Is It Real Or Is It Memorex?
I’m sure I’m giving away my age, but anyone old enough who was living in the U.S. at the time will likely remember the commercials for Memorex magnetic recording tape (they made at least two kinds I was familiar with then … cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes).
There was this clever commercial that was my favorite with Ella Fitzgerald, the incredible jazz singer. There was a shot of her singing into a microphone and breaking a glass positioned in front of a speaker. Then they would replay the recording of her singing and they would break another glass. [Ella Breaks Glass on YouTube]
The whole point was that the fidelity of the Memorex tape was so pure that it was indistinguishable from the original. People often think of their memory as having that kind of perfect, precise “Memorex” fidelity … but it’s seldom (if ever) true. Memory is simply unreliable, even very short-term memory … actually, especially short-term memory.
“I’m A Believer!” …
Memory Tricks You Play On Yourself (and Others)
Once you’ve gotten something built into long-term memory, like a speech, poem or mathematical formula or theorm, it can often be recalled perfectly, i.e.: with precise fidelity. Yet the imprinting process into long-term memory is fraught with trials that just as often prevent perfect recall, as anyone who’s “remembered” the wrong words to a song can attest.
Let’s say you’ve heard a song on the radio that catches your attention and begin singing along with it. Then later you sing it again from memory, BUT … you change a word or more in your mind … AND, you remain convinced that you have the lyrics as written memorized. So you continue signing the song to yourself for a few days with your “improved” lyrics … and they become imprinted in memory.
Then, say a week or so after that, you hear the song again on the radio and you begin singing along, but you find yourself surprised when the lyrics you’ve been singing from memory aren’t the same as the ones you’re now listening to from the original tune. Then to add insult to injury, so to speak, when you try to get the “new” original lyrics to replace the ones you’ve memorized incorrectly you find it more difficult to sing the correct lyrics than the ones you’ve made up in you false memory.
That experience is an example of how “memory” becomes “real” for you. In other words, you “remember” the version of the event you have in memory as “what happened” or “what’s real” … or “the way things are” when you extend the data or concept remembered through time.
Once you’ve imprinted something in long-term memory it becomes virtually impossible to distinguish it as a “memory” instead of a perfect “Memorex Moment” …
Yet what we want from the most important kinds of memories is for them to be “Memorex Moments” … perfectly, precisely recalled, despite the evidence that they seldom are imprinted in that way. In fact new research shows that memory is not only remarkably unreliable, but almost constantly changing.
Everytime you recall a memory you are at risk of modifying it because of some influence you are responding to … new or additional data, contradictory data (including someone else’s version that differs from yours), environmental stimuli that alter your mood and perception, or interpersonal dynamics such as wanting to please another person with the way you present your memory.
As you re-remember, drawing forth from memory a memory you’ve accessed before, and modify it the modification becomes “remembered” as the way the memory has always been … like an internally played game of Chinese Whispers. When you place the recalled memory back into memory the modification has now be installed as the “remembered” form and becomes the basis for the next recall.
You simply cannot trust your unaided memory, unless there is some external “proof source” that you can use to verify what you think you remember.
The “proof source” you use needs to be unchanging by virtue of it’s form, i.e.: a text, picture or photograph, a drawn diagram or written formula … without this external check you must assume at best that your memories are approximations – even when they are indeed correct and match the original source.
Now I won’t go into what it means that we don’t have “Memorex Moments” instead of fallible human memory for things like the law and the way witness accounts are the basis for many of our legal precedents and outcomes. To say that faulty memory is an huge issue for us is to truly minimize a significant aspect of what it means to be human … if you believe that memory should be the basis for how you make decisions about what to be doing, or not doing. However, there’s no need to allow a little false imprinting memory to get in the way of living a truluy magnificent life. Yet that’s exactly what many folks do, they use memory as the basis of how they determine what is or is not possible for them to do … or to do successfully.
Learning Is More Than Memorizing …
One aspect of the magic of being human is called “learning” … the ability to go beyond what we currently know and are currently capable of doing as a result.
