Coaching for those Senior Moments

Age-related Mind Blips?

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
Reflections on memory before moving on with help

When your mind is like a steel sieve

It’s bad enough when we can’t recall a name in the middle of an introduction. It’s worse when we can’t remember where we put our keys when we’re running late — and so embarrassing when our minds drive right by birthdays and anniversaries.

We feel scatterbrained when we have to go back into the house several times to check that we turned off the lights, locked the back door, or unplugged the iron.

We feel stupid when we forget a basic fact we haven’t pulled out of our mental databases for a while – like how to divide fractions or figure percentages, or the spelling of a common word, for example.

We worry that we might be getting SENILE when we can’t recall entire events – like going to see a specific film with a certain person who is absolutely positive we were there with them, perplexed when we still don’t remember once they supply details to support their case.

If we don’t remember seeing the film at all, we begin to worry about incipient Alzheimer’s!

Memory lapses are not limited to those middle-aged mind-blips science sometimes calls “age-related cognitive decline.” It’s also awful when a student’s mind goes blank when s/he’s taking an exam after studying diligently for several nights in a row.

Question Mark in red circle; magnifying glass attempting to make it clearer.While the kids might substitute a different word for the last letter in the acronym, we all find it unbelievably frustrating when we have a CRS episode – those times when we simply . . .

        Can’t Remember Stuff !

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The Heartbreak Of CRS

We ALL fall victim to CRS many times throughout our lives – more and more often as we age.

  • Opportunities for advancement and success have been lost to CRS.
  • CRS can devastate self-esteem when it rears its ugly head too often.
  • Relationships come unglued when CRS is chronic.

The real heartbreak of CRS, however, is that we will never be successful, professionally or personally, unless we are able to stay in action toward our goals!  If we can’t remember to DO what we intended to do, when we intended to do it, how can we possibly expect to stay in action?

  • All of us have times when we are so distracted by other events in our lives that we don’t take the time to write it down – even the important stuff.
  • THEN there are the times when we aren’t focused enough on our game plans to remember to check our reminders – like the notations in our Date Books, or the post-it notes we sprinkled around the house to make sure we didn’t forget an important event.

What’s going on?

  • Are we too befuddled to understand what’s appropriate or necessary?
  • Does it mean we don’t take our goals seriously — or that we are unconsciously sabotaging ourselves?
  • Maybe it means we have unconscious conflicts, or fear of failure. Maybe its fear of success! Or perhaps we’re just plain LAZY.

Or maybe, just maybe, “memory” is a factor of a of attention and focus.  I would like to make a case for the fact that it IS.

What IS Memory, anyway?

When we think about human memory loss, what is it that we think we’re losing?

You may have read somewhere that memory is our ability to store, retain, and recall information. While that is certainly correct, the kind of information we utilize memory to store, retain and recall, along with the processes our brain uses to “remember” are more complex and comprehensive than most of us realize. And it matters!

When we “can’t remember” – when only one component of memory fails us (recall on demand) – it is not really the same as when we “forget.” For most of us with CRS, the information we are trying to “remember” hasn’t been lost, we just can’t seem to recall it when we need it.

  • It is still stored somewhere in that brain of ours, and we probably will recall it later (once we no longer need it, right?)
  • It’s just that our cognitive file clerk is unable to locate it the moment we ask for it.

The Memory Process

The first step in getting a handle on memory is understanding that memory is a process, each step dependent on the other, beginning with awareness.

Getting it IN

  • Events must be registered – stored in your memory banks – for you to be able to access the information later.
  • Unless our brains determine that the content is relevant to our being, they never pass it along from short term memory buffers to the storage tanks.
  • In other words, your brain makes a decision to store or the item is no more a part of your memory than exactly where you once parked your car on an uneventful trip to a store where you usually shop.
  • Unless something causes us to focus on an event as it occurs, there is no neurological awareness that a decision to store might be a good idea.

Which means that unless you were consciously aware that you saw it, heard it, felt it, tasted it, or consciously generated the information internally (as with a thought or an action), for YOU, the event didn’t “happen.”

