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SUPER MEMORIES: A desirable superpower, or weakness?

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If you could be a superhero, what superpower would you ask for? As greedy as I am for knowledge, I always find myself wishing I could know everything. So comes my fixation on memory.

If I could remember everything, then sooner or later I’d know a lot of things, right? But even if you could remember everything, would you want to?

I chatted about memory with Idriz Zogaj, the Swedish award winning memory athlete and co-founder of personal development app Remente. He is founder and Chairman of the Swedish Memory Association and Captain for the Swedish National Memory Team and 2014 World Memory Champions, winning the single gold in Swedish championships from 2004 to 2008.

After learning the amazing things his brain could do, he went on to become an author of books on brain training, lecturing about the topic and taking on entrepreneurial projects to enhance memory training awareness around the world.

He founded Zogaj of Sweden, a company that teaches memory training techniques, and his TEDx talk on How To Become A Memory Master has more than 3.5 million views, making it one of the world’s most watched TEDx talks.

His latest project is in collaboration with a team of business leaders building international and scalable businesses. It is a free-to-use personal development platform for individuals and businesses, combining psychology with brain and mental training to help users lead a healthier lifestyle.

So, will this app help me know everything? And is remembering everything even good? Will I be miserable if I know it all?

Idriz explained that forgetting is a natural part of how the brain works, so we must forget to “function normally”; if you could remember everything, it wouldn’t work out.

“For example, imagine you have a bicycle that you have owned for 5 years and you remember equally well every location you put the bike in every day for those 5 years. Now if I tell you: “Go get the bike!” your brain would not know where to go since all of the places you put it in are equally well memorised. Your brain would ask: “Which of the large amount of days/times are you referring to?

“However, forgetting where you put the bike yesterday or last week makes it easy to know where you put it today – which is the only important place to remember. It is in the short term memory for that day. So yes, many things are good to forget and you do that without thinking about it all the time. Learning and forgetting are two sides of the same coin. The more you learn to remember, the more you will understand exactly how the “forgetting part” works.”

So if I were to remember everything I would probably go mental, but would I also be miserable? The memory mentor explains that, for example, it is common in therapy to try to transform and change memories:

“Different kinds of phobia can today be treated by changing the way we see the particular element that causes the phobia. Hence you are changing negative memories to something that is easier to handle. As memory athletes, we know memories can be transformed. However we are not in any way experts in it in the therapeutic sense.”

Similarly, happy thoughts are easier to remember and if you make a fun story or have fun when you study, you will remember more.

Sharing some of his personal memory tips, Idriz explains: “If you want to remember something fast and you put in a negative light on it – your brain might hesitate as it reads the signal for sadness or fear, which you don’t want. So yes, memories can be seen as a tool to happiness in the sense that the brain strives naturally to remember more what is positive and what makes you happy.”

Then again, it is easy to remain sceptical. I’ve always tried really hard to learn how to remember things; I’ve read all the books, watched all the videos, learned the techniques, yet none of this practice ever managed to convert into real life results. I was being lazy and my mind would just grow to remember what I was already good at remembering – real life moments I had experienced, rather than numbers and names, which are elements I’ve always struggled with.

Idriz, again, had the perfect answers.

“We are not ignorant because we want to be, but because we are not taught to use our brain like we are taught to use our body,” described Idriz, underlining that this is the reason he writes children’s books and makes games that are for children from three years of age upwards.

“Because you can show and teach a child from an early age how their brain works in terms of creating good and strong memories, the techniques are extremely easy – it is like learning to run. You just have to start running early to make it very easy and natural. If you start later in life, you will struggle a bit more – but can still be an extremely good runner. This week I am training a group of 90+ year-olds, so it is never too late to start!”

So, obviously intrigued, I downloaded the app. With Idriz’s explanation, I started using it. Catch me round in a while? Maybe I’ll be able to memorize all the freckles on your face.

“Remente has the knowledge and the tools to make you understand how your brain works and how you can train it. Memory training on its own is fun, but can be rather useless. However, putting the training in context so that you can set good goals, and achieve them, makes the whole process of memory training fun and gives it a much deeper meaning.

“It is also essential to understand your brain when it comes to stress, setting achievable goals, sleeping well and many other things that will affect your ability to learn, remember and be well... memory training is one piece of the puzzle. A very essential piece, but still just a piece,” concluded the memory champion.

In my opinion, the app won't make you some superhuman memory whizz, but it does have the building blocks to help you understand the functionality of memory in the greater picture of well-being. The message though really is always the same: you can read all the books you want and watch all the videos you want, but unless you actually actively practice, meticulously, it will take time to perfect your memory.

This app could possibly help you figure some of your life planning out, but it won’t do everything on its own; I’m guessing that’s just up to you.

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