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The unexpected power of filters

What springs to mind when I talk about filters? A way to make our face look better, or the picture of our holiday seem even more 'like worthy'. But what if there's a more powerful filter? One that can truly make us happy?

Filters are not my favourite thing. The ability to take an image of ourselves and only see it as we wish it were. To obliterate the bits we don’t like and accentuate the bits we do like. For me, as appealing as it sounds, it comes with a myriad of problems for our confidence and self esteem. As tempting as they can be to use (and I totally understand why people love them) I personally steer clear.

I'd rather apply a filter to my thoughts than to my face...

But those filters that I'm talking about there are a very modern invention. The reality is that there is a much more powerful and ancient filter that I want to think about today. The powerful filter of our own mind.

Our minds are simply not capable of taking in and processing all the information that is available to us. So we choose the bits that we see. And whilst we may not realise it, we have an extraordinary level of control over that choice, and over that filter. Just as we don’t choose the ‘ugly’ filter on Instagram, we can also choose not to apply the ‘ugly’ filter in life. We programme our mind and we are in control of telling it what we want to process and what we want to ignore.

Our mind is constantly seeking to prove our beliefs. So, if we believe that we aren’t good enough and we always get everything wrong, our mind will filter the information we see to validate that belief. Conversely, if we believe that life is full of endless opportunities and we are competent and capable, our mind will filter the information we see to validate that belief.

Let me give you an example. Today, I suddenly realised I had committed to book a particular child friendly cafe for a get together with my daughter’s new classmates. It was meant to be an opportunity to get to know each other before starting school in September. And it was a specific venue because they had a fun day on that day. Unfortunately I forgot.

Now when I realised that fact I could have processed the information in a few different ways. How about this? ‘I am such a loser, I always forget everything, everyone is going to be mad at me and I have ruined everything’ Sound familiar? Maybe once upon a time I would have thought the same, but not today. Today I thought, ‘gosh I have so much going on, it’s a miracle I remember most of it. I really am very competent, I am sure I can solve this problem.’ What do you think the outcome would have been if I’d applied the first filter? An embarrassed message, no solution and a validation of that belief in the pit of my stomach that I just am not good enough.

What about the second way of filtering? Well, I can tell you. I sent a message owning my mistake, taking responsibility and then offering a solution that will likely work better for everyone. I feel competent and in control and like a person who can solve problems. I feel good.

Now, some days we will apply the first filter first because that is our habit. But the trick is to be aware of what we are doing. Consciously notice the filter we have applied and then ask ourselves better questions. If you ever notice those people for whom everything seems to go right? They skip from one glorious success to another with not a care in the world. I promise you those people are not luckier than the rest of us. They are not immune to mistakes. They simply apply a great filter. So when they meet mistakes or failures they see them through the filter of opportunities. When they notice that things are getting to them, they ask great questions and reprogramme their filter.

So just like when you pick your Instagram filter you might click through a few before settling on the best one. Do the same with your mind. If the first filter you apply doesn’t feel great, ask some good questions and move on to the next filter, and then next until you are seeing things in a way that makes you feel great. I am confident that the impact on your life will be significantly greater than applying ‘Clarendon’ to your photos.


Affirmations - Write affirmations and read them regularly. ‘I am good enough’ on your mirror. ‘The world is full of endless opportunities’ on the front of your notebook. Whatever works for you. These affirmations help your mind to know what to look out for. And the cool thing is that as your mind seeks information to validate the belief, so you start to see the evidence for yourself and then your belief itself starts to change so all of a sudden the affirmation that felt ridiculous when you first wrote it feels like an unquestionable truth.

Ask good questions - next time you notice yourself starting to spiral downwards. Consciously stop yourself and ask yourself ‘what could I believe about this situation that will serve me better?’ Or ‘what can I learn from this situation.’ Or even, ‘what are the positives in this situation?’ It doesn’t mean you erase the feelings - simply that you accept them, reframe them and then move forward positively.

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