Mental Spring Cleaning

When I was pretty young, I pictured my brain as a big open space with lots of file cabinets and a little man on a wheeled chair keeping things in the proper order and retrieving the right information in an instant.  (I think it was a man because this was the 70s and my mom was into feminism, so this was a bit of reverse gender stereo-typing.)  Somewhere along the line my brain became technologically current and now works more like computer files.  Plus MS Visio flow charts – my mind really likes those.

mental springcleaning

We can fit 7 to 9 things in our short term memory waiting room and when something new comes along one of the things will either be moved to long term storage or go to the recycle bin.  Most people I know are always trying to shove 25 things into short term memory and then we can’t understand why we can’t retrieve anything.


Once information makes it into long term memory, how do we store it?  Visualizing the way that I sort, collate, and categorize the information helps me to actively link the new stuff to existing knowledge that is similar.  We are bombarded with information daily and it quickly gets overwhelming.  We all unconsciously run new information through a gantlet to sort, collate and categorize it.


Science has names for most of the twists and turns of the gantlet.  Naming something helps us to understand it and determine the appropriate level of influence it should have on us.  Here are just a couple that can have a direct effect on how we save information:

  • Instrumental beliefs are directly related to accomplishments – I need to understand math to manage my money.  I should retain this great new tip to help me with my computations.
  • Confirmation bias is our natural reaction to accept the truth of new information that confirms an existing belief.  Usually we are more likely to utilize confirmation bias to support a philosophical belief (a belief based more on emotion).


We have so many experiences and can come across so very much interesting and useful information and it is so frustrating to remember that you once knew something but not be able to retrieve that actual knowledge.  It would be fabulous to have an eidetic memory – like Dr. Reed on Criminal Minds – the ability to precisely recall something that you’ve read or experienced crisply and completely when needed again.

  • Are you clear on something that you want in one room and in a complete mist about it in the next room?  This is an event boundary – our mind is clearing its slate to be ready for possible issues once we walk through a doorway.


We can’t always remember what we want to remember when we want to remember it, but it’s good to think about how we are thinking once in a while.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations


1 Comment

Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

One response to “Mental Spring Cleaning

  1. Pingback: Further Thoughts on the Four Function Diagram | Huliganov TV

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