My great-grandma was a Gold Star mother. I recently came across a very old invitation from the President of the United States asking her to join other Gold Star families on a trip to France to see her son’s gravesite. My great uncle Alec was killed in WWI. Until recently, I never thought of the hardship my great-grandma faced or the sadness my grandmother experienced losing her brother. I only saw cool old pictures and heard faded stories of the experiences of those I never met.
As we remember those who sacrificed it all this past weekend and remain grateful for their fight for our freedom daily as we see the flag fly in the wind or sing the National Anthem before our games, I started to think about our memories, their importance and how we can use them to our advantage.
Each Wednesday at 11 am I meet with Allie. She is a Division I soccer player and an AMAZING young woman. Allie is recovering from PRP therapy and is not able to train fully…and isn’t loving it!
To help her stay on track and patient with her recovery, she has decided to do a few things to manage what she can control, like get a timeline from her PT, set up a visualization schedule to work through her therapy mentally and physically and she is building an EVIDENCE JOURNAL. Each day she is recording her improvements, no matter how slight.
Her EVIDENCE JOURNAL will soon serve as her MEMORY JOURNAL. According to research, this is HUGE!
As she and I talked through her return-to-play plan, I learned something in our last session, too. Allie built an “evidence journal” of sorts last season each time she did extra work in preparation for her first collegiate season. She took a selfie right before or after each extra workout – those she did on her own…when no one but her camera was watching.
WHAT A GREAT IDEA!
Picture after picture on her camera roll reminded her of the work she put in, her extra effort and since separation is in the preparation, it reminded her that she was ready and able to respond to whatever came because she had put in the work!
A picture “MEMORY JOURNAL!” EXCELLENT!
Why do we need a “memory journal”? Pulling up memories of what we have done, whether in pictures, mind movies or journal entries can be a great safeguard against stress and can help us manage worries that may present themselves as we look to the future or, as in Allie’s case, work to regain full strength and speed!
In fact, in 2017 researchers asked subjects to submerge and keep their hands in ice water as long as possible. As you can imagine, this was an uncomfortable request, and it sends cortisol streaming through the body. They found that participants who were asked to recall neutral memories, something that happened yesterday or anything that was innocuous compared to those who were asked to recall positive memories (like those are writing down and celebrating in our evidence journal), as soon as the hand was submerged, the neutral memory group had cortisol levels that steadily increased during the exercise. The positive memory group saw very little bump in cortisol levels.
Their conclusion? Positive memories can lessen our stress levels! (Other studies have found similar results).
Although all the entries in our EVIDENCE JOURNAL may not be thrilling or the most exciting memories ever, they compound. One improvement adds to the next and before we know it, we have a pattern of solid preparation that helps us reuse all past experiences to our advantage…overcoming the tough ones and celebrating our accomplishments and enjoying the good ones.
Since our memories influence how we perceive the world and respond to new situations, creating positive memories of our experience and then reliving those helps us flood our brain with good stuff…thoughts and feel-good hormones…that can help us face the next step to full recovery…or the next level of play…with confidence.
Although this quote does not roll off the tongue, Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay Self-Reliance said, “The force of character is cumulative. All the foregone days of virtue work their health into this. What makes the majesty of the heroes of the senate and the field, which so fills the imagination? The consciousness of a train of great days and victories behind. They shed a united light on the advancing actor. He is attended as by a visible escort of angels.”
What do you picture when you read that quote? I picture someone walking confidently down a runway with spotlights lighting the way – “Move aside and let the man go through” as Soul Coughing once sang!
Building an arsenal of good memories is like being escorted by angels.
They can lift us to face the next situation at our peak because we are recalling the good stuff behind us that put us here ready to succeed!
As Allie recovers and gets ready to sprint, win 50/50 balls and fight on the pitch at the highest level, it is imperative that she believes she is ready. The evidence she has collected will play a big role in her ability to trust the process.
She can look at her camera roll of evidence. She can relive her positive memories when she is forced into situations that resemble putting her hand in cold water. And before she heads out to tackle the next big thing, she can look back at what she overcame to get there page by page and know she can overcome whatever is ahead, just like she overcame each day prior!
Author James Clear says in Atomic Habits, “It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis. Too often, we convince ourselves that massive success requires massive action.”
It’s the little wins. The pictures. The small improvements. The simple feelings of accomplishment.
The simple positive memories add up. If we use them to our advantage, big things happen!
Manage the moments…and the memories!
P.S. Looking for a speaker to come in to kick off 2023-24? Contact me today at firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text 234-206-0946 and let’s set up a session or a plan for your program!
Mental Performance Coach
email@example.com • 234-206-0946