The Question: “Do memories hinder or help people in their effort to learn from the past and succeed in the present?” I’ve seen quite a bit of discussion about memory lately, and it seems that a lot of people are taking sides.
On one end, you have the people that think memories hinder people’s effort to learn from the past and succeed in the present. These people cite the fact that some people hold on to memories that reinforce limiting beliefs.
For example, someone gets a bad grade on a math test and says, “Oh wow. I’m horrible at math.” So that person gives up, and starts failing math. Essentially, this person’s memories serve to dig a deep hole of self-worthlessness when it comes to math.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have people who think that memories help people learn from the past and succeed in the present.
For example, someone studies hard and gets a good grade on a math test and says, “Oh cool. Studying helps me to get good grades. When I get good grades I feel great about myself” So that person remembers that studying leads to good grades and feelings, and that memory serves to help the person make the decision to study next time.
Here’s what I think: Both sides are correct. I think memories can hinder you or help you, depending on how you choose to feel about the situation. I think that one of the great wonders of humanity is that we have the ability to perceive memories as limits or opportunities. We have the ability to consciously control how we feel about what has happened to us.
Some people try to write a story, only to have someone shoot it down with harsh criticism. Then, they hold the “I’m not a good writer” belief for the rest of their life.”
Though, some people have their story harshly criticized and see it as an opportunity to do better next time. They take the criticism and fix the writing to make it better. Or, they learn to avoid harsh critics that they don’t trust. Regardless, they make the choice to persist because they don’t let the memory hold them back.
As a leader, you have the option to perceive the past in any way that you want, with great consequence to the effect of your leadership. For example, a leader of a company sees over and over that employees fail to realize safety regulations. So, the leader says to his or herself, “No-one has ever paid attention to the safety rules. We’re never going to have a safe work environment. We should just ignore the problem.
” Well, then another leader comes along and says, “Wait just a minute. Safety is important. We must train people and hold them accountable. We need some kind of system here. We need to get moving on this. People’s well-being is at stake.”
Both leaders have chosen what they believe is the best option to move forward based on past experience. Both leaders will try to influence the people around them to their vision of how the problem should be dealt with. The leader that snubs safety initiatives uses the past results as justification of present behavior.
That leader can’t see any clear future of a successful safety program because they’ve allowed the past to dictate what they believe is capable in the future.
The leader that embraces safety initiatives looks at the past, sees that there’s a problem, and then looks to the future to see what it’s going to take to solve the problem. As a leader, you have to make the choice whether or not you want to allow your memories to paralyze you with fear, anger, or regret.
You have to make the choice whether or not you want to push forward and succeed in changing things for the better. In the end, you will make a choice of what your experiences mean… and that choice will make all the difference.