MEMORY IS USE IT OR LOSE IT “
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EVERYTHING ABOUT BRAIN
Your Dreams Can Help You
The use of dreams to help in creativity is well documented. Elias Howe, the inventor of the sewing machine tried for months to think of a way to attach the thread to the needle. One night he dreamt he was being attacked by a group of natives who challenged him to invent the sewing machine or die. He noticed in his dream that the tip of their spears had a hole in it. He woke up and decided that was how the thread was going to be attached to the needle – the rest, as they say, is history
Do you realise that the brain cannot process a negative command or statement? If you say to your child “be careful, don’t spill your milk” as they carry the glass full of milk across the kitchen the child has to actually think of spilling the milk so that it can take the necessary action not to do it. We tend to get what we focus on and so by the child thinking of spilling milk that is often what tends to happen which normally results in a loud “But I told you not to spill that milk”. So the moral of the story is ask for what you want, not what you don’t want.
Stress and Memory
One of the biggest destroyers of memory is stress. When you are stressed you release high levels of cortisol into your bloodstream. One of the ways that cortisol affects you is that it destroys glucose – the brain’s only source of food. So if your brain is not getting the nutrients it needs then it will not function as well.
Have you ever thought of this:
- the literature that has ever been written in the modern English Language consists of patterns of only 26 letters
- the paintings ever made are patterns of only three primary colours
- the music ever written consists of patterns of no more than 12 notes
- the arithmetical expressions we know consists of only 10 symbols
- for the vast computations of digital computers, everything is made up of patterns of only two components.
So whenever we speak of something as being “new” we are really talking about original patterns of already existing components.
Impulse Control and its effects on Intelligence
Have you ever heard about the tests that offered young children the option of having one bag of sweets now or by waiting a few minutes could have 2 bags of sweets? If you have kids, what do you think yours would do, wait for the extra payoff or immediately indulge in instant gratification?
This research was carried out with four year olds and to give you an idea of the temptation, the sweets were placed in front of the children, they were given the options and then the researcher left the room (and the sweets) in front of the class. As you can imagine, some of the children took their one bag of sweets almost as soon as the researcher’s back was turned as she left the room. Other children however used a variety of methods to distract themselves from the sweets such as closing their eyes, talking to themselves or playing with their hands and feet. Once the researcher returned, these children were rewarded with the extra sweets that their more impulsive friends had foregone for the immediate fulfilment.
The researchers tracked down these children over 10 years later and discovered that those who had resisted the temptation were more socially competent, personally more effective, self assertive and better able to deal with the frustrations of life. Those who had grabbed at the sweets had fewer of these traits and shared a relatively more troubled psychological profile. Even more interesting is that as they left High School, those who had waited for the sweets were much better students. The research found that the ability to deny impulse was a strong indicator of success.
Men and Women are different
I am sure you will be aware that there is a huge amount of research that explores the psychological differences between men and women. What this research has found is that generally (and I will stress “generally” as these findings do not apply to every single man or woman) the following patterns have emerged:
* Score better than men on some language tasks
* Show a faster rate of language development
* Score better than men on some tests of social judgement, empathy and co-operation
* Are better at tests that involve generating ideas.
* Perform better than women on mathematical reasoning tasks
* Score higher at tests that involve distinguishing between figure and background
* Find it easier to rotate objects in their mind’s eye
* Are better at hitting targets
I will stress that these findings do not show that one sex is better than the other, they show that they are different.
In the box below you will see a sentence. What I’d like you to do is for you to count all of the letter “F”s that you can find.
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS
If you thought the answer was 3 then count again because the answer is 6. Have a look at the next box and you will see what I mean.
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS
Now the reason for this is because the brain processes the smaller familiar “of”s as single syllable words (“ov”) instead of breaking them down as it does with the longer relatively unfamiliar words. It is believed that these two types of words are processed in different areas of the Brain.
A Baby Needs Sharp Contrasts to See
In the first few months of its life, a baby’s brain will lay down its main visual pathways. Different layers in the cortex deal with different signals transmitted from the retina, along the optic nerve to the back of the brain. One layer transmits horizontal lines and another vertical lines. If a baby only saw horizontal lines as the visual pathways were laid down in its brain then it would bang into vertical objects (such as chair legs etc) as it crawled because its brain could not process the vertical lines of these structures.
Therefore, to give the baby the stimulus for its visual pathways to develop, researchers recommend that stark black and white contrasting shapes are more appropriate than bland pastel wall coverings popular in young children’s bedrooms.
Parts of Our Brain Grow at Different Rates!!
If you are a parent I am sure you have experienced the “Terrible Twos” – that time in a child’s development when tantrums are the order of the day. If you are not a parent but have spent some time around very young children it is that part of a child’s behaviour that makes you question whether you ever want to be a parent!! The Terrible Twos occur when a child knows what he wants to communicate but does not have the speech skill to say what he or she wants to say. Out of frustration the child will very often get angry and throw a tantrum.
So why does this happen? Well there are a number of factors but one of the most significant causes is related to rate at which parts of the brain mature. The language areas of the brain become active when a child is about 18 months old. Unfortunately for parents, the understanding part of the brain matures before the part that produces speech. This of course results in that time when toddlers understand more than they can say, hence the frustration
We Can See Our Brain Thinking!!
If you scan the brain and then give that person different activities to do then different areas of the brain will “light up” under the scan. For example a different area of the brain will light up when the subject is listening to words than when he or she listens to music.
Cab Drivers have Bigger Brains!
A study has found that after learning all of the routes necessary to be a Taxi Driver, the part of the brain used for remembering routes was bigger than in other people.
A study conducted by the University of Bristol has found that too much jet lag can affect the memory and impair thinking. The study was carried out on female cabin staff who had been flying across time zones for more than 4 years and identified that these women had slower reaction times and worse short term memory compared to check-in staff colleagues. It was not identified whether the deficiencies were temporary or permanent
ACTIVE LEARNING ( रहस्य- ReHeSSay)
It has been said that on average we remember
20% of what we read
30% of what we hear
40% of what we see
50% of what we say
60% of what we do
90% of what we see, hear, say and do
Most people know about IQ (Intelligence Quotient) as a measurement of intelligence but there is doubt about whether it is an accurate assessment of someone’s ability. Harvard Professor of Education Howard Garner came up with a theory of Multiple Intelligences to measure human intellectual competence. These are:
LINGUISTIC INTELLIGENCE – The ability to read, write and communicate.
LOGICAL – MATHEMATICAL INTELLIGENCE – The ability to reason, calculate and think in a logical manner.
VISUAL – SPATIAL INTELLIGENCE – The ability to think in pictures and visualise a result.
MUSICAL – INTELLIGENCE – The ability to make or compose music or understand and appreciate it.
BODILY- KINESTHETIC INTELLIGENCE – The ability to use your body skillfully to solve problems, create products or present ideas and emotions.
INTER PERSONAL (SOCIAL) INTELLIGENCE – The ability to work effectively with others.
INTRAPERSONAL INTELLIGENCE – The ability for self analysis and reflection.
NATURALIST INTELLIGENCE – The ability to recognise flora and fauna.
If you consider these intelligences, where do your strengths lie and how can you improve them?