In other words, you could never be expected to “remember” the event, because, as far as your conscious awareness is concerned, your brain can’t locate evidence that it ever occurred.

In addition, the information must be linked for retrieval – which means it must not only be stored in your memory banks, it must be linked in a manner that the information can be accessed when it is requested

Getting it Back OUT

The process of memory storage is an extremely important part of the equation, of course, but it’s not enough to focus our energies on keeping our ability to store information strong and vital.

We need to understand how to be able to retrieve the information reliably for our “memory” to be of any use to us.

If our brain’s librarian can’t locate what we ask it for when it comes time to USE the information, what good is it?

So before we explore the process of moving information into long-term memory storage, let’s take a look at the ways in which our “neuro-librarians” deliver what we’re looking for once it is stored there.

Remembering is more than an act of cognitive consciousness

Unless trained otherwise, the “regurgitation” portion of the memory process is a factor of, essentially, three different processes that are primarily unconscious:

  • recognition
  • recall, and
  • recall on demand

Remembering means Registration and Recall

In order to be able to “remember” anything, the event must have been:

  1. Registered by your brain
  2. Stored in your brain’s “memory banks,” and
  3. Linked in such a way that it is
  4. Retrievable on demand

Any technique that increases our ATTENTION on an element we know we will expect to recall later increases the likelihood that our expectations won’t be frustrated.  And that’s where brain-based coaching is golden – professional or peer.

  • The more we pay attention to paying attention, the sharper THAT skill becomes, which means that “remembering” becomes easier and more reliable as time goes by.
  • BUT, not all techniques work equally well for everyone – which far too many so-called “memory experts” don’t seem to know, understand or believe.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

  • Unless we understand ourselves – sherlocking our own functioning, what works best for us and what doesn’t work (or isn’t worth the struggle to force it to work) – attempting to use “sure-bet memory enhancing techniques” not only are unlikely to work well for US, they will probably have the opposite effect.
  • We’ll stop trying to remember, concluding that we are “broken” in some manner that can’t be fixed. And that’s a crying shame!

With a little bit of help and relevant information from a comprehensively trained brain-based coach we can ALL improve our functioning in just about any arena we choose – including memory.

Signing up for Peer Coaching Basic Training will help you jump-start the process in a cost-effective, group-coaching manner.

This post is one of a series of articles on the link between attention, focus, activation and memory — pre-publication content from my new book on Intentional Attending,™ soon to be out as an eBook and TeleClass series. Sign up for blog notification if you want to get the information while it’s free!

MEANWHILE, check out the articles in the Peer Coaching Basic Training Series for information about a low-cost group TeleClass alternative to my Professional Coaching.

As always, if you want notification of new articles in the Memory, Coaching,  or Peer Coaching Series – or any new posts on this blog – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some one-on-one (couples or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this Series, click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

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(in case you missed them above)

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

33 Responses to Coaching for those Senior Moments

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  5. Try being mild aged and dyslexic! I have now started to write everything down. On the upside I now own some very funky note books.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wendy says:

    Very interesting indeed. Of course I have memory problems, they call it Brain Fog with me. ugh.
    I have been doing embroidery recently and I’ll be right in the middle of a section and suddenly forget the stitch I’ve been using. I was just using it for some time and suddenly I have to look at the directions to see what I’m doing. it’s crazy.

    Where do I sign up for a blog notification about your ebook?


    • You’re already signed up because you follow the blog, but thank you SO much for being interested. Life plays fast and loose with me, so I return the favor with that “soon” word. Don’t hold your breath while you wait for the announcement! 🙂

      Brain fog, chemo fog, CRS – whatever – as long as it’s not total amnesia most of us keep muddling on somehow anyway, once we learn a few tricks (like hang on to those directions!) But I know what you mean about how bizarre it is when something physical becomes a runner.

      Happens to me when I’m blogging. I’ve been a touch typist for decades, but sometimes my mind skips a beat and I have stop to think about the placement of a specific key like [ or ~ or % etc. — or how to make a certain symbol that takes two or more keys in combo like © or ® or ™ — and certain html codes? fagedaboudit!

