The first time you walk into new terrain, your senses can barely process the flood of information. “Look, a high-rise building! Listen, a new kind of bird! Smell the donuts from this shop?” Your brain is so busy staying on focused on your destination, it’ll shut most “commit-to-short-term-memory” functions down.
That’s why, the second time you walk around the same area, everything looks vaguely familiar yet “not quite right.” “Haven’t I been here before? Isn’t there an oak over there?” You’ll be happy to discover that here and there, your intuitive orientation will be right. Most of the time, however, it won’t be – but your mind is starting to get the joke. “Oh, looks like I’ll need to remember this. Let’s get to work!”
The third time you visit the same place, your brain still won’t ace the memory test, but it’ll be excited to take it. “This is where the donut shop is. I know the high-rise building is just up ahead.” If you close your eyes and try to visualize, almost “feel” your way around, you’ll recall large chunks of information and notice a new emotion: For the first time, you’ll feel at home. Familiar. A part of the world around you rather than just a particle passing through.
There’s a reason the “third time’s the charm:” Our minds require assimilation to hit their stride, and assimilation takes time. That applies to feeling comfortable in a new city, flat, or office as much as it does to finding a groove with new people, projects, and habits.
When you can’t retrieve 100% of your performance immediately, don’t worry. What in your environment has changed? Maybe, you’ve just wandered into unfamiliar terrain. Accident or not, give your brain time to gather its skills. Try once, twice, and by the third time, the only question you’ll have is why you didn’t make this wonderful trip before.