Did you know that your brain thinks at different frequencies depending upon what it is doing? There are four types of wave and they are categorised by their frequency (cycles per second) and they are:
Beta (13-25 cycles per second) – Awake and alert
Alpha (8-12 cycles per second) – Daydreaming
Theta (4-7 cycles per second) – Early stages of sleep
Delta (½ -3 cycles per second) – Deep sleep
YOUR REPTILIAN BRAIN
Did you know that there is a part of you that is also found in lower life forms such as lizards, crocodiles and birds? It is the part of your brain that is at the base of your skull emerging from your spinal column. It is responsible for basic functions like breathing, heart rate and the fight or flight mechanism. So the next time that you feel threatened in any way, know that it is your reptilian brain that is controlling that instinct.
YOUR FANTASTIC EYES
Did you know that your eyes can take in information in one five hundredth (1/500th) of a second. That means that if you read one word at a time you can read 500 in a second which gives you a reading speed of 30,000 words a minute! Now it is not quite as simple as that but whatever speed you are reading at now, you can do it much, much faster. So what is holding you back?
WIRING THE BRAIN
If you take a Cray Computer (one of the largest computers in the world) and measure its wiring, it has about 60,000 miles in total. If you take the brain and look at it in those terms, it has been estimated that it has over 200,000 miles of wiring!
COMPARISONS WITH THE BRAIN
The Brain is often compared with objects and performance figures in the real world to give us an idea of the complexity and power it has. One example is that if you compared all of the world’s telephone systems with the brain, by comparison they would only occupy space that was the size of a small pea! Another comparison is that the Cray Computer, one of the largest computers in the world can make 400 million calculations a second. If it did that for one hundred years it would equal what the brain can do in a minute!
HOW BIG IS THE BRAIN?
The Brain is about the size of two clenched fists and weighs about 3 pounds (1.4 kilogrammes) and contains 1000 trillion trillion (that is a very big number!) Protein molecules.
HYPNOSIS AND TOTAL RECALL
Do we have total recall? Well experiments with hypnosis suggest that we do and that our only problem is the conscious access to all of that stored information. An example of this was recorded at Yale University. Ten years after he had completed work on a building using distinctive bricks, a bricklayer was hypnotised and asked if he could describe any particular brick. With incredible clarity he described a certain brick in a certain wall, noting its colour and unique features. Amazingly, when checked, his description of the brick was perfect.
YOU THINK IN PICTURES
Did you know that you think in pictures? Just think about your day so far. You got out of bed, probably showered, got dressed, had your breakfast and then went to school. Now as you remember all of that, do you see a description of the events of the early part of your day written out in words and sentences? Or do you see pictures of what you did? Of course you saw the pictures in your own mind. Now ask yourself this question: If I think in pictures, doesn’t it make sense that I should use more pictures in my notes? A picture speaks a thousand words and it is easier to recall information in picture form than just from words alone.
Last month, I told you that one of the essential brain foods was oxygen. How important is it to get oxygen to the brain? Well although the brain amounts to only about 2% of the body’s weight, it consumes 25% of the body’s oxygen intake!
Your brain needs four basic foods to survive:
1. Oxygen (aerobic exercise is good for you).
2. A balanced and nutritious diet (eat your greens).
3. New and varied knowledge and information (keep on learning).
4. Affection and love.
MUSIC IS GOOD FOR THE BRAIN
Shastri Sangeet produces exactly the right frequency and sound to harmonise the functioning of the brain and produce a state of calm relaxed alertness. That is why accelerated learning techniques introduce music into the learning process.
Music can also strengthen or weaken you. Classical music has been shown to have either a neutral or a strengthening effect but Rock Music has a weakening effect!
THE MIND SEARCHES FOR PATTERNS
The mind tends to organise the information that it receives and tries to reduce them to simple patterns. This means that if the information fits into a certain pattern, it will help you in trying to remember it.
Furthermore, if you categorise the information that you are trying to memorise, you will be more likely to recall it. This was demonstrated in an experiment where two groups of people were given the same 100 words. One group was told to memorise them and the other was just told to sort and organise the words in the list. When both groups were tested the results in recalling the list of words were the same. This showed that categorising and organising information has a significant effect on the ability to recall that information.
WHY REPETITION IS IMPORTANT
When you create a memory, a pathway is created between your brain cells. It is like clearing a path through a dense forest. The first time that you do it, you have to fight your way through the undergrowth. If you don’t travel that path again, very quickly it will become overgrown and you may not even realise that you have been down that path. If however, you travel along that path before it begins to grow over, you will find it easier than your first journey along that way.
Successive journeys down that path mean that eventually your track will turn into a footpath, which will turn into a lane, which will turn into a road, and into a motorway and so on. It is the same with your memory: the more times that you repeat patterns of thought, for example when learning new information, the more likely you will be able to recall that information. So repetition is a key part of learning. If you look at the article on your Brain’s natural rhythms you will find the optimum plan for reviewing (repeating) information to get it into your long term memory.
Did you know that our visual recognition of things that we have seen before is practically perfect? This has been proved by showing 2560 photographic slides at the rate of one every ten seconds to a group of subjects and then testing them by showing 280 pairs of slides with one slide in each pair from the original set of images.
The subjects were then asked to select which slide they had seen before. They recognised 85 to 95 percent of the original slides correctly and even maintained these high scores when the presentation rate was increased to one every second.
So why is this important to us? Well, if we use images and pictures in our notes that represent information, we are more likely to remember that information.
KNOWLEDGE OF THE BRAIN’S POTENTIAL
Did you know that over 40 years ago it was estimated that we only used 50 per cent of the brain’s potential?
Did you know that over 30 years ago it was estimated that we used 40 per cent of our brain’s potential?
20 years ago it was thought that we used between 20 and 30 per cent of our mind’s capabilities.
Even just over 10 years ago we still thought that we used between 5 and 20 per cent of the brain’s potential.
But now, in the 1990s, we know that we are consciously using less than one per cent of our brain’s capabilities.
Therefore the potential for what we can achieve is enormous. I have asked you before and I will ask you again, what are you going to do to realise your brain’s potential?
WHERE IS YOUR BRAIN?
It is only in the last 500 years or so that mankind has realised that the brain was located in the skull. It was thought the brain was located in the heart and stomach area because that was where direct experience of the physical manifestation of mental activity was felt.
Your Brain’s Potential
In the brain there are 1,000,000,000,000 (a million million) individual neurons or nerve cells.
If each neuron can interact with anywhere between 1 and 100,000 other neurons then the brain’s potential for pattern forming (the number of possible permutations) is a massive number that even in normal text would require 10.5 million kilometres of space to write one after the other!
That means that your brain has an almost infinite capacity for storing information.
What are you going to learn today to start realising your potential?
Your Brain is Divided in Half!!!
The upper part of our brain is divided into two halves.
In most people, the left half deals with logic, words, lists, number, linearity, and analysis etc.
The right half deals with rhythm, imagination, colour, day-dreaming, spatial awareness, Gestalt (whole picture) and dimension.
Studies have shown that the more we use both sides of our brain, then the more effective our overall brain performance is.
Many of the great minds of our times used both sides of their brains.
The Power of Suggestion
You may have seen examples of this yourself, but consider the scene – a very strong man is hypnotised and all of a sudden he is unable to lift a simple pencil off a table even though he is usually able to lift over 300lb. On another occasion, an athlete is given a grip strength test and he registers 100lb. He is then hypnotised and told that he is now much stronger. He is given the tests again and now he registers 125lb! Or seemingly more bizarre, a woman under hypnosis is told that the finger touching her arm is a hot piece of metal and she winces in pain and develops a red mark on her arm!
