On living longer through memorable experiences

So, I’ve been reading about memory. More specifically, I’ve been reading about remembering and training one’s memory. Obviously, it’s a deep and wide topic, but a few things have stood out thus far, including how to make one’s life more memorable.

Now, I’m not talking about doing things so as to be remembered by others. Rather, these are things that make your own life more memorable to you which, in turn, actually makes for a “longer” life.

Okay, I feel like I might be derailing a tad here; stay with me. First, we gotta address the old—and, it turns out, erroneous—idea that time flies when we’re having fun. See, if we accept that, it would lead us to believe that a fun-filled life would also feel upsettingly brief. But, in fact, the opposite is true. The more routine your daily life, the more your days are likely to blend together and fade from memory on the strength of their sheer unmemorableness (yup: made up word; deal with it).

Think of life as a novel. When you’re reading a novel the author includes only the remarkable, notable, memorable bits. She won’t include any of those mundane moments like the time the main character spent lounging on the couch watching Netflix, or the hour it took him to reorganize his closet. The insignificant stuff is excised. If the author doesn’t do it herself, her editor will. Instead, the author fills her novel with exciting or significant scenes in her character’s life. The more of these scenes there are, the longer the novel.

Turns out our memories work the same way: they edit out all the mundane, insignificant, routine stuff and hold onto the exciting, remarkable stuff. So, the more exciting stuff you experience, the longer your personal “novel” will be. If your life is nothing but routine (work, home, TV, bed, repeat), well, that would make for a hell of a short novel, right?

Think about it: the moment when you say to yourself, “Shit, this year is already done?” typically follows an exceedingly routine year. But think back on a year during which you did a lot of traveling, for example, and that year will feel especially full and may elicit such thoughts as, “How did I fit it all into a single year?”

So, for a longer, more satisfying, more memorable life, it’s important to fill one’s life with as many genuinely memorable moments as possible. I’m not gonna tell you how to do that, of course, since words like “significant” and “satisfying” are entirely subjective. But, maybe focus on those things that stand out when you think back to last year, or three years ago, or a decade ago. What do you remember fondly? What memories cause you to smile? Whatever they are, those are the scenes your editor left alone and those are the kinda scenes you need more of.

For me, this usually involves discovery, exploration, travel, that sorta thing, but it can also be an especially good book or movie, or a fascinating conversation or time spent with family . . .

Fact is, memories truly are made, and they’re made through experiences worth remembering. It’s like Benjamin Franklin said, “Write something worth reading or live a life worth writing about,” even if the “writer” in question is simply your own memory.

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