Rewrite Your Past with a Memory Palace: Intro

Hey! So I've got this memory idea that could change our lives.

Mine too, I’m not kidding.

Also, it’s tied to Advent calendars, and since it's already December, it’s good you’re reading this now.

This idea’s been lurking in my mind for years, ever since I heard of a study where researchers had depressed people stock a simple memory palace with good memories.

Isn’t that brilliant? Depression, they explained, makes it harder to remember “self-affirming autobiographical memories.” But with a memory palace, people could raise their recall to “near ceiling levels”.

To me, this sounded great, whether or not you were depressed. But I never actually tried it. (Why not?)

Then, recently, I read The Time Paradox, a fascinating exploration of how our ideas about time affect our happiness. I’ve always been obsessed with time, at least since certain formative movies…

I’ve even written my own time travel stories. Plus, in a sense, memory work IS time travel — you gain the ability to revisit the past, at any time in the future.

But The Time Paradox shocked me.

Because these two psychologists have spent years studying how your time attitude affects your happiness, and here’s what they’ve learned:

First, when you think about the present and the future, you are best served by at least a moderately high level of optimism.

Note: this isn’t the shocking part. This is exactly what I expected. I’ve long considered myself “future-oriented,” so of course I would agree that optimism about the future is crucial. And what else is the huge current emphasis on “mindfulness” but a bid to reclaim the present?

Here’s the shocker. They think that for maximum happiness, your attitude about your past needs to be VERY high optimism.

Maybe that makes total sense to you. To me, it’s like a punch in the gut.

Because the book also includes a test to score your current attitudes. My score on how I feel about the past was almost as low as it could go.


Sure, I don’t automatically believe every personality test I take. But in this case, it seems dead-on.

And for me, this is a major personal revelation. Both scary and exciting.

Scary, because it’s one of those times where you realize that some aspect of reality you take for granted is, in fact, not how everyone else feels at all. The more I think about it, the more it’s like I’ve had a toothache my entire life, and I’m just now finding out, Wait, everyone’s teeth don’t hurt? Some people LIKE chewing?

Which leads to the exciting part. What if my past is this massive potential source of happiness? What if it’s just waiting for the right techniques to unleash its power?

For me, if I think really hard, I can slowly dredge up plenty of memories that feel great. But it takes way too much effort.

I’ve said many times that “you can only think with what you remember.” But if all I easily remember about my own life is a downer … what is that doing to my thoughts? To my life?

I’ve been ruminating on this problem, but unsure how to get started.

Then my kids opened Day 1 on their Advent calendar, and it all clicked.

An Advent calendar makes a perfect memory palace.

Advent calendars seem to be going mainstream. When I was a kid, those little doors only had Bible quotes, but now you can get Advent calendars for everything from LEGOs to makeup. There’s something deeply satisfying about moving down the path of the days up to Christmas, opening up a new surprise each day.

And I’ve been interested for years in how to revamp the Advent ritual with new methods that will actually improve your life. That’s why I put together my book on memorizing the Gospel stories over Advent. I love the idea of doing a little bit each day, and arriving at Christmas with an awesome new achievement.

So now, all these thoughts comes together…

Why not make a “memory palace” for awesome, energizing memories, and add one new memory each day up to Christmas?

  • You leverage your memory skills to level up your actual happiness. (Finally.)
  • You ride the natural momentum of a season of energy and preparation.
  • You tap into that “Advent Calendar” vibe of a special new gift each day.
  • You pre-empt the holiday/end-of-year blues with a clinically proven mood improvement. Whatever holiday you celebrate, we’re all facing the same existential questions as another year ends. NIt’s the perfect time to literally train yourself to feel better. Unlike so much memory work, ​these reviews will feel awesome.
  • And instead of going it alone, you can join me and hundreds of fellow memory enthusiasts on this list. Honestly, I might have trouble sticking to this myself, so it will be a huge help to me if we form a community around this.

What do you think? Are you in?

Getting started is simple, easy and free.

Just click here and join the Facebook group I’ve set up. I’ll post the first steps there.

Or, if you’re not into Facebook, no worries, you can read those first steps here.

And I’ll be posting further updates, steps, insights, and memory prompts both to my email list and the Facebook group. (There’s a lot to unpack here, and I have to pace myself. This first email could easily have been ten times as long…)

See you there,

Bill Powell

P.S. Technically, you can craft this palace alone, no problem. But personally, I expect to encounter some major resistance. The payoff will be huge, but I’m going to need all the help I can get. Plus, in the group, you’ll get to hear each other’s awesome memories and ideas, not just mine. And I’d love to hear yours — you can join the Facebook group here.