What's Your Filter?

If you use the popular app Instagram, you are familiar with the idea of a filter. In the exact same way, at every moment in your life, you are choosing the filter that you see the world through.
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How do you see the world around you?

There are so many ways that you could answer this question. You might see it as a beautiful, interesting and open place that excites you every day, while the person next to you might see it as a hostile environment where people are always out to get them. Our perception of the world is based on many factors, but no matter where you are today, I want to share a technique that can change the way that you see the world and your place in it. I can guarantee that it will enhance your life in a meaningful way.

If you use the popular app Instagram, you are familiar with the idea of a filter. When you take a photo, you can add on this filter that changes the way that the photo looks by making it brighter or darker, adjusting the colors, or changing the hue. You choose the filter that makes the photo most appealing to your personal artistic sensibilities.

In the exact same way, at every moment in your life, you are choosing the filter that you see the world through. While you might not be choosing Instagram's Valencia or Nashville filters, you are choosing a filter to apply to your own life: It might be the People Are Inherently Bad filter, the I Will Never Succeed filter, or the Nothing Ever Goes My Way filter. Your personal filter is the way in which you see, interact with and interpret the world around you and within you.

The filter that you choose impacts absolutely everything in your life. Most obviously, it changes the way that you observe the world around you. If you choose to see the world as a horrible place, it will present itself to you in that way. Second, it also influences the way that you engage with the world. The person who views the world through rose-colored glasses (another filter!) is very likely to believe the best in her loved ones and bounce back quickly from challenges. Most importantly, your filter impacts the way that you present the world to your own self. The stories that we tell ourselves about our selves, that we so often unconsciously live by, are based on our filters. If you believe that you are a lazy person, you will choose lazy thoughts and lazy behavior, because it is part of your story. This laziness then impacts the way that you engage with the world, which influences the way that you view the world... it is a self-perpetuating cycle that starts with our very first thought.

A perfect example to illustrate this concept is to think about a day where you "got up on the wrong side of the bed." You burnt your hand making coffee, your partner got mad at you for hogging the shower, you missed the bus, and you got to the office only to find out that you didn't get the promotion you wanted. All of a sudden, you slapped a filter on the day that was called either Victim or Failure. This filter kept you in a negative state all day, impacting your thoughts about the world and your feelings about who you are as a person. The good things that might have happened in that day, like a beautiful sunset, passed you by. There's no room for beautiful sunsets when you're living by the Failure filter.

So often, we do not consciously choose our filters and continue to live by our conditioned perspective. We are like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, living in sepia-toned Kansas without knowing that there's a whole other world of riotous color out there. Wherever you are right now, you may have unknowingly been choosing