Why We Forget Our Goals

Why We Forget Our Goals

This week’s inspiration comes from an encouraging discovery. Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten why you were there?

If not, you can stop reading now. This one is not for you.

However, if you struggle with this, or are curious about those of us who do, keep reading.

As a child, I remember my mom coming into the room with one index finger extended as if she were making a point or getting ready to speak. When I asked her about it, she said, “Well, honey, when I raise my finger in one room and keep it up until I reach the other room, it helps me remember why I came into the room.”

Lately, in my January clean-out mode as I’ve been traipsing all over my house, gathering and sorting (remember my disastrous scissor story?) files, closets, and clothing, I’ve noticed I’ve been doing the exact same thing.

Was it another sign of aging?

Apparently not, I learned this week.

Scientists even have a name for it. They call it the “doorway effect.”

Thank heavens! For once, one of my post-60th birthday ailments has nothing to do with aging.

As I understand it, this “doorway effect” occurs because we change both our physical and mental environments when we move into a different room and we think about different things. Our goal is forgotten when the context changes.

Based on his research at the University of Notre Dame, psychology professor Gabriel Radvansky explains it in more detail: “Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away. Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized.”

Or, as Melissa Dahl at Science of Us puts it, “What happens in the kitchen, stays in the kitchen.” Writer Natalie Wolchover suggests, “In our minds, like in the movies, threshold-crossing signals the end of a scene.”


Even more fascinating (alarming?), at least for me, Radvansky also found that the more doors the participants crossed, the greater their memory lapse.

Yikes! I have a LOT of doorways in my home. In fact, from my desktop computer (where I research and edit)

to my sunroom (where I read and compose)

I pass through four doorways. It’s a wonder I ever remember anything!

Yet, I am encouraged. It’s not me or my age causing this phenomenon. It’s my brain doing its thing, as apparently it’s wired to do.

However, I do look at doorways differently now, and focus a little more on my mission when I pass through each one. I must note, though, in all my research, no one offered a solution to the problem. Mom’s simple way of remembering works for me. Try it and let me know if it works for you, too.

As we find ourselves perched on the threshold of the New Year, many “doorways” await. Perhaps it’s a good time to make a special effort to tie a string around our goals for the year so we can relax and let our brains do their work of compartmentalizing the rest, making room for new experiences.

How about you? Have you experienced the “doorway effect” or know a good remedy for it? Tell me about it. I’d love to know.

My best – always,

Becky  (Nana B)

P.S. Recently enjoyed a grilled cheese sandwich with Madison at Panera. She continues to do so well in her day program and residential placement. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers for us both!

P.P.S. Honored to be #3 in Amazon Kindle sales this week! They’ve pushed the price back down to $.55. And, we’re at 99 reviews! Almost to 100. A few stinging ones this year (ouch!), but I’m still glad I published. Couldn’t have done it without your support and yes, ENCOURAGEMENT! Many thanks.

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