According to Wikipedia, “a memorial is an object which serves as a focus for memory of something, usually a person (who has died) or an event.” Focus for memory is the operative phrase here; the memories you choose to focus on, the events that you choose to relive through memory, have an extremely powerful effect on mood and motivation.

I am currently working with a client who is “plagued” with memories of past failures. These memories are preventing him from fully engaging in the job-seeking initiatives that will improve his situation (he has been without steady work for three years, although he lands an occasional gig as a consultant). I put “plagued” in quotations because it is a word that clearly indicates a phenomenon acting from outside oneself.

But memories are entirely internal. To state the obvious, they reside in your brain and nowhere else. They are there to be accessed, and marshaling the right ones can make a huge difference in your state of mind and the consequent ability to make progress in whatever direction you want.

The client referenced above is depressed, his lack of self-worth and confidence stalling him in his job hunt. In fact he is someone who should be able to find work quite easily: he is highly intelligent, personable, attractive, experienced, and articulate articulate. But because of the memories of previous job failures he is stalled, laboring under the delusion that his career is doomed.

If you find yourself plagued by memories of past failures, now is the time to take contrary action. Or, said another way, time to remember exceptions to the negative pattern (see my posts “Noticing Exceptions” and “Additional Thoughts on Noticing Exceptions”). Sit yourself down and make a list of the times you had a positive outcome. So let’s say that you have had difficulty getting along with co-workers. Think of a good work relationship that you were able to build. Or let’s say you consistently find yourself overwhelmed with what seems an intolerable work load. When did you find yourself in a situation in which you were able to handle a large volume of work? Then reflect on what talents or tools you enlisted to achieve the positive outcome. Doing this will help you find a solution to the current problematic situation, and will simultaneously improve your outlook and therefore the likelihood of successful results.

One major caution: just thinking of exceptions to a negative pattern of behavior can be a way of fooling yourself into thinking that there isn’t a problem that needs to be addressed. If you’re consistently showing up late for work, or if you are making a lot of mistakes due to drug or alcohol abuse, there’s a real problem there that needs to be addressed.

We all have both positive and negative memories. Remember that you have a choice! Choosing to focus on the ones that are uplifting, that feature you at your best, is a very good way to ensure the kinds of outcomes you desire.