Each of the above examples demonstrates the power of suggestion delivered under hypnosis. Now you don’t need to be given suggestions under hypnosis for them to be able to work. The difference between hypnosis and normal suggestion (ie no hypnosis) is that with normal suggestion, conscious control is maintained but with hypnosis that control is partially handed over to someone else. So what is the point of all of this and how does it apply to learning?
Well, suggestion can be applied to the way we think and learn to improve those abilities. You see, the thing about the hypnotic process in the example where the athlete’s strength seemingly increased as a result of hypnosis, was that the athlete did not suddenly gain more strength out of nowhere, it was just that his belief about how strong he was changed and with a new, more empowering belief he was able to access more strength. So in effect he wasn’t so much hypnotised as de-hypnotised.
An American psychological researcher investigated the impact of negative self image on students’ ability to learn. What she discovered was that all of the students she studied had innate ability but were unable to fully access that ability because their negative self image and associated beliefs would not let them. These beliefs and hence the poor self image about learning had come about either because they were repeatedly told at an early age that they were no good at maths or, because they had interpreted a single failure early on as a generalization that they were no good at a particular subject. She believed that if she could improve the self image using the power of suggestion then she could improve the student’s ability to learn.
The results were extremely empowering. A “poor” speller with an average success rate of 45% increased it to 91%. A Latin student took her grades from 30% to 84% after just three encouraging chats with her tutor and an English student who was written off won the literary prize a term later.
Help with Spelling
In the mnemonics section I have given you a number of examples of how you can remember the spellings of certain words. This piece looks at a number of other ideas that can also help with reading and spelling.
Kinesiology is the science of motion and has become well known is some countries because of its success with top flight athletes. However, it also has educational applications because of the brain-body connection.
The brain transmits messages both chemically and electrically and blockages occur when the person is stressed. Simply put the brain’s wiring becomes fused as it is short circuited by these blockages and so learning problems can develop. Kinesiologists state that one way to overcome these problems is to do physical exercises that defuse the blockages between the left and right side of the brain. Try the following exercise to improve not only your spelling but also your writing, reading and listening:
1. Stand up and by raising your knees alternately, touch each hand to the opposite knee.
2. Do this 10 times when you are stressed.
3. As a variation, do it with your eyes closed
The theory is that the brain operates best when the left and right sides are working in harmony. This exercise can help you become more coordinated and centred making learning easier and natural.
Helpful hints on Spelling
In their book Dynamic Learning, Robert Dilts and Todd A Epstein offer the following hints on helping children who are having difficulty with “problem” words:
a. Picture the word in their favourite colour
b. Make any unclear letter stand out by making it look different to the others in some way (e.g. size or colour)
c. Break the word into three letter groups and build the word three letters at a time
d. Put the letters on a familiar background like a favourite object or movie scene
e. If it is a long word, make the letters small so that the whole word can be seen.
f. Trace the letters in the air with your finger and picture in your mind the letters that you are writing.
Mirror Writing Problems
Some children have difficulties with letters like “b” and “d” because of the similarity of their shape. In the book “Teach Your Child to Read” by Peter Young and Colin Tyre, the authors recommend “Back Writing”. Place a large piece of paper on a wall at about your child’s shoulder height. Give them a thick pen or crayon and stand them at arms length from the paper. Then with your child facing the paper, write the first letter on their back, tell them what it is and describe how you are drawing it. Then ask your child to draw the letter. This has the best results if you do only one letter at a time.
The “No Blame” Approach to Bullying
This month I want to focus on a subject that although has no direct relevance to learning, its impact on those who are at school, college, university and even in the work place can be devastating. Bullying is a big problem and if you have ever been the victim of a bully you will know how terrible an experience it can be. But how should it be dealt with? Many think that retribution through appropriate punishment is the best way but is it? Is the victim really helped by this approach and do the perpetrators really understand what they have done?
One way that has been developed to deal with the problem is called “The No Blame Approach to Bullying” developed by George Robinson and Barbara Maines. It is a simple 7 step process that has the following four essential ingredients:
The absence of blame
The encouragement of empathy
And the steps involved are as follows:
Step 1 – Talk with the victim
A facilitator trained in the approach talks to the victim to establish the impact that the bullying has had on them. It is not designed to gather “facts” about who said or did what to who. The victim will be encouraged to suggest the names of people to form a group who should help solve the problem. These will include those involved, colluders and perhaps friends of the victim. The victim is also asked to produce a piece of writing or a picture to express how the bullying is affecting them. [*see note at foot of this page, however]
Step 2 – convene a meeting of the group
The facilitator gathers the group together ensuring that there is a balance between helpful and reliable students and those whose behaviour has been causing a problem.
Step 3 – explain the problem
The facilitator explains that there is a problem and that “Sarah” is experiencing certain difficulties. Without discussing specific incidents or accusations the facilitator explains how “Sarah” is feeling using the piece of writing from the victim to illustrate this.
Step 4 – share responsibility
The facilitator points out that no one is going to be punished and that the group has been convened to help solve the problem because there is a shared responsibility for “Sarah’s” happiness.
Step 5 – Ask for ideas
The facilitator asks the group to suggest ways that they may be able to alleviate the suffering felt by the victim. Members of the group are encouraged to use “I” language (I will sit next to her in lessons, I will walk to school with her etc) so that they take ownership of the solutions. These ideas are not imposed on the group by the facilitator.
Step 6 – leave it up to them
The facilitator ends the meeting by passing responsibility for the problem over to the group, thanks them for their support and arranges a meeting to see how things are going.
Step 7 – meet them again
The facilitator meets each of the group individually a week later to see how things are going.
Well, does this work? If you read the book “Crying for Help – the No Blame Approach to Bullying” this month you can establish that for yourself from accounts from teachers, parents and pupils.
An Introduction to Speed Reading
If you are an average reader without any knowledge of Speed Reading Techniques your reading speed is probably in the region of 200-300 words per minute. You might feel a little smug at having what appears to be quite a reasonable reading speed but before you congratulate yourself, understand that despite being the average, this is extremely slow and way below what we as human beings are capable of achieving. Speeds in excess of several thousand words per minute as a minimum are well within the capability of most readers and what prevents us from achieving these seemingly incredible levels is first of all our technique, secondly practice and thirdly and probably the most crucial factor is one of belief.
Now I don’t have time to deal with your beliefs but you can make some dramatic improvements in your reading speed and reading effectiveness simply by improving your basic technique ie the way you actually use your eyes and your brain to read words.
Many people when asked to explain how they think the eye moves across a page of words will describe smooth jumps from one word to the next and to the next, starting at the left hand edge of a line of words travelling to the right hand extremity of that line and then starting again at the first word of the next line and so on.
In actual fact what happens is that the eye will move from one word to the next, then the next and then it may wander off to some other line on the page before it returns to round about where it was. Then after a couple more words on that line it might retrace its steps a few times over a word or a sequence of words it has already covered before wandering off on another expedition to explore any line other than the one it is currently on. If it decides to come back it may retrace its steps once more before finishing the line and starting the next, perhaps after visiting yet another line or sequence of words elsewhere. From that description alone you can understand that the movement of the eye across a page as we read is quite chaotic to say the least.
This may sound a rather extreme description of your eye movements and it has been exaggerated somewhat to give you an idea of an excessive case of poor reading technique but I am sure that most of you can relate to going back over a few words for a second time as you read. This is called regression if you feel you have missed or misunderstood a word and back skipping if you have developed it as a habit. To give you an implication of the impact of back skipping and regression on your reading consider this. If each back skip or regression takes roughly 1/2 a second and you make an average one or two per line on a 40 line page you are wasting 40 seconds per page. Over a 300-page book, this will mean a waste of 3 hours 20 minutes as you read it – if you read a lot of 300 page books is there something else you could be doing with the accumulation of this wasted time? So what can we do to improve our reading technique?
