Have you ever smelt something and it has taken you back to a happy time in your life? Or maybe it’s a song that you heard and it reminds you of a happy and joyous time. Interestingly things like sound and smell are used on Alzheimer’s patients to calm them down. So you can imagine that sometimes the signals and information are getting really confusing for them and Alzheimer’s patients can become distressed or even aggressive. But using sounds and smells that are familiar to them from a moment in their life can often put them into a place of calm by bringing back certain memories.

Relive and Visualize 

Interestingly when I do goals work with my clients one of the things that are really important for us to do is visualization. One of the questions I will ask them through that visualization process is, “relive a moment in your life where you felt joy and happiness. It can be yesterday or any moment in your life.” Because reliving that experience and feeling all the sensations of the moment that you felt joy helps you establish clear and meaningful goals in whatever it is that you are doing. 

Now, this kind of visualization work is not new. It is used by professional speakers and athletes. People relive moments over and over in their mind so that when they deliver in it for real they have already practised the process in their mind. They have trained their mind through that experience. So you will see professional athletes practising in their mind  Maybe it’s on a basketball court or a racing car driver visualizing themselves driving the course. You will see professional speakers reliving and practising out what they are about to say before they speak. Dancers don’t do the full moves but in their mind, they are reliving the experience and moving their arms in the general direction of the dance. They are not actually dancing the dance but just reliving the experience in their minds

The Swimming Pool

So we too can do that when it comes to our goals. It helps us to identify a key component of our goals. Next time you experience that sensation where there’s a smell that brings you joy, I want you to question it and relive it. It will give you a personal experience. The other day I smelt the overpowering smell of chlorine. There was a really strong smell in the water. When I smell the combination of chlorine and water together, it takes me back to a very joyous moment in my life. 

I lived as an only child on a farm. My grandparents had the most extraordinary pool. This pool in this regional area was the first of its kind. It was handbuilt in the ’40s. People and children would come from everywhere and enjoy this pool. That culture and lifestyle continued into my childhood. I used to love going to my grandparent’s place and swimming in that pool. But because I was a child I couldn’t go in the pool unless I was supervised by an adult or somebody older. In those moments I was connecting with an adult that would probably otherwise be busy or involved in conversation. But at that moment, they were there for me and keeping me safe. They would connect and engage with me. 

Additionally, when I would go to the swimming pool with my friends, we would be so engaged in the core activity of swimming. We would create stories or fantasies that we were mermaids or Olympic athletes doing synchronized swimming. We played Marco Polo. We played a whole range of different games, made up songs and swim till we were absolutely exhausted and ravenous. I could remember the sensation of the sun on my skin and the smell of chlorine evaporating off my skin. So smelling chlorine enables me to relive the whole range of sensations. 

I can laugh at that joy. I can almost feel the sun on my skin. I can feel the hunger in my belly from burning up all that energy by playing in that pool. I can remember feeling loved, connected, valued and playful. All of those sensations come back to me. And what it tells me is that feeling connected, joy and spirit are obviously important values to me. I can identify that it’s being connected, feeling valued and being visible that I place value on in my world. These will be things that I seek out and strive for. 

Tying Memory to Your Personal Values

Ask yourself these questions next time your senses are triggered by a happy memory.  Take a moment to stop and reflect.

  • Are these sensations still there and connected to my goals? 
  • Are they present in my word? Is that what is driving me and motivating me? Ask yourself these questions next time your senses are triggered by a happy memory.  Take a moment to stop and reflect.
  • What is it about that memory that brings you joy? Why that moment? 
  • What is it about that moment that informs you of a past memory? 
  • What is about that moment that you place value on? 

Because the answer will reveal the core of who you are. It establishes some of your core beliefs.  Ask yourself:

  • Is that present in your life now?
  • Where can you make those sensations and values be present in your life now? 
  • And what is it about that situation that you place value on? That’s the key. 

I would love to hear your memories and stories. What is the smell or sound that takes you back to your happy place? I know there will be negative ones, but I want you to focus on the happy ones. I would love to hear your stories. I bet you that there are some beautiful incredible stories out there. Share your story with me. 


  • Meditate on the last time you felt joy and happiness.
  • What was it about that moment that made you happy, brought you joy.
  • Ask why?
  • Ask if that is present in your life now?
  • Ask yourself what about that situation do you place value on in your life?


  • Let happy smell triggers pass you by, be present and grateful.
  • Dwell on the negative triggers
  • Undervalue the power of visualization

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About the Author:

Barbara CliffordBarbara Clifford (The Time Tamer) is a co-founder of The Hinwood Institute. She is the lead trainer and coach in Time Management. She is a recognized leader in Stress Management. An experienced coach, speaker, columnist and facilitator, Barbara’s work with The Hinwood Institute assists people to unclutter mess, make order from chaos, and swap the shackles of overwhelming for freedom. Barbara’s clients move from the relentless hamster wheel to waking inspired, motivated, making decisions with purpose and achieving peak performance. She lives in the desert of Alice Springs, Australia working with people around the country.

Her professional experience has included contracts with small business, Not For Profits, Aboriginal Organisations, Media, Marketing, Aged Care, Universities, Health Services and Cruise Ships