Do you remember times when you read tens of blogs on your favourite car, low-carb foods, careers in PCM, Shark Tank India, Squid Game, or Pushpa’s box office collection? So, can you tell us the whole list of careers in PCM or every single fact about Shark Tank India? Probably not. You may only remember what intrigued you amidst everything—that’s the beauty of retention.
Or can you remember having searched for word meaning on Google and still not recalling what it means? (Unless you’ve used it in your dialogue.)
We’ve all been there, right? In the digital era, we are loaded with information even about things we are not interested in. Still, we remember some of it quite well. Mostly, we are not able to remember what we do need to—be it academics or research reports in our field of work.
How does our mind respond to first-hand information?
Let’s explore what retention means in the first place—the process of keeping something in one’s memory. We don’t press a button, of course, to store anything in. It is a natural process.
So, how does our mind agree or disagree to cherish a fact or discard it away?
Let’s start from the start.
The First Reading
Well, the first reading is like befriending a new territory.
Remember when your teacher advised, “You all can be bright students. Read the lesson a day before I teach so that you can retain it better.“
When you open a physics book for the first time in your life, you’re definitely not familiar with Motion. Your teacher may take the first lecture without the book, just recollecting your real-life motion experiences. Then, she may actually narrate the technical definition to you and help you relate those real-life examples to understand it.
There may be a need to reread the definition yourself to fit in the example perfectly enough to completely understand the concept in your mind. But if you have pre-read the lesson, you may be able to understand it in the teacher’s lecture itself.
The Latest Learning
You learn to cook not by reading the recipe, but by using it to cook the dish. So you learned motion not by reading the definition but by observing it in your life.
So, learning is retention. It’s like when the understanding of something (let’s say, motion) stays with you, you can say you’ve learned it.
You may need time and revisions to retain the exact definition. But if you have retained the understanding, you feel like you have learned it. The definition may be forgotten, but the understanding won’t. That understanding is like takeaways from the topic summarized in your own words.
To Learn or Not To Learn
Why did we learn about Motion?
Simply because it was part of our syllabus and we needed it to help us go on. Or because we felt that it is a crucial part of our life. In fact, Motion is what symbolizes life (a motionless person is dead; don’t say sleeping because our diaphragm moves). Having realized that, our mind subconsciously understood that we will use this information in conversation, workouts, and our day-to-day lives and especially, understanding health diagnosis.
If we come back to recalling the box office collection of Pushpa (movie), the purpose may be to share our excitement with our friends or just have a say in the hangout. But definitely, we are going to retain the concept of Motion (be it only its understanding) for longer in life and Pushpa’s box office collection details are going to be forgotten in days as a new movie or excitement replaces it.
Of course, choosing to learn takes a relevant purpose. But the point is why does our mind keep discarding a fact even if we need it?
Mind: “Trash it.” But Why Such Hate For Retention?
It could be due to an absence of purpose and the emotional energy needed to focus.
Sometimes, we know how badly we need to score well in our exams and thus, study. And other times we have to force ourselves because our parents find it useful to study the curriculum taught in school. But honestly, we don’t.
Yes. It is when we don’t find it significant ourselves to learn something, our mind chooses to discard it away by alluring us into distractions (things that have our explicit interest). But if we see clearly, it only happens because scoring high is not all that matters to us every time and our mind is missing those real-life applications that make learning worth it.
Here, discarding is one thing. But there are things like the latest car in the market which we remember only for days until it stays the latest, and there are things like Magic Lock pitch from Shark Tank India which we will recall the moment it’s newscasted again but not when casually asked about. So, how do we let go of the former and how do we suddenly seem to have retained the latter, i.e., Shark Tank pitches?
The ‘Period Of Usefulness’
We may remember for almost a lifetime that “Ye meri expertise nhi h, I’m out.”. But not the companies Namita actually invested in. Well, the dialogue obviously has a lot of applications in real life(check Instagram for the many memes). But we have our own business to run or job to take care of to remember all business ideas.
We may not actively remember all ideas in words, but our mind judges every little piece of information and stores it in the far-flung corners even if it is worth without a purpose. So, if we genuinely paid heed to it, it’s most probably there and may pop up in times of need as the so-called ‘smartness’.
To create space for this, our mind refreshes the short term memory every now and then. For instance, a movie’s record-breaking box office collection that excited us in 2010 is erased from our 2022 memory. Why? It has lost its relevance.
On account of the above, one response in retaining information is the WHY behind it, which revolves around WHEN. In the digital era, we have one more aspect to retaining information i.e., WHERE.
Bookmark or Brainmark: Which is Best For Retention?
In a world where everything’s a click away, how do we decide what we need without Mobile?
Of course, in exams—everything, but out in the world alone, our near ones’ contact details, ATM pin, accommodation, and Common Sense, for sure. But in general, what do we need to know to be called sane?
Sunrises happen in the east— yes. Language basics—yes. Car Insurance—NO. We are not going to die every day (except in philosophy). It is a rare occurrence and eligibility is for specific events. And then, we are not going to walk out thinking of meeting an accident.
Similarly, we don’t need to memorize a new recipe, we can simply remember segments to use and watch again when needed. Nor do we need to Brainmark all the songs that were released in 2021. We can simply listen to them from the app library or by revisiting the site.
Although your parents used to remember the whole phonebook, you can simply ask Google Assistant or Siri or Alexa. That said, there are still important things you need to convince yourself to retain.
Train to Retain🚂🚂🚂
When there’s a short circuit, you have to know conductors and insulators of electricity (unless you love shocks!).
You see, some information is not immediately or directly usable, but you’ve got to know. When it’s time, your smartness is at stake in seconds. So, whatever our textbooks try to teach, we genuinely need to know that. It’s just that it would feel important once we proactively dig for its applications and find its unnoticeable worth. Thus, retention is vital.
These are 3 things to tame your mind for effective retention:
- Explore real-life experiences that involve the information you are trying to remember.
- Find your purpose to learn it, how it’s going to impact you: good or bad.
- Understand the core essence and remember it in your own words.
- Share it with someone who needs to know. You will remember your experience of sharing the knowledge.
But take note, cramming like a parrot is a success in delusion. If not, short-lived success.
⚠️How Cramming Your Way Is Futile for Retention
Remember the nights before exams?
Let’s accept the fact that there is sincere behaviour studying throughout the year, carefree behaviour doing last night’s study, and amongst them, chilled-out smartness recalling examples from the lecture and nail the way to praise. But except for some blank minds, everyone gives a tough competition in scoring high. Knowingly or unknowingly, we deem the high scorers as the intelligent ones.
Consider the words of Albert Einstein:
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
We see that learning is not what we blurt out in the answer sheet. It’s what we hold on to amidst passing years and are able to explain to our siblings or children without looking into the book.
Rote learning may give you the gate pass to a prestigious college which may help you grab a great job opportunity. But contracts are for talent. The employer believes in performance at the end of the day.
Don’t worry if you feel like you’ve got nothing retained. Because you do. Every time. Consciously or subconsciously. But if you want to retain more, get on the train. We took a year to learn to walk after entering the earth. That, too, was kickstarted when our parents made us long for them. So, give life a chance (thinking of the year you gave to walking).
In the meantime, think of more fun and creative ways to learn to promote retention. We’ll get back to you when we find some.