We’re not very good at remembering things. Most of us forget someone’s name moments after we hear it for the first, or fourth, time. In our brains continual drive towards efficiency, it creates memory prioritization that is often not in line with what we would actually want to remember.
But names, addresses, or even someone’s birthday only cost us a little social capital. Actively forgetting important things, like our strengths, our skills, and our ability to adapt cost us a whole lot more than another awkward introduction, and they happen just as often.
If you talk with someone months after being laid off, or going through a challenging situation, they are likely to remember the pain, the anxiety, and the feelings of helplessness. When pressed, they might tell you about all the things that led to the hardship; market issues, bad bosses, or miss-steps.
What we are less likely to remember is what we did well in the midst of this struggle. What we did to get back on our feet, how well we maintained composure, or the strength we found that we didn’t know we had. Just like trying to remember someone’s name in the middle of a conversation, those things we do well become less important than the context surrounding them.
I don’t remember names because I’m too wrapped up in trying figure out what to say next, how I might look, or what this person does. We don’t remember what value we created in a challenging situation because we are too wrapped up in trying to keep our head above water, avoiding the negative people, or the mistakes we made. The brain’s natural prioritization system can cost us a lot.
To remember names, we simply make them a priority. We can ask the person about the name, the origins, or how they spell it. We can relate it to someone else we know, say it out loud three or four times, or even go so far as to write it down. If it’s important to us, if the social capital is valuable enough, we can find a way.
And so too with identifying our own strengths, skills, and abilities in the midst of struggle. When we realize the value of our confidence and the capital in our courage we can start making those things a priority. We can start being better at remembering the really important strengths that we are introducing to the world as they show themselves.
Make them a priority, find out where they came from, figure out where else you apply them, and for Pete’s sake, write them down. If you don’t remember what you did well you can’t use that ability in the future. And there’s nothing more awkward than learning the same lesson another, or four other, times again.