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Whirling Chief

I wish I was Dory!

You see, Dory, one of the main characters in both Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, suffers from memory loss. She can’t even remember what she has just done. Whilst this is a seemingly big disadvantage, it has one huge advantage.

She is not encumbered by the past.

Actually, there’s really no such thing as ‘our past.’ All we have is our recollection of it. This is subconsciously informed by:

  • All the feelings we had at the time
  • All the points of view we held
  • All the points of view that everyone else held
  • What was said and what was not said
  • Linkages we made to all the things that we considered to be causes and outcomes

And we interpreted all of this and made meaning of it all – and that’s it, our past made up from all the meaning we made of all the things that either happened or didn’t happen to us. So we don’t really have a past, we have a memory of our interpretation of the past.

Now most of our interpretations of the past are useful. After all, we learnt as childen such things as boiling water burns us – this is useful to remember and helps us. However, some things are less useful, like when we find ourselves in a situation that reminds us of a bad thing that happened in the past. This then triggers us to either freeze or even avoid something now, even though in reality the two situations may be completely different.

So here’s the rub…when our ‘now,’ and hence our future, is informed solely by our past – however unconsciously – all we can get in the future is a more, better, or different version of our past. It is only by seeing our past as just that, something that happened in the past that we interpreted and have a memory of, and by being grateful for it, but not constrained by it, do we get access to fresh thinking, new possibilities and breakthrough results – results that are not constrained by the past.

In Finding Dory, half the action wouldn’t have happened if Dory had been afraid of taking the next steps in her adventure, because of fear based on her memory of the past. And it certainly wouldn’t have made the movie so much fun!

As I said at the beginning, I wish I was Dory.

So I often try and notice in my day-to-day life where I am ‘pulling back’ from situations, maybe not playing a full on game, because of fear, which can be triggered by my recollection of a similar situation in the past. When I notice this, I try to thank my memory for sharing and ‘push’ myself forward, just as Dory would. It is in these moments I think about a quote I like that is located just above my workspace…

‘What would you attempt to do if you knew you couldn’t fail?’

If you want to read more about putting your past in the past and learning how to access to new thinking and breakthrough results, for you or your organisation, you might be interested in:

When Incremental Change Provides Little Comfort

Oh, and I very much recommend the movie!


  • 28 October 2016

By Simon Marshall

"I am an optimist that sees possibility everywhere: I believe that every person is capable of leading meaningful, fulfilling and extraordinary lives. When we tap into this huge potential in people, magic happens. And when we extend this across organisations, we can create healthy, resilient cultures and unprecedented performance –...


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