the new smart forgetfulness brain jill hewlett toronto

The New Smart

Years ago I decided I wanted to learn how to salsa dance. And I wanted to become proficient enough that I could enter any salsa venue and feel confident participating.

After taking several classes and practising, I achieved an intermediate level of ability.  This was satisfying and fun!

Thanks to elements such as the unique movement patterns, directional changes, opportunity to learn how to sync with various partners, and the range of music tempos; it is not only a great physical workout, it’s a brain expanding, mind stimulating one as well.

While I had planned on continuing, life became busy and salsa was put on the back burner for several years; until I recently decided to try it again.

One of the issues that would come up when I danced before, and something that occurred again when I started back, was my tendency to go faster than the music!

My partners would nudge me to slow down. But, because I was not fully confident in my abilities and in fear of not keeping up properly, I would frequently over-compensate and go into overdrive.

Forgotten Footwear

Interestingly enough, the other day when I attended an afternoon salsa practise on a wintery day, I wore my snow shovelling boots and forgot to take along my actual salsa shoes.

I realized this when I arrived and was almost ready to turn around and go home, but thankfully the music and atmosphere were calling me, so I decided to stay and see if I could dance in my clunky boots or perhaps bare feet.

While all the other women were dancing in their fancy heeled shoes; I had on my big, warm boots with flat rubber soles, and I felt kind of silly.

Interestingly enough however, this did not stop men from asking me to dance and guess what?

Those boots slowed me down enough to be on tempo the entire time!  Not once did a partner need to and I think I enjoyed dancing that day more than I ever have before.

Perhaps I should intentionally forget my dance shoes the next time I go out, and wear those boots again or maybe this experience will have been enough to recalibrate my dancing speed regardless of my footwear?  We’ll see!

New Opportunities For Fun

The next day my daughter and I went to the community center to exercise.  When we arrived she realized that she had forgotten her running shoes. This was déjà vu of my footwear forgetting experience from the day before.

Since there wasn’t time to go home and get her shoes, I told her that we’d just go to areas where we could be in our bare feet and we’d find enough to do.

Turns out, we had so much fun engaging in activities that we normally wouldn’t have done, if she had her proper footwear with her!

In both instances, opportunities to approach things in a different way than originally planned, presented. In both instances, I could have opted for going home. But, by being open to new approaches, my salsa skills improved and my daughter and I engaged in fun novel activities that we are still talking about several days later.

I heard a saying recently that I really like: ‘Flexibility is the new smart’.  I agree with this and I’d take it a step further.

Adaptability and Flexibility are the New Smarter

While both words have similar meanings, adaptability indicates longer term changes. So I liken that to acquiring wisdom from our life experiences from a personal evolutionary standpoint. Whereas flexibility refers to our ability to make shorter term alterations to our plans or approach on an ‘as needs be’ basis.

Of course, it’s not ideal to feel forgetful. Especially if it’s happening regularly and we are starting to question if it may be attributed to cognitive decline. However, in both of these occasions, not remembering our footwear proved to be advantageous.

Forgetting Things Isn’t Always Negative

By the way, when it comes to forgetfulness, you can take heart as there is another way to look at:

A recent study conducted by the University of Toronto is claiming that the role of forgetting information may be just as important as remembering and that having a strong memory is actually highly overrated.

Professor Blake Richland, one of the publishers of the study, said; It’s important that the brain forgets irrelevant details and instead focuses on the stuff that’s going to help make decisions in the real world.”

Professor Richards and Paul Frankland suggest that memory is utilized to optimize decision making; by retaining valuable information and letting the other unimportant stuff go, making room for the things that matter.

For example, say our brain forgets specific details about a past event, yet it still remembers the larger picture; researchers believe that this allows us to generalize previous experiences better. As opposed to someone who can remember more specific details of the event.

Of course, if someone is forgetting important things at an alarming frequency, then this is a cause for concern. But if you are forgetting details every now and then, take heart; it is a sign of a healthy memory system, working exactly as its intended.

Along that vein, perhaps ‘Forgetfulness is the New Smart’ too?

To your Smarts,