How much do you think you can improve your memory? The answer may surprise you.

Did you know that your three-pound brain (approximately 1.4 kilograms) contains 100 billion brain cells that can form gazillions of connections? According to Karen DeBord, PhD, “there are enough brain cells to learn just about anything.” There you go. If I were you, I would not worry about how much I could improve my memory. If I had to worry at all, it would be about how to improve my memory—how to do it quickly and naturally.

Use It or Lose It

You have heard before that your mind is like a muscle. And a muscle that is not used is lost by atrophy. You may rely on shopping lists for your groceries, a phone book for your phone numbers, a diary for your appointments, an alarm on your mobile phone to remind you when your appointments are, and a string tied around your finger to remember who you are married to. Need I say more?

A Gruesome Word

The answer, of course, is to practice. Now I have said it—the horrible word. I know, I know, a pill would be so much better. So easy. The problem is that easy solutions seldom work. Not in the long run. Steroids do work to build your muscles, but in the long run, do they do more good or harm?

The Good News and a Party Trick

The good news, of course, is that as you practice, the process of practicing itself becomes easier. Then it becomes like second nature.

Imagine this: You walk into a room and stay just long enough to take one glance around. You walk out. And then you make everyone’s head turn when you recite each and every object that was in the room. Yes, every single object in sight. It is totally possible, but can it be done with memory tricks or super-brain-me pills?

The Secret Key

I do not have the room in this chapter to teach you the whole method, but what I can do is tell you the secret key. Just knowing this key, and applying it by practicing what I am about to share with you, should give your memory powers an enormous boost.

Are you ready? Okay, just before I share the secret key with you, I would like to say one thing: The method I am about to show you requires some earnest thinking on your part. Most people are just too lazy to indulge in such mental effort. The Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss used to say that “thinking hurts—and that’s why so few people do it.” Please, do not let that be you.

So here we go. The one big key to remembering anything is to cultivate attention.

So What Is the Big Deal?

Now, I am guessing you have one of the following two questions for me:

1. Isn’t that really too obvious? That in order to remember something, you need to pay attention?
2. What does that mean, really, to cultivate attention? How do you do that?

Let us take the first question first. Yes, in one way it seems really obvious. Of course you cannot remember anything unless you really notice it first. However, strangely, most of us really do not pay attention that well. And when we try to, we are really not as good at it as we would want to be.

Still skeptical? Okay, I will prove to you that you do not really pay attention, even to the happenings in your own life. Let us perform a tiny experiment that truly shocked me the first time I tried it.

Try and see if you can recall the incidents of the same day as today, one week ago. Stop reading this book, look away from the page, and try recalling what you did exactly one week ago. Do it now.

How much could you remember?

Now try this: How about yesterday? How much can you remember from yesterday?

If you are like most people, you remember hardly anything from last week and only some occurrences from yesterday.

What would your situation be like if you were to testify in court regarding the happenings of the previous day or the day of the week before? Again, most people would be in a bad position if this were to happen.

But relax. It is not your fault. You have never been trained on how to use your memory properly. So why could you not easily remember what you did yesterday or last week? It is because you did not make an effort at the time to store those memories. You let them slip by you. You did not want to be bothered with the recollection of trifles, so you made the mistake of failing to store them away.

William Walker Atkinson teaches that there is an immense difference between dwelling on the past and storing away memories for future reference. To allow the records of each day to be destroyed is like shredding important business papers in an office just to avoid giving them a little space in the file cabinet.

Now why on earth would you want to do that?

How to Cultivate Attention

You would not! So let us stop that right now. And that is what question number two is all about. What does it mean, really, to cultivate attention? How do you do that?

Here is how I do it: First, I tell myself that this is a question of will. I need to really want it. I need to want to cultivate my attention. My mental powers and I as a person will grow through this process. So I want it. I want it bad.

Then I turn my attention onto something uninteresting, something I find absolutely boring, like the ceiling in my office. It is white and dull. I start studying its details. After having overcome the compulsion to tell myself that it is white and there is nothing to study, I start finding details. It is cracked in some places. The paint is not the same thickness everywhere. There is a yellowish spot right above the door. There seems to be a texture to it, like it is made out of concrete.

And I do this with many things throughout the day. I find that it develops my powers of voluntary attention and perception. And that is the first requirement for memory development.

So how would you go about practicing for the party trick where you remembered every single object in a room? Here is how. Let us say that every day, you walk past a shop window (most of us do on our way to work, but if you do not, the same strategy can be utilized in a number of different ways). Try, as you walk by, to just throw a quick glance into the window, and then see how many objects you can remember afterward. Write them down. In the beginning you will probably only be able to remember one or two objects. But after a while, you will remember more and more, and in the end you will quite probably be able to remember all the objects you laid your eyes on.

In conclusion, there is no reason for you to worry about how much you can improve your memory. The brain has enough brain cells to learn just about anything. If you are willing to practice the art of paying attention, doing so patiently and knowing that there is no royal road to a better, natural memory, you will see extraordinary results.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit

Author's Bio: 

Sten M. Andersen helps you develop your memory in a natural way. For a free e-mail course, register at