You will recall that I said most people’s description of eye movement is from word to word and this is the first area where we can get a significant improvement in our reading speed. Now for a little exercise – put your hands in front of you, palms together as though in the praying position. What I would like you to do is to pull your hands apart whilst wiggling your fingers. Extend your arms out either side of you until you can no longer see your fingers wiggling out of the corners of your eyes. When this happens, take a note of the distance between your hands. What you have just done is very crudely identified the extent of your peripheral vision. Now if you compare that distance with the width of the longest word you have ever had to read in normal 12-point font, you will see that there is a huge difference. My point is that with such a comparatively wide vision, why do we restrict ourselves to only reading one word at a time when clearly with the width of our vision we could surely take in at least a couple more? The cause of this feature of our current reading style is that as children we got used to reading single words at a time either by recognising them or by breaking them down letter by letter, sound by sound.
The only real development in our reading ability after that was that we started reading longer and more complicated words and more of them. So the first idea I am going to suggest you try is to read by taking in groups of words instead of single words on their own. This of course will take a little bit of practice but just think about it, if you suddenly started reading 2 words at a time instead of one, automatically you have doubled your reading speed. Now what happens if you take 3 or 4 words in at a time ….. Many of you at the moment may be raising the issue of comprehension. It is a common and popular belief that the faster you read the less you comprehend. Unfortunately, time prevents me from delving too deep into the argument but research is now showing that the brain takes information in more easily if it is grouped in meaningful chunks. Reading more than one word at a time is one way of doing this.
Now the next idea I want you to consider is related to the time it takes you to read each group of words. The only way the eye can see something clearly is by fixing its gaze on the subject in question either because the object is still or the eye is able to lock in and track the object as it moves giving zero relative motion. The only thing that tends to move during the reading process is the eye across the page and for it to take in words or groups of words it must be fixed on them. Research carried out during the training of First World War Pilots showed that the eye can recognise images (such as a word) in one five hundredth of a second. Taken to its logical conclusion this gives a reading speed of 60 sec x 500 giving 30,000 words per minute! Now I am not suggesting that you read at that rate but I am sure you can reduce the length of time that you fixate on a group of words. Of course it takes a little practice but this is another way that your reading speed can increase. In fact, just by combining these first two ideas, not only will your reading speed increase but your eyes will be doing less work (ie fewer and shorter fixates because you are taking more words in at once and spending less time on each grouping).
The final idea I want to give you is probably one that you used as a child but stopped using as you got older. If you look for a particular number in a phone book how do you tend to scan the page? Most people will run their finger down the page because it is easier to do this to work down through the numbers. As children we may have been taught to use our finger as we read but we quickly got out of this, probably because we thought it was childish or we were encouraged not to by parents or teachers who believed it was no longer necessary. You will recall earlier in this session I talked about the problems of back skipping and regression. Well if we use a guide as we read and it need not be our finger, it can be a pen or a pencil, then that can help eliminate these two problems.
So to summarise. If you want to increase your reading speed the three things that you can do are:-
Instead of reading single words one at a time, read them in groups of 2, 3 or 4.
As you fixate on each group by minimising the time you spend on each fixation.
To overcome the problems of back skipping and regression use a guide such as your finger or perhaps a pen or pencil.
These ideas are very simple concepts that can have a powerful effect on your reading speed if you practise them and make them a habit
Mind Mapping For Younger Children
I am often asked about the introduction of Mind Maps to Younger Children. The approach will need to vary depending upon the age and maturity of the children involved but let me tell you how I teach children who I think would get bored by being told about Mind Mapping and really are only interested in doing stuff. First of all I never tell the kids that we are “Mind Mapping” or doing anything special. I tell them that we are going to learn about
I will have a huge piece of paper (at least flip chart size) and will either ask them to draw what a farm looks like or will get the kids to cut out pictures from magazines so that there is a central image of a farm. If I don’t have any child safe scissors I usually cut out a load of pictures myself but if I can encourage the children to sort through magazines and find their own pictures, providing it is safe, I’ll let them cut them out.
I then ask them what sort of things do we see on a farm. I either suggest or try to encourage them to come up with generic words like Animals, Buildings, Crops, People, Machinery etc. These form the Key Images on the main branches because I will either ask them to draw an animal or a building etc or once again get them to cut pictures out from Magazines.
Then having captured the main branches I will go deeper into one of the topic areas for example I will ask what animals they may find on a farm and again sub branches for sheep, cows, pigs, hens etc develop and once again the children will generate these branches themselves. Now my description of this process is somewhat linear because as you are no doubt aware, young children will just tell you everything that they can think of without following my adult-orientated logical approach. I describe it in this way for ease of explanation but essentially what happens is that the mind map will grow and it will consist entirely of pictures structured in Mind Map form. In fact capturing the information this way is a great way of harnessing children’s creativity and spontaneity. A more linear, topic by topic approach may stifle a child’s natural desire to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. Another good thing about doing it this way is that the children can work together in teams, one doing the “Animal” branch, another doing the “Machinery” branch etc.
If this approach is adopted when covering any topic, it will just seem natural to the children that it is the most sensible and fun way to capture information. Then if you ask the children to tell you all about the farm (or whatever the subject is) they will “see” the Mind Map, particularly the bits that they were responsible for, and will give a very comprehensive and structured account of a farm. If you are dealing with very young children who are just learning to read, you could label the Mind Map Images with large lettered words to help them recognise the words from the pictures.
For parents this is a great way of bonding with your child and exploring a subject together. For teachers it is a simple way of engaging young children in an activity that will help them learn and process information about a topic. Try it and let me know how you get on with it.
Here is a very simple technique that I discovered . How many times have you said to yourself “I must remember to do……” and then when it came time for you to do it, you forgot you had to or perhaps you even knew you had to do something but could not remember what it was?
Now another question for you. If you walked into your kitchen and somebody moved the fridge to the other side of the room, do you think you would notice? Perhaps on a smaller scale, if you walked into your bedroom and someone had moved some of your things, do you think you would spot that they had been moved? The answer is probably yes and this is not because we have brilliant memories for the things around us, it is because we are creatures of habit and security and we like things to stay the same so if something has moved out of its normal place we spot it immediately.
So what is my point? Well the next time you have to put the dog out before you go out, a job that may normally done by someone else, why not put a tin of dog food on the doormat so you can’t help but trip over it. When you see the dog food you’ll remember to put the dog out.
Now that’s an obvious example, but the connection need not be so blatant. It could be something as subtle as moving an ornament 3 inches, or moving a mat so that it no longer lines up with the table. The key thing is that when you do this, you say to yourself “this will remind me to do…..”. Now when you next see this “disturbance” in your normal environment you’ll know you have to do something, and the fact that you created the disturbance in the first place as you thought about what you had to do, will mean you will remember it.
It really is as simple as that. Try it, it will work if you use it.
