THE BLOG

The Secret Way Memory Could Be Sabotaging Your Happiness

02/23/2015 11:40 am ET | Updated Apr 25, 2015
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"What did you do last weekend? How was your time off last summer? What have you been up to since the last time we caught up?"

You get these questions enough to know what's a good answer to them, so you pull out the most impressive sounding thing that comes to mind:

"I just got back from a trip to Europe. I'm working on a new side business," or even just, "I found an awesome new bar downtown."

You want to give them a dreamy mental image of you that sounds absolutely thrilling when they fill in the details to your story.

And it's not your fault. We all do it. It would be foolish not to give the best answer you have.

But it's easy to confuse things that sound good with things that are good.

Memory is not security camera footage of every moment of your life. There's just no need to store 5,000 identical memories of you doing your typical morning routine.

A better metaphor would be a motion-activated security camera that starts recording when something moves in front of it. Increased interest, heightened emotion, or an out of the ordinary situation leave a longer lasting mental impression.

This is why you probably remember watching that one absolutely terrifying horror movie from five years ago more than some average blockbuster from just last month.

The point is that simple, pleasurable experiences are rarely memorable and almost always make terrible stories.

That's why answering "I ate toast," when someone asks you about your weekend will probably keep you from getting invited to most of their events ever again.

If you've ever seen the 40-Year-Old Virgin you know exactly what I mean. (Steve Carell's character painfully recounts every step in the process of making an egg salad sandwich.)

When you think about it, it's actually kind of strange that the phrase "you only live once," incites people to do things that they don't actually enjoy just so they can have a good story.

Why would you spend your present moment doing something you don't really like just to be able to talk about it later?

Don't get me wrong, there's massive value in having new experiences. Adventuring builds character and broadens your horizons.

And beyond that, you can easily illustrate your strong, bold character by explaining how you almost drowned on a rafting trip or stayed out all night with a South Korean business tycoon.

But when you look back on your life, it might just be the days you don't remember that you enjoyed most.

So in between running with the bulls and bungee jumping off the Eiffel Tower, take time for making immemories.

Spend a slow, sunny morning doing nothing in your bathrobe. Stay in, drink some beer, and watch Netflix.

You won't really brag about it on Monday.

It's probably not social media worthy.

You might not even remember it in a month.

But you can relax for a quiet moment of happiness in a loud society of stories.

And that's worth all of the Facebook likes in the world.


*Drop a comment and describe your favorite thing to not remember doing. The rest of us might want to steal it