What are the moments you remember most clearly in your career/life? The ones you can play back in slow motion and hear every word, remember what you were thinking, maybe what you were wearing. Take a moment and think about it.
Is there a common thread? A common emotion?
I am truly a "positive outlook" person, and have definitely had more than my fair share of good memories that bring a smile to my face. I have also had plenty of setbacks. But truth be told, nearly all of my really vivid memories are of low intensity screw-ups.
Common thread, common emotion for me is embarrassment.
The punch line delivered backwards. (have you heard about the Polish lesbian? she likes women..no wait men) Calling someone you know by the wrong name. (sorry Janice) Sweating excessively. (too many to count) Wearing un-matched shoes. Forgetting to pack a tie for an important sales trip. I could go on.
My big screw-ups and big successes are all like an MTV music video in my memory. Lots of different images, moments, flashes of experience, mixed together and probably exaggerated to make the stories better.
But the embarrassing moments exist in my mind exactly as they happened. Neither embellished, nor diminished. Perfect reproductions, able to elbow their way into my consciousness at any time, often randomly right before falling asleep.
And they don't have to be obviously embarrassing. My embarrassment does not in fact require that anyone else notices. I have gone back and talked about some of my embarrassing experiences with people who were there, and they couldn't remember a single aspect of the event or conversation. But I did. And still do.
Is embarrassment the emotion that triggers the long-term memory hormone? Or is it just me?