to recall information when you want it, you need to embrace three fundamental steps of memorisation:

    * Enhancing the power of exaggeration;
    * Improving the power of observation; and
    * Analysing your connections.

In today’s article, I will discuss the power of exaggeration.

Power of exaggeration

Do you notice that you tend to remember things that are unusual?

If you saw a bright pink elephant walking down the street, you would probably remember very well what you were doing at the time.

The simple explanation for this is that pink elephants are an unusual sight.

One of the reasons we are attracted to cartoons — think Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the Pink Panther — is because they inhabit the world of the imagination.

Here, there are no limits on what these characters can do — fly through the sky, survive being run over by a train, become invisible and so on.

No matter how bizarre the storyline, we accept it without question because we suspend our disbelief. We are also more likely to recall these unusual cartoon plots than the main headlines of yesterday’s newspaper! 

So, if you want to improve your memory, try something unusual.

Tell a weird story

Let’s say that you want to go to the supermarket to buy the following items: ham, towel, butter, flowers, milk, pasta, white bread, mustard, cottage cheese and a newspaper.

Normally, you would write a list of these items on a piece of paper and bring it with you.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could easily remember the items without that piece of paper?

Well, you can! Try linking each item to the next by creating an exaggerated story line. Let me show you how:

    * Visualise entering the supermarket.
    * You see a huge hammer (hammer sounds like ham, so remember that you need to buy ham, the first item on your list) flying through the air.
    * The hammer falls into a huge bucket of water, which splashes all over you. You now need a towel (the second thing on your list) to dry yourself. 
    * The towel has a pattern of yellow buttercups, which helps you to remember to buy butter as well as flowers (items 3 and 4).
    * You give the flowers to a cow, which thanks you with a carton of fresh milk (item no 5).
    * You use the milk to make a white sauce for a plate of pasta (item no 6) and eat it with a slice of bread spread with mustard and cottage cheese (items 7, 8 and 9). 
    * This rather gooey and disgusting mix of food spills down your shirt and you grab a newspaper (item 10) to wipe up the mess!

Tip: Make your imaginative story so outlandish that you won’t forget it quickly.

Now, go through this story again in your head and see whether you can recall all the items on the supermarket list.

Tomorrow: Improving observation skills and analysing connections can improve your memory too.