The 6 Step Master Plan to Accelerated Learning
One of the things that is often said to me as I teach these techniques and principles in both education and business is something along the lines of :
“Well I have tried that and it doesn’t work for me”
or”I can see how these techniques work but I don’t know if I want to put the effort in to learn how to use them”
It often amazes me that people get hooked on the process rather than the result. In my mind, to be a really effective learner, you need to know exactly what it is you want to learn, the level of proficiency you want to achieve in your subject or skill and a deep understanding of the reason why you want to do it and its importance to you. If you have those things clear in your own mind then the process does not matter because you will do anything to achieve your goal as long as it works. Now all of the techniques that I talk about work. Some may require more effort than others to get to work and what may be easy for one person to use may be very difficult for the next but if you are focussed on the result and it is an important outcome for you, then you will do W.E.I.T. (Whatever it Takes).
STEP 1 – Motivate Your Mind
Probably the most important step of the entire process. It is so very important that you are motivated to learn for your own reasons because if you are not, when you have to start working hard, it is likely that you will not put the right amount of effort in. You need to do a WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) exercise to prime your mind and focus your energies on your learning. That way you will be able to generate motivation to get started and use it to sustain your efforts when things seem tough.
Step 2 – Acquiring the Information
This is the data gathering section of the process and it can be enhanced by knowing your learning style and capitalising on it. We tend to learn using a combination of Visual (what we see), Auditory (what we hear) and Kinesthetic (what we physically and emotionally experience) strategies. We will always use a combination of these three but there may be one which is dominant. Find out which it is and focus your learning on that style
Step 3 – Search out the Meaning
It is so very important to understand what you are learning rather than just memorise a series of facts. As Rose and Nicholl say in their book “Turning facts into personal meaning is the central element to learning”. They go on say that in career terms, the ability to develop a deep understanding and make sense of a jungle of information pays much better than the ability to regurgitate a series of facts.
Step 4 – Trigger the Memory
Once you have developed a deep understanding of your subject, you will still have to lock it into your long term memory and this is where many of the techniques that I have written about on this site become relevant. My own favourite techniques are a combination of Mind Mapping (which for me will give me 80-90%) of my learning, and the use of memory systems (eg the peg system) and mnemonics to round off the last 10-20%. That of course is my own personal preference but find what works for you.
Step 5 – Exhibit what you Know
This stage is in my mind the most important part of the process. Too many of us spend hours and hours and hours hunched over our notes and text books trying to learn and yet we spend very little time practising the recall of the information that we have learnt. So in effect we develop a very strong “IN” mental muscle yet the “OUT” muscle that we will rely on in our exanimations is hardly tested at all. Spend more time demonstrating what you know than putting it in and keep adjusting and correcting until you get it right every single time. It is by not following through on this process that causes the sort of comments I mentioned before.
Step 6 – Reflect on How you have Learnt
The most successful people always monitor what they do, compare their results with their desired outcome and adjust their approach if they are not getting what they want. It is at this stage that you should review the techniques you chose to use in step 4. Keep using the ones that are giving you the results that you want and either get better at the others (I’d suggest you try using something a couple of times instead of dismissing something because it did not work the only time you tried it) or try something else.
And there you have it, the 6 step M.A.S.T.E.R plan for Accelerated Learning. To remember the steps just use the mnemonic MASTER for the first letter of each step of the process. Let me know how you get on with this.
THE MEGA MIND MAP
How do you eat an elephant? Of course the answer is one bite at a time. Now this has nothing to do with what I am going to write about, it is just that I have always wanted to include that joke in my writing somewhere!
Elsewhere I have written both about Mind Mapping and the importance of reviewing the Mind Maps on a regular basis to ensure that the information is conditioned in your mind so that you can recall it easily whenever you need to. However, if you are on an intensive course of study, you will find that it is quite easy to become overwhelmed by the ever increasing number of Mind Maps accumulating in your folders. Having Mind Maps is still going to be a much more efficient way of note taking but even so, how do you keep track of all this information so that you don’t let confusion creep in?
One way could be to keep a log of your Mind Maps, together with a record of when to review them. All you would have to do is check the log on a daily basis, see if today’s date is in any of the columns and then review that particular Mind Map. An example of what the log might look like is:
Title Date Day Week Month 3M 6M
English 22/3 23/3 29/3 22/4 22/6 22/9
Math 1 22/3 23/3 29/3 22/4 22/6 22/9
Science 23/3 24/3 30/3 23/4 23/6 23/9
Math 2 25/3 26/3 1/4 25/4 25/6 25/9
Those of you who are organised and like detail will love this method. It does take a bit of discipline but the effort is worth it to make sure that you are not left with 2 weeks of revision to cram into one evening (sound familiar?).
Another method of keeping on top of your Mind Maps is to draw a single large Mind Map called a Mega Mind Map that covers your entire topic. So you could have one for Maths, one for Geography and so on. The Mega Mind Map builds up over time as your course progresses. All you do is add the key points from your lessons to it. The beauty of it is that eventually you will see the entire topic on one large piece of paper (use flip chart paper or perhaps the back of a roll of wall paper or even the back of an old poster) but you will also see it develop and grow. Having this overview will help identify the structure of the subject and the relationships between the various elements of the subject matter. All you need to do is to review the Mega Mind Map once a week for about 20 minutes, reinforcing what you already know and integrating what you have most recently learnt. As you get closer to your examinations, review it more often. This way you don’t need to lose what you have learnt in class and it will mean less time studying and more time having fun.
Faced with a completed Mega Mind Map it can be quite overwhelming but if you realise that it grew gradually over a number of weeks and months, (one bite at a time?), you can see how a daunting task can be made quite manageable. It really is as simple as that.
OVERCOMING EXAM MEMORY LOSS
It is a subject that interests you, in fact you can almost say that you like it. You have taken good notes and have even put in what you consider to be an appropriate amount of revision time. On exam day you sit ready to begin your paper, confident of success, but when you turn over to read the questions, your mind goes completely blank and you can’t think of anything to write. You have two options:
1. Fake violent convulsions, induce green slime vomiting, shudder erratically claiming “the Martians are coming to get me” and hope that the exam is cancelled or at least postponed because of the emotional upset caused by your sudden illness.
2. Adopt a couple of strategies to assist the memory recovery process.
I would suggest that option 1 is only appropriate if you are a very good actor, you have gullible invigilators and your fellow students can fake emotional upset. I wouldn’t however recommend this approach more than once, even if you are an X-Files fan. So we are left with looking at some more realistic strategies, most of which do not involve green slime vomit.
Most people who suffer mental blocks under exam conditions do so because it is a symptom of stress. Good preparation and deep subject knowledge can alleviate some of the stress but when faced with mental blanking, the first thing you should do is to breathe deeply and relax. Imagine that you do know the answer and see what comes to mind.
A common reaction will be to stare down at the question or answer paper desperately trying to come up with an answer. This is a mistake as brain research has discovered the position of our eyes actually affects which part of the brain we are accessing. The Science of Neuro Linguistic Programming (or NLP for short) has shown that by looking up we access information from our memories. So if you are faced with a mental block, instead of staring at your desk, look up as you search for that crucial information.
A second strategy to apply is to begin a Mind Map of everything that you know about the subject that relates to the question that is giving you trouble. The power of association and the triggering of key words will help you access the information that you need.
If you can find a question that you can answer, begin that but only after you have read the whole question paper. As you begin the easy answers, you will find that facts or figures relating to the questions you have skipped will pop into your mind. As they do so add them to a Mind Map and finish the question that you are on. Then return to the difficult question later, using your Mind Map as a basis for your answer.
Another thing you could try as you attempt to stimulate the recall process is to try and think of things that are connected to the information in some way. For example, can you think of a particular experiment or example that was used to illustrate the point? Did something unusual happen when you covered that topic? Can you “see” the notes in your minds eye?