      And then there’s this – sometimes my fingers type the wrong words, all by themselves! Not as spooky as it sounds – they don’t go off on rants and send me messages or anything, but words that have similar starting letters sometimes have to be edited because my speed-typing fingers finished them in a fashion other than what my brain intended.

      To make things worse, I use an old Microsoft tactile “clicky” keyboard with my Mac, so I space out on what the control key symbols mean or do (like that dumb flying window looking one, for example!). And the keys stick sometimes – so the clicks I hear and feel don’t necessarily mean that I typed anything – and when I look at the screen it looks like I can’t spell. THEN I get distracted fixing typos and forget what I’m writing!!

      Memory is truly a strange and wonderful thing, huh? A couple of new posts about hanging on to what we’ve got are coming up this month — maybe starting next week? I mean, who remembers? 🙂



  7. Debbie says:

    another intriguing blog post Madelyn. Certainly, paying attention and focus – stress, I guess, provokes memory loss but its scary when its something which just happened two minutes ago and you cant remember it- although when someone tells you the details it comes back.
    what about obsessive behaviour? i check my passport a million times when travelling, even when I’ve jsut checked and seen it there, I check again, before I get off the train, out of a cab, etc…. in fact the behaviour of “checking to see if my passport is still there”, AGAIN, AFTER I’ve got off the train/out of the car and seen it, is more likely to make me lose it and other things. its a hard habit to break, and certainly is worse when im under stress.


    • I can relate! Although I have no OCD in my functional profile, I am **extremely** distractible so I do that ‘checking’ thing myself when I travel – even about town, to a lesser degree. Yes, stress exacerbates memory struggles, and the stress of being away from home is greater than most people realize – different kind of stress.

      I have systems in place so that I don’t actually have to REMOVE things from their little traveling homes (unless I must to use them), but I’m constantly checking by feel to make sure I returned them there — always more relieved than makes sense every time I find them where they are supposed to be.

      The problem, when traveling, is that the systems & habits I’ve come to rely on can’t travel with me. Almost everything depends on strong & reliable short-term memory – and much of what I need to do is so similar. I can clearly recall putting [ ID’s – wallet – etc.] back, but did I put them back LAST time I got them out or am I remembering some other time I had to get them out and put them back?

      Still, I love to travel and it seems like you do to. Thanks for the visit – and for your comment.



  8. Great post Madelyn. Like most people, I become forgetful if I’m stressed. I drop things, forget things, have to do things two or three times. I now try to step back and take a few deep breathes and think ‘what is it that I’m trying to do’? then once I know what it is I do that one thing, then another until I ‘find’ my brain and stop being befuddled :0)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. PorterGirl says:

    Fabulous post as ever, and particularly so for me as I have to write EVERYTHING down as I forget things within seconds of being told them at times! But as I was reading, a friend started reading over my shoulder and was very impressed (he is a scientist, although his focus is oncology) and started a conversation. He told me that he was teaching his youngest child to swim and saying how her brain had to ‘remember’ the actions to perform in order to do so. But his dog was born with the ability to swim, so that ability was not learned but built into the DNA. I said that I thought if you drop a young baby in water it would automatically swim – but he said no, he tried it with his eldest and he just sank & cried! A bit off topic, but this is the sort of thing your articles inspire 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • “A bit off topic, but this is the sort of thing your articles inspire” — yea! I’ve done my job! (And here on “off topic” is a foreign concept.)

      Not everyone agrees with the “not in the human DNA” viewpoint, by the way. There is some serious discussion that fear of water is taught and learned – and/or that swimming is something that is lost if not reinforced quite early (thus the baby/toddler swim classes here in the US). “Swimming,” in this case, means more like “not drowning” however – we have to teach the backstroke!

      And then there are underwater videos of water births — the babies swim out of the womb, right to the top of the birthing tub in many cases. (Wikipedia already has an entry, & vids are probably on YouTube by now!)

      But he is absolutely right about the body-memory thing – and wise to tell his daughter (positive priming). btw- you seem to have quite the interesting & eclectic group of friends!


      Liked by 1 person

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