A Peril of Time Travel …

MemoriesAt least now I can say I have a time machine …

Interesting that neither memories nor dreams are real, isn’t it?

Memories reconstruct what has been in the past and dreams give birth to our visions of what might be in the future.  

Both exist ONLY in our minds…

The following thoughts come from comments originally made in response to a post on the Lead Change Group blog by Alan Utley, who thoughtfully and articulately discussed the use of stories to motivate and influence.  You should go read his post.

I often used to tell a story about how a youthful shop-lifting event shaped my values. In the story, I owned up to my misdeed (after some angst) and received a reward  for doing so. I once told that story in front of my mother … who then categorically dismantled that version of my own memory.

We know that people do not remember facts, but rather recall impressions, leaving out or changing some details, emphasizing others. Our normal tendency is probably to smooth out the edges and make our memories more positive or pleasant than they actually were.  

Euphoric Recall” describes the phenomenon of someone with an addiction recalling their drug use in a much more positive way than an objective person would view it.  For example, “I was so drunk I had to get on my knees to fit the car key in the door to get in my own car”, said with a smile and much laughter,as they recount the events leading up to their third DWI arrest.

As someone has probably said, “There’s no such thing as a completely true memory.” 

The Internet abounds with motivating and inspiring stories, which upon inspection are found to be apocryphal. I once spent a good amount of money for a motivational video built around a truly wonderful story about life’s little serendipities, which I later found was completely made up.


How important is the accuracy of a story to the goal of motivating and influencing people?

The emotions that an inspiring story creates are as real as any other emotions, but I wonder about the underlying integrity if the story which produces the emotions is not true.  

As leaders, we do motivate and influence others through what we say and what we do.   Some leaders undoubtedly use stories they know are not true to do this, while others may think their memory of the story is more accurate than it actually is.

When Hitler gave speeches to his minions before or during World War II, most of us would probably take the position that his fictional stories were not ethical or positive.   This is an easy one.

The question gets a little harder when the stories told motivate us to share with others, to welcome strangers, or be better human beings in some way. 


Please read Alan’s excellent post over on LCG and add your own thoughts to the discussion.   If you wish to comment here as well, that would be just dandy.

Wondering now about all my other memories of growing up in the Heartland ….


For support, a random sampling of articles about memory and accuracy:

How Accurate is Your Memory?

Toward A Psychology of Memory Accuracy

How Many of Your Memories Are Fake?

Your Childhood Memories Are Probably Less Accurate Than You Think

Eyewitness Memory is Unreliable

Eyewitness Memory on Wikipedia