Time To Change Your Brain Filters?
Is Your Life Full of Sunsets or Jerks?
Are you finding that you spend more and more time wishing your life was different? Or that you were happier? Maybe all you need to do is change your filter. We’re all familiar with water filters and air filters, but have you ever tried to change your “brain filter”?
It’s important to understand that our life experience—more than anything else—is the result of what passes through our mental filters. We need filters because there are 400,000,000,000 bits of information coming at us through our physical senses every second that we are awake. There is no way for us to retain all of that information so we filter out most of it. What we keep is the result of our conditioning and our expectations of the world. This is why our concept of what the world is “really” like is almost always corroborated by our experience.
Here’s an example I developed to help my hypnosis clients understand how filters work: Phil and Larry go to the beach at sunset. Phil loves watching the sun set over the ocean and tries to see it as often as he can. Larry is different. He “knows” that the world is full of inconsiderate jerks. In fact, he sees evidence that most people are jerks every day. Larry and Phil stand on the sand about two feet apart, at the exact same time as the sun sets. On the drive home Phil says to Larry “Wasn’t that an amazing sunset? One of the nicest I’ve seen in a long time.”
Larry looks at Phil with a perplexed expression. “Really? I hadn’t noticed. Didn’t you see those people throw their soda cans on the beach? What jerks.”
Now consider the fact that they were both at the same place at the same time. How did they have such different experiences? Filters! Phil’s filter is set to “beautiful sunsets”; Larry’s is set to “people are inconsiderate jerks.” Each of their views was substantiated by what their filters allowed through.
Larry didn’t notice all of the “considerate” people; and there were probably many at the beach while he was there. And if he had noticed them he could have just as easily decided that the world was full of people who were thoughtful toward others. He only noticed the rude people because that is what he automatically expected.
To discover what your filters are, just take a look at what aspects of your life you don’t like. If you think people are unfriendly, you are probably completely missing all of the people who are behaving kindly to you just like Larry missed the beautiful sunset. In fact, the majority of people you encounter are probably friendly, but the only ones you take note of are those who seem unfriendly.
If your filters are set to the idea that there are not opportunities to get ahead in life, you’ll see all of the closed doors; and miss all of the open ones.
The 30-Day Filter Change
One way to start changing your filters is the try the “30-Day Mental Diet” Uell S. Andersen wrote about in his brilliant and timeless book “Three Magic Words.” The challenge he gives his readers is to go thirty days without entertaining a negative thought. Now, he doesn’t mean that you won’t “have” a negative thought—If you should have such a thought, it is your job to immediately move your attention to something that elicits positive feelings. What he is saying is that you can’t “entertain” the thought to the point where it affects your mental state. This means that if at any point you start feeling bad you have allowed a negative thought to take root and grow. When this happens, you must start the 30-day count again.
This is the best way to start changing your filters because when you shift your focus to something that makes you feel happy (or at least neutral) you’ll start to create the habit of changing your thoughts to create a happier experience. The strange thing is that, as you practice this, you’re life will change dramatically. Why? Because you are altering your perception of the world. When you do that, the world will change for you.
And by the way, the most optimistic person you know would probably have a hard time successfully going 30 days without entertaining a single negative thought. Don’t beat yourself up when you suddenly discover that you are thinking and feeling negatively. The point really isn’t to go 30 days. The point is to keep changing those negative thoughts until it becomes habitual for you to shift your filters. It might take you ten years to successfully complete a 30-day period without negativity. Maybe you’ll never succeed, but regardless, even if you only go a day or five hours, your life will transform.