The outcome of new learning is expressed in new behaviors. For example if we meet for the first time and you “learn” my name, then we meet again and you see me you can recall and use my name in association with your mental image of who I am, i.e.: a new behavior. For what it’s worth it doesn’t matter if you just think my name to yourself or speak it to me as we greet one another, cognition is as much a behavior in the way I approach “behavioral change” as are speech acts or physical movements. The key is that learning is expressed as behavioral change, or at the very least the ability to express a change in behavior.
The inverse of “learning” as “the ability to express a change in behavior” is the “inability to express a change in behavior” … or “the inability to learn.” So the heart of all “change” is learning … and the heart of “learning” is behavioral, i.e.: ultimately it is measured as a change in behavior (at least in the way I approach it). Another way of saying this would be:
“If you can learn you can change … and, if you can change you will be capable of expressing new behaviors.”
Stay with me a little bit longer …
If you intend to create results and outcomes other than those you are currently capable of producing you must change, i.e.: be capable of learning and expressing what you’ve learned behaviorally.
Okay … I’ll put it simply:
To create different results and outcomes you need to do something differently than you are currently doing it today.
That sure sounds easy enough, except … if how you’ve encoded a deep memory about reality is flawed or limited you will find yourself stuck and limited by the boundaries of behavior created by the inconsistency between your memory and what is present and possible in the moment.
This is the basis for what I think of as Transformational Change – the ability to learn something that expands the way you are currently capable of perceiving yourself, the world as you know it and/or you and your relationship to the world as you know them to be today.
When I’m working with clients what I find is that their ability to experience change and do things differently then they are currently capable of doing them today is some limitation in their ability to learn or the process they use to learn. Often this limitation to learning is rooted in a memorized pattern that doesn’t serve them about how they believe learning happens, or at the very least they way they do it and what they are capable of – or not capable of – learning.
Not knowing what stops you or what to do about it is an especially critical issue when:
1.) you have some result or outcome you want and are motivated to create on your own or with others
2.) you already know what the result or outcome is, what it will look like when they achieve it and what it will mean to you to achieve it
3.) you know (or believe you know) how to create it or at least begin taking the steps to creating it
4.) you are stuck not making any progress towards creating your result or outcome and don’t know why
There are tricks of trade to help you move beyond each of the four possible ways people get stuck. One of the things that upsets me however is when I run into a “professional” therapist, coach, consultant, advisor or whatever who begins helping a client to move forward without doing two or three things I think of as both critical and fundamentaly ethical.
Actions Have Consequences …
The first thing is to run though the process of making sure what I learned in my NLP (neurolinguistic programming) training to think of as an “ecological” outcome – and today I know think of as a “systemic and cybernetically wellformed” outcome, i.e.:
Creating Systemic and Cybernetically Wellformed Outcomes:
Ensuring that taking the steps to getting the outcome that is intended and getting that outcome is well integrated with the totality of an individual’s life and the systems they operate within and in relation to … beyond just achieving the outcome for it’s own sake.
I tend to think of this in relation to the idea that actions have consequences, and to ensure that I take into account what moving towards and achieving an outcome will mean to any client I’m working with regardless of the seeming value of the result or outcome they say they want.
For instance, I have had clients who wanted to start a new business venture but that would mean leaving a current career, position or business they are currently involved in when we begin working together. Often this means that they will go through a period of learning ramping up to the success they intend attaining. This period will have consequences and costs associated with it, and if we don’t take these consequences into account one or more them might derail the entire endeavor.
In other cases a client may not have thought through what it really means to make the shift they are contemplating, painting a rosy picture that doesn’t really represent what it will be like to make the change. There are also times where it will not be reasonable or even possible for a client to make a change that will get them what they want or think they will be getting. It might be that they change they are thinking about won’t really lead to the result or outcome they have projected, or maybe they are personally not really capable of achieving the outcome as they have projected it.
It is ethically irresponsible not to help clients work through the consequences of the actions they intend BEFORE they begin enacting them!