As you attempt to withdraw the information from your mind, you might be saying to yourself (possibly out of exasperation) “I don’t know this …. I don’t know this”. If you find you’re saying this to yourself, think of a huge pink elephant, playing a Banjo, singing the latest Boyzone single backwards. Now this has nothing to do with recall but it stopped you from programming yourself into not knowing the answer. Now say to yourself “If I did know the answer, what would I write?” and see what happens.
Hopefully good notes, plentiful revision, practice papers and a good attitude will prevent you from having a mental block – but if you do, try some of these strategies to get you back on track.
If you have any tips that you use, let me know and I’ll pass them on to the rest of our readers.
THE POWER BROWSE
Whenever we study anything, we invariably become faced with a mountain of books and a huge list of recommended reading texts. Often this situation is overwhelming and instead of being a positive source of useful information it can be a huge demotivator. Wouldn’t it be good to be able to zip through a book in about 15 minutes, get a good idea of what it is about and have a written summary of it that you could memorise quite easily? The sceptics amongst you will already be saying that it can’t be done but if you bear with me, I’ll show you how it can. Before you start you’ll need:
1. Your text book
2. Plenty of book marks (use strips of scrap paper)
3. A timer
4. A positive attitude
Now take your text book and turn each page over and briefly look at it before moving on to the next. I tend to run my finger in a ‘V’ shape across the open book starting at the top left corner of the left hand page working down to the bottom right hand corner of that page and then up across the right hand page to its top right hand corner. You do this for every open page taking only 10 minutes for the entire book. Now you are not trying to read the book you are trying to get a feel for it by identifying:
1. How the book is put together (sections, chapters etc)
2. If there are any summary points
3. How comprehensive the contents and index are
4. What looks interesting
5. What looks relevant
As your eyes sweep across the pages every time something jumps out at you put in one of your book marks so that you can explore that section later. The key to this exercise is that you don’t read the book, you are just analysing its structure and apparent relevance to you and you are identifying sections/chapters/graphs/diagrams of interest. It is very important that you keep to the 10 minute time limit. Now once you have done that make a Mind Map of the main points you have identified. If you wish, refer back to the text book to help you but it is best done from memory. Doing the Mind Map should take no more than 5 minutes.
Now once you have done that, if you review the mind map, you will have memorized the key issues in the book. To study the text in depth requires a different approach that I’ll be covering in a later article but what you now have is a much better feel of the book and its relevance to you. This is useful for a number of reasons. First of all if you have 30 study texts but only need to focus on 5 or 6, in just a couple of days you can zip through all of those books to find which ones to concentrate on without actually having to read every single one. It also means that a 30 page key point summary at the back of a text book negates the need to read the whole volume. If you had started at page 1 of a 600 page book and read it “conventionally” first, I’d imagine you would be pretty upset to find that you did not need to read all 600 pages.
If you keep your Mind Map tucked inside the front cover of the book, it will also serve as a useful summary for future reference. By leaving the bookmarks in place you’ll never have to search for long for the diagram or graph that is the key to your assay or project.
Try it, it works (but only if you use it).
How to Remember Names and Faces
The biggest challenge that most people have with their memories is the ability to remember the names of people that they have met. So this month I am going to give you a couple of tips that you can use to help you remember names more effectively.
I often have delegates on my courses complain that they can never remember the name but they can always remember that they have seen the face before. So why is that? Well as you will know if you are familiar with these pages, the brain thinks in pictures and as someone’s face is a picture, it is only natural that you will recognise it. But what was their name?
The main reason that it is difficult to recall someone’s name is that you probably never heard it correctly (if at all) in the first place. Often, introductions are hurried affairs, particularly if there are several people to be introduced to, and most people’s attention is on saying their own name correctly or shaking hands with just the right grip and so on. So if you never got the name in the first place, how can you ever expect to remember it. The following tips will help you:
1. As you are introduced to someone, get a good look at their face so that its image is clearly impressed onto your mind.
2. When they offer their name, repeat it back to them saying something like “John it is nice to meet you” or “Mrs Jones, welcome to the Grange”. This is a good way of developing your social skills.
3. Clarify the spelling and pronunciation of any unusual names to make sure that you have got it just right (it is of course only polite that you do so). Don’t feel uncomfortable doing this, the person that you are meeting will be flattered that you are taking the trouble to ask.
4. During the course of the function that you are at mentally review the names of the people that you have met by looking at each one and recalling what they are called. Listening to others speak to them or of them, will help you fill in any gaps.
5. During the conversations that you have with these people, use their name as you address them or refer to them. For example you could say “Well David, what are your views on that?” or “That was an interesting point you made there Eleanor”.
6. At the end of the function, if you have been introduced to someone, then it is only courteous that you should say good bye to them. This of course is another opportunity to use their name again to reinforce it once more. You could say something like “Mr Onion it was a pleasure to meet you and I am so sorry we did not have time to talk about your gout”.
7. As you say farewell, there may be one or two people that you wish to keep in touch with and so now is a good opportunity to exchange business cards. When you have their card, make sure that you get a good look at it so that you can see the name written down for the very first time providing yet another anchor for the name.
8. After the function, make notes about the people that you have met, ideally on the back of any business card that you may have been given. Then review these notes as described in the Article on Memory Rhythms (See October 1998) to really embed their name into your long term recall.
Just by doing this, you will increase your probability of remembering everyone that you ever meet by at least 50 %. It does take a bit of effort and you have to balance the benefits of doing it this way against the problems associated with forgetting names. In the future I will tell you how you can use visualisation to create memorable imagery that will add to the process that I have already described.
Revising for Exams
As this is the third of a series of three articles, before we go any further, let’s just review what I have covered in September and October. You will recall that in September, I described how you should prepare yourself for the coming academic year by asking yourself the following questions:
1. Why am I doing this course or subject?
2. What grades do I want and why?
3. How much effort do I need to put in to get the grades that I want?
4. Am I willing to put that much effort in?
5. Do I want to work for a short period every day and accumulate my knowledge gradually or do I want to go for the once-in-a-lifetime mammoth, night before, candle-burning stress inducing cramming session?
6. Am I willing to take responsibility for my education?
7. What time will I dedicate to study every day?
Having primed yourself to begin and maintain your efforts I then covered some tips and techniques that you could apply to your on going study to assist you in the learning process. These were:
1. Buy and read Use Your Head by Tony Buzan (see April 1998 from the main index).
2. Mind Map® all your course notes and lectures.
3. Review every Mind Map® frequently, at least to the guidelines I talk about in the October 1998 article on natural learning rhythms (after 10 minutes, one day, one week, one month and six months).
4. Generate huge master Mind Maps® for each of your subjects and place them on the wall of your bedroom or anywhere else where you will see them often. Review those Mind Maps® at least weekly and with increasing frequency as the time for examinations approaches.
5. Balance the use of the memory techniques listed above with the use of the Mind Map® technique to find a happy medium between memorising facts and figures and understanding concepts. Remember to review everything at least five times.
6. When you study do so to the following format that will help you balance the learning of new material and the review of information already covered:
5 Minutes Warm up by stretching or doing some light exercise.
20 Minutes Mind Map New Material
5 Minutes Take a break (juggling is a good idea)
15 minutes Review information covered yesterday, last week and last month (5 minutes each)
5 Minutes Take a break (juggling is still a good idea)
10 minutes Review the new material that you Mind Mapped during the 20 minute slot
So what is the next thing to know? I would imagine that the thing that the thing that will be worrying you most will be the examinations that you will be sitting at the end of your course. That is what I shall deal with this month.
