We all have memories we treasure. Others may be ones we’d delete from our memory banks if given the choice! What we may not know, is that our memories – even traumatic ones – can create a positive treasure map that guides us through our career and other decisions in our adult lives.
How do we make our “memory bank” work in our favor? The first thing to know is that our earliest and most vivid memories create the most dominant conclusions about our place in the world (and they can be stubbornly resistant to change, but not impossible).
We just need to know how to process them. Dramatic experiences from early childhood – whether very positive or painful – turn into “rules to live by” in order to bring on more of the good stuff or to prevent the bad stuff from happening again. Our brains do it automatically.
The only problem is that a child’s interpretation of events is usually distorted and inaccurate to some degree. As real and true and significant as the conclusion feels, it usually has some “all-or-nothing” thinking that comes with it.
This can be a tremendous disservice to us in our adult lives in many aspects. It can create self-imposed limitations that may inhibit our growth and success.
I use an acronym, GEM, to teach people a little “do-it-yourself” psychotherapy.
Gather Essential Memories
Gain Enlightened Meanings
Generate Empowered Movement
If we learn to apply the GEMs in our lives, we will discover a treasure chest of personal growth and guidance toward our greatest strengths.
Christmas can sometimes serve as an interesting starter example. Think back to your earliest memory of Christmas (or other holiday celebrated in your family). Mine was when I was eight years old. My older sister and I were recruited to help wrap and put all the gifts under the tree for my three little sisters. It was very exciting, especially because they were getting a kids’ kitchen – with “some assembly required!”
After my younger sisters were all in bed, my mom, dad, older sister and I started working on the assembly of the little stove. It was the first time we had worked together as a team. In fact, it was the first time Dad got involved in the Christmas job at all, as usually Mom was Santa and the elves 100%.
In the midst of our work, one of my little sisters got out of bed and came toward the living room doorway. We heard her in the nick of time and we all kicked into high gear. My mother jumped up and blocked her view casually, while escorting her to the kitchen for her requested glass of water.
Dad quickly moved the little stove out of sight and my older sister and I covered as much as we could with our own stretched-out bodies. We were all intent on keeping the big gift a happy surprise for Christmas morning.
When anything unusual happens in our life, we tend to remember it more vividly. Think about an early Christmas or other memory of your own. What was the scene? What single frame of the scene stands out? What were your feelings at the time? What made it unusual? Was it something you wanted to create more of in the future, or try to prevent from ever happening again? What conclusions about your place in the world did you reach? What expectations did you form about how life “should” be?
In my example above, the single most vivid frame was of the “team” rising to the occasion of keeping my little sister from seeing the surprise gifts prematurely. My feelings were contentment, happiness, excitement, and significance.
I loved being part of this team that had assembled for the greater good of our family Christmas. It was unusual that my assistance had been enlisted this way. Usually my older sister and I babysat together, but it was in our parents’ absence. This time we were all equals in the team and it seemed like a wonderful miracle.
Positive memories such as this can give us a great sense of what to strive for. In my example, one of my unconscious conclusions became “Everyone should work as a team of equals at ALL times.” The all-or-nothing part was the unconscious expectation it established for recreating a similar team for all tasks, all the time. The overall guideline was fine, but to impose the ‘always for everything’ part, would leave me disappointed in some of the education, career and family projects I tackled if I hadn’t amended it to a more realistic expectation.
Learning to revisit our memory banks in this way serves as a useful tool. It helps in removing unhelpful distorted conclusions that may have steered us poorly in certain adult decisions. That is step two in the GEM process – Gain Enlightened Meanings. We correct our rules going forward and that’s what frees us to engage in step three: Generate Empowered Movement.
Keep in mind, positive memories usually don’t create large obstacles, but they still may contain some all-or-nothing beliefs that turn into unrealistic expectations. When memories are painful, the GEM process is still the same. We must discover what conclusions we reached from them and then correct the inaccuracies.
Common examples from a negative memory often include statements such as:
“I am not important.”
“I am inadequate.”
“I’m not valuable.”
“I’m not good.”
Then unwittingly we believe our erroneous conclusions and they become a roadmap for our choices. We take over where someone else left off. It is our responsibility to discover these inaccuracies in our self-perception and correct them. It takes much repetition to create new self-belief systems, but that’s where the positive changes become empowered.
For step 3 of GEM, then, we Generate Empowered Movement by creating corrected beliefs. In the previous examples, we implant:
I am important.
I am adequate.
I am valuable.
I am good.
Then add what we want to do to the remainder of the belief, for example:
I am important, so I will contact my work associates for the upcoming presentation.
I am adequate, so I will actively take part in the team project (or family event).
I am valuable, so I will confidently voice my ideas in this meeting.
I am good, so I will feel proud and be enthused in my life.
When you’ve processed a memory this way, you can now dub it a “gemory!” Your gemories create new sparkle it your spirit.
Get in the habit of gathering your memories for this new purpose – enlightened meanings and empowered movement. They help you achieve your unique success and you can take these “memory bank” GEMs to the bank! More importantly, when you discover the treasure in your GEMs, the positive changes you make flow more easily and you treasure your life.
Since doing the GEM exercises I have had breakthrough thoughts for both my business activities and my personal financial planning. Great insights continue to come that help me build on my success and leave my old struggles behind. ~WGE
To be successful, it’s imperative to understand the beliefs and patterns that contribute to your success as well as those that create stumbling blocks. That’s what the GEM process is all about. It works! ~Jill Konrath, CEO, Author, Selling to Big Companies
I love this process and am eager to see it out in the world. The GEM experiences and Susan helped me uncover ‘secret motivators’ thwarting my money-saving behavior. Now I’m saving and implementing a financial plan successfully. I’m grateful for revealing insight that Susan and the GEM process provided! ~Faith Ralston, Author of Play Your Best Hand
So many things this gave me: Validation of my feelings; defining feelings I’ve had but didn’t know what they were; knowing I’m not alone; it all helped bring out strengths but in a gentle way. ~JC
Susan coached me to see how an early memory had turned into an interpretation in my adult life that affected an aspect of my professional growth. It had translated into my doing all the heavy lifting for clients rather than engaging in a more active give and take balance. Susan helped me form visualizations to maintain that balance with clients…a teeter totter so that both parties are lifted up, rather than one high and one low. I can’t tell you how many times the images have come to mind, evoked a smile, and positive, profitable movement forward! ~Leslie Buterin, Cold Calling Expert ColdCallingNetNews.com.