Once the result or outcome that you want has been considered in terms of the consequences of the actions you’ll need to take to get it and the impact of actually achieving it, you still need to have clarity about what it will mean to be doing what it takes and what to be putting your attention on as you go. I like to think of this as developing a strategy with my clients that allows them to:
- a.) notice the information present and emerging in the systems they are operating in
- b.) the opportunities that are available to them – as well as those that emerge as they begin taking action
- c.) the choices they are making and consequences of those choices as they are taking action
- d.) how to gauge the results of their actions and use that information as feedback to ensure they are acting in a way that serves them best
- e.) what learning is available to them as they move forward towards their results and outcomes
If you do not have a clear outcome in mind, a way of measuring your progress as you are making it, and the ability to make adjustments or wholesale changes to what your are doing or where you are aiming along the way you may be setting yourself up for greater disappointment and failure than if you don’t take any action at all.
Joseph Campbell, one of the thinkers, scholars and writers I most admire, was fond of saying:
“There is perhaps nothing worse than reaching the top of the ladder and discovering that you’re on the wrong wall.”
Once I know that my clients have a well formed outcome we begin building the skills they need to ensure they continue using a ladder that’s worth climbing in the first place.
Or Just Lacking Some Skills And Learning?
The next thing would be mistaking the reason a person is stuck with the lack of skills that are present and required for creating the result or outcome that is desired in the first place. If you need skills to get your results and outcomes that you don’t currently have, then all the focus, effort and action in the world won’t get you your results and outcomes without getting those skills in place first.
Now I don’t want to split hairs … of course it’s possible to get those skills by partnering with or hiring someone who has them, but I’d argue that knowing how to do that takes a certain kind of skill that you may or may not have … i.e.: and the ability to partner with or hire someone who is willing and capable of getting the result or outcome, and sustaining the relationship you need along the way. So as some point getting your results or outcomes comes down to having the requisite skills.
This is a function of knowing how to create your result or outcome in my book. Knowing what you need to do isn’t enough, you need to know how to do it as well. I also think these things are necessarily sequential … you must first know what to do to be able to determine how you’ll need to do it. Both components, “what” and “how” are equally important to getting the results and outcomes you intend. Even when you have both the what and how in place you can find yourself stuck, spinning your wheels without knowing what it is that’s limiting you …
This is where having a powerful and potent learning process becomes essential … when you are stuck and don’t know what it is that limits you.
You have to be able to transcend how you currently think about and act in regard to creating the results and outcomes you intend if you are motivated, know what to do and how to do it and still aren’t getting your results and outcomes … this is essence of Transformational Change that leads to a Performance Breakthrough that leads to creating the results and outcomes you intend.
The intersection of Transformational Change and Performance Breakthrough is what I call … “Transformational Performance”
My personal practice is dedicated to helping my clients create and access Transformational Performance in their lives, both on their own and with others. It could be in their personal lives and intimate relationships, or in their professional lives and relationships, including their businesses.
Beyond private work directly with clients I am also constantly working with other professionals teaching, mentoring and supervising them in their own practices as therapists, coaches, consultants, counselors and trainers. The fundamental model I designed, the Mythogenic Self Process … or more simply the MythoSelf® Process, forms the basis of way I help these professionals gain the knowledge, skills, experience and expertise they need to achieve the results and outcomes they intend with clients of their own.
While the MythoSelf® Process model is complex behind the scenes, allowing great depth in working with clients in a multitude of situations regarding an almost endless number of the kinds of results and outcomes someone trained in the model can help with … on the surface it simply follows along the four basic steps I’ve outlined here:
- MOTIVATION – Establishing a well-formed result or outcome that you are motivated to take action to achieve.
- STRATEGY – Designing a strategy to achieve the results and outcomes you intend, including a way to measure your progress, make adjustments along the way and/or change what you intend completely if that makes sense.
- PROCESS – Identifying the process and organizing steps you need to take in relation to the result or outcome you intend to create, and ensuring the knowledge, skills and resources you need to succeed are in place.
- LEARNING – Getting beyond any hidden limitations to success that may be holding you back and keeping you stuck … including building a learning strategy that will allow you to transcend the way you may have limited yourself in the past.
What many people, including many professionals, think of as insurmountable challenges in getting “unstuck” is often a simple matter of reforming a learning strategy that works for you with precision and enough fidelity to match the results and outcomes you intend to create.
Making it more complex than that just makes it more difficult to get to where you intend going than it needs to be …