The first thing that you will need to establish is the following:
1. When is the exam and how long will it last?
2. Where will the exam take place?
3. What is the format of the examination (eg multiple choice, essay questions, oral, course work etc)?
4. What part of the syllabus will the examination cover?
Armed with that knowledge, you will take away some of the unknown which can be a source of stress. The best way of reducing the “fear of the unknown” is to get hold of past examination papers. This will serve a couple of purposes. First of all you will get to know exactly what you will be facing in the form of question style etc but secondly, if you have a number of past papers, you will be able to spot common themes and recurring questions and that can help you target your revision more efficiently.
Once you know all of the logistics associated with the examination, the next thing to do is to plan when you are going to do your revision. If you do this properly, it will reduce the likelihood of you having to rely on last minute cramming. I would suggest that you get into the habit of doing a couple of hours a day so if you start early enough this will allow you to build up your knowledge at a comfortable pace without having to spend lots of late nights huddled over a desk. If you take it slowly and steadily and have lots of breaks revision can actually be fun (what a concept!).
I hope that you will have got into the habit of reviewing your Mind Map notes and your Master Mind Maps in particular because if you have then you are already well over half way to being prepared for your examinations. The secret to effective revision is not to keep putting the information into our memories over and over and over again but to practise recalling the information because let’s face it, in the examination, that is exactly what we will have to do. The best way to do this recall practice is of course to try and recreate your Mind Map Notes and your Master Mind Maps from scratch, making corrections each time to fill in any blanks or minor errors. Another good way to practise your recall is for you to draw up a list of questions based on the information that you have covered in class together with questions from past papers and then get a friend to read them out to you and then see what you can recall. Alternatively why not make a tape recording of those questions that you can play on the way to school or during quiet periods? As you listen to the questions, you will be tested but more importantly, the answers that you do not know will send you into your notes and you will find that having been primed by the tape questions, you will be very receptive to the answers when you find them.
As you get closer to your examinations, sit down with the past papers and do your own mock versions under timed conditions. Practise your essay technique (the Mind Map is a great Essay Planning Tool) and get used to writing your answers within a particular time. Another excellent way to revise is to teach what you do know to your friends who are also studying the same subjects as you. Take it in turns because you will learn insights on your subjects from your friends that you may not have even considered before.
Eventually the big day will come and to overcome any remaining apprehension that you may have left (even having used Mind Maps and reviewed them like crazy), visualise yourself confidently walking into the examination room, sitting down and confidently answering every question within the desired time. Do that often enough and with sufficient emotional intensity and guess what? When the actual day arrives, that is exactly what will happen. Make sure that you get plenty of rest during your examinations and always turn up in plenty of time. When you are sat with the paper in front of you, make sure you read the questions carefully. Before you write down any answers, I suggest that you quickly Mind Map the outlines of your answers to all of the questions that you are going to attempt before you begin the first question. What you will find is that as you do begin the first answer, bits of information for the other questions will pop into your mind and so all you need to do is capture that on the appropriate Mind Map ready for when you actually answer that question. Believe me, this works very well.
So now that you have prepared yourself for your studies, you have the skills to learn extremely effectively and now you know how to revise. All that is left for you now is to go and do it. Good luck, you know you can do it so JUST DO IT. Let me know how you get on and if there are any revision tips that have worked for you that you would like me to pass on to our visitors to the site
Warm up by stretching or doing some light exercise.
Mind Map New Material
Take a break (juggling is a good idea)
Review information covered yesterday, last week and last month (5 minutes each)
Take a break (juggling is still a good idea)
Review the new material that you Mind Mapped during the 20 minute slot
9. Order and/or sequence
By adding order and/or sequence it is easier for the brain to randomly access any piece of the information learned.
10. Positive Images
The more positive and pleasant your mnemonic images are, the more likely your brain will want to return to them.
Exaggeration of size, shape and sound will enhance the image. If you saw a 10 foot high mouse wandering around your home town, I am sure that you would remember it!
So if you apply all of the elements above to your mnemonic imagery, then your are on your way to developing a good memory. All that you need now is a mnemonic technique to apply these principles to. I will cover such a technique next month.
Socrates (470-399 BC) is one of the most famous figures in philosophy. He was born in Athens and spent most of his time talking to people in the city. He never taught people, he just drew out ideas and arguments from people by feigning ignorance and asking questions. He very often revealed a person’s ignorance in this manner by identifying the weaknesses in their thinking. Often this was done in public places and so he tended to make people look quite foolish in front of their peers. Sadly this may have led to his downfall as in 399 BC he was sentenced to death for”introducing new gods and corrupting the youth”. He died after being forced to drink poison.
Much of his thinking and many of his ideas were captured by Plato (who was one of his students) because he never wrote anything down. Socrates said, “One thing only I know and that is that I know nothing.” It was his desire to establish a strong foundation of knowledge that led him to seek answers to his many questions and become a philosopher.
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) was king of Macedonia, a position inherited at the age of 20 from his murdered father. Educated by Aristotle and inspired by Homer’s The Illiad, Alexander was driven by the desire to conquer the world and an extreme thirst for knowledge.
A true and courageous leader of men, he inspired those he led and achieved the absolute loyalty and devotion of his men by fighting with them and alongside them. A brilliant strategist, he won many battles, often against seemingly overwhelming odds. His most significant battle was the final defeat of Darius and the half-a-million-strong Persian army by Alexander’s army of just 47,000. His drive and persistence saw his empire rapidly expand across the Middle East and into Africa and India.
He founded the city of Alexandria in Egypt that quickly grew into a major regional port and a centre of culture and learning. Alexander died in 323 BC aged just 32.
Napoleon Hill was born in the US in 1883. His early career as a reported helped finance his way through law school. He was given an assignment to write a series of success stories of famous men and as a result, met the Steel Magnate Andrew Carnegie. Mr Carnegie commissioned Hill to interview over 500 of America’s successful men to find a success formula that could be used by the average person. It took Hill over 20 years to produce his book, a classic in the Personal Development field called “Think and Grow Rich”. This book has sold over 7 million copies and has helped thousands achieve success. The secret to success is very simple but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is! Hill, however, identified 13 principles of success which I list for you here:
Power of the Master mind
Control of urges
The Subconscious Mind
The Sixth Sense
THE GREAT MINDS : EINSTEIN
In Buzan’s Book of Genius, Einstein is touted as a serious candidate for the supreme genius of all time.
Although expelled from school for being a disruptive influence, Einstein showed tremendous interest in the physical world at an early age.
By 16 he had already written a paper on the relationship between electricity, magnetism and the ether. His famous quote “Imagination is more important than knowledge” was testimony to his own use of day dreaming to explore the universe.
When he imagined himself riding on a sunbeam and arriving back where he started from he concluded that the universe must be both finite and curved.
Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, confirmed by observation of eclipses, took the scientific world by storm in the early part of the twentieth Century and then 20 years later his equation e=mc2 led to the generation of the atomic bomb.
As well as a phenomenal scientist, he was also an accomplished violinist. Einstein died in 1955 having spent his later years playing the violin, sailing and working for world peace.
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. Married to Anne Hathaway, he was a dramatist and poet and is considered to be the greatest English Playwright. He wrote 36 plays, 154 sonnets and 2 narrative poems and today his works have been translated into 50 languages. His work is considered to be the yardstick against which works of drama are compared and he is the most quoted writer of all time – the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations devotes about 10% to William Shakespeare.
Vocabulary is a measure of genius and if you consider that the average person’s written and verbal vocabularies are both about 1,000 words and that the average person can recognise about 5,000 words, Shakespeare’s use of over 25,000 different words in his written work is quite remarkable. Not only that but if you consider the subjects dealt with in his work (classical literature, sciences, history and politics to name but a few), you quickly realise that he was an extremely intelligent and well-educated intellectual. Little is known about his life and there is debate in some quarters as to who he really was but it is clear that he can be considered to be one of the great minds of all time
Charlie Chaplin is considered one of the great masters of comedy. Born in London, he moved to America when he was already an experienced stage performer. An enormously energetic man, he made over 35 films in his first year in Hollywood and was still performing his remarkable stunts into his fifties. A socially aware mind, Chaplin used his art form to inform the American public of the Nazi menace before the states entered the war. After the war his political conscience led to his opposition to the Communist witch hunt in the 1950s and his subsequent expulsion from his adopted country. Famous for his tramp trademark, Charlie Chaplin is a wonderful reminder of the days of the silent screen. Although living in exile from his beloved America, Chaplin was awarded a knighthood in 1975 in recognition for his services to comedy. Charlie Chaplin died in 1977.
Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809 in Kentucky into extreme poverty but eventually became President of America. During the American Civil War Lincoln gave the now famous Gettysburg Address and his decision to appoint General Ulysses S. Grant as Commander-in-Chief of the Northern Armies was probably one of the significant turning points of the war. Although it cost him his life, he was fanatical that slavery should be abolished in his country. Lincoln was assassinated In Washington on 14th April 1865.
Throughout his life, his most striking characteristic was his determination to succeed in the face of continuing failure. Consider the following:
1831 – Failed in Business
1832 – Ran for State Legislature and LOST
1832 – Lost his job
1833 – Went bankrupt and took 17 years to pay off a debt
1835 – Sweetheart died
1836 – Had a nervous breakdown
1838 – Defeated in his attempt to become speaker of the state legislature
1840 – Defeated in his attempt to become elector
1843 – Ran for Congress and LOST
1848 – After successfully running for Congress he LOST when seeking re-election
1849 – Rejected in his application for the job of Land Officer in his home state
1854 – Ran for the Senate of the United States and LOST
1856 – Sought Vice-Presidential nomination and only got 100 votes
Despite all of these setbacks Abraham Lincoln was still elected President of the United States in 1860. Even in the face of adversity, it pays to keep on going. Failure is guaranteed if you stop trying.
Some of the questions we have received so far are included here – we’ll add progressively to this area whenever the pagebuilding schedule allows.
Answers to the questions can be found further down this page. If you have a question that isn’t dealt with here, why not e-mail me – michael2006 (at) happychild.org.uk – and I’ll see if I can help. Please note, however, that with an exceptionally busy schedule it isn’t possible to reply to everyone who writes 🙂
1. What advice can you give for developing the visual memory skills of young children?
2. You seem to concentrate on the use of visual imagery for memory, what auditory systems are there?
3. I work in a court of Law as a translator and need to remember what is being said as I translate. Can you help?
4. I am doing a science project at school on Memory. Where can I get some information?
5. You have recommended Dominic O’Brien’s Books in your reviews section but I can’t seem to get hold of a copy. Why is that?
6. What Memory Books do you recommend?
7. Will my memory decline with age?
ANSWERS to above questions:
1. A friend of mine who has 3 sons gives the following advice on developing visual memory skills – “the things I have found most constructive in developing visual memory with my own kids have been (a) circular jigsaws [for the usual colour-variations but also for the differently-shaped pieces] and (b) Solitaire (“patience”) where there’s a need to remember what’s happening on all seven lines of cards. With the latter I taught first with actual cards then computer Solitaire (where they are aiming for a “higher speed”) helps to make the process of remembering more automatic.”
A visitor to the Project HappyChild website told me about something that helped him – “The one thing that helps me is this game I played as a child that involves a pack of cards on each of which is pictured an animal and its name, e.g. Leo the lion; each character occurs twice in the pack and the idea is that you deal the cards out face down before then turning over two at a time and trying to remember their position; when you can put two identical cards together they are eliminated; this goes on until you’ve eliminated every card.”
Perhaps you can still get this game, or something similar, from your local toy shop.
2. The majority of the books that I have studied (and please note that the extent of my research is far from comprehensive) on Memory Techniques have concentrated on visual systems that encourage the generation of imagery to assist in the memory process. None that I have read so far have explained a purely auditory technique. The reason for this I feel is that most of the books have been written by people who use and rely on visual systems. One or two of the more learned authors have recommended use of all of the senses in creating mental imagery but very little beyond.
The best reference that I can recommend is a book called “Accelerated Learning” by Colin Rose (Published by Accelerated Learning Systems Ltd ISBN 0-905553-12-8). This has about 8 pages on Sensory systems and examines the three learning styles (visual, auditory and Kinaesthetic). The techniques associated with knowledge of this styles have a wider application in human development and understanding in a field that is today known as Neuro Linguistic Programming. You may want to look at a couple of NLP books. I can recommend “Unlimited Power” by Tony Robbins.
3. As I do not speak a second language myself (yet) I can only give you a couple of ideas that you might want to try. As far as practice is concerned, I would suggest that you only try and remember key words as someone speaks. For Example: “Well your honour, I was travelling down the highway late last Thursday and I was in my car with my brother Vinne and his girlfriend Delores. We were doing about 30mph and then all of a sudden, this truck appeared from nowhere, hit the rear of my car and forced us into a telegraph pole.” As these words are spoken, if you pick out the key words like “highway”, “brother”, “truck” and “pole”, you will only have 4 words to remember but the context in which they were spoken will be triggered by each of those words. That way you will have less to remember, but you will still be able to recall what was said. The other thing that I would suggest that you do in conjunction with picking out key words is to still take notes but to use a Mind Map (see the Project HappyChild website) instead of conventional notes.
4. The best place to go is to a library, either the one you have at school or your local public library. I suggest that you look in the psychology section and any good text book in that area will give you lots of information. Your librarian will also be able to help you if you tell him or her exactly what you are looking for.
Another good source of information is of course the internet. I would recommend any book by Tony Buzan and there are also videos and books by Lana Israel (an American girl who did a project for a Science Fair in her 7th grade on memory!!!) which you will find reviewed on the site here. You might like to try out some of the techniques that I have written about on the HappyChild website.
6. If you have a look at the book review section you will see a range of books that will help you improve your memory. If you find any that are not on my list, please let me know so that I can add them to my collection.
7. Excluding any serious mental illness, your ability to learn and remember should get better the older you get! The reason that most people think their memory or ability to learn is not as good as it was is purely because they have not used it as much as they once did. As a principle of memory is association with what we know and our experiences, the older we get, the more we know , the greater our experiences and so in theory, the more that we should be able to learn. Another reason for the apparent decline in mental performance is that as we get older we generally become less active (compared to our youth), less aerobically fit and so our brains receive less oxygen than it used to.
I would suggest that to convince yourself that you have fabulous mental potential at any age, you should read The Age Heresy by Tony Buzan and Raymond Keene (Published by Ebury Press ISBN 0 09 185150 5) which shatters all the myths about the so called limitations of the ageing process. If you are in the US (and I am not sure if the book has been published over there) contact Buzan Centres in Florida 407 881 0188, they may have copies.
You might also want to try using some of the memory systems I have written about on the Project HappyChild website to prove to yourself that your memory is and can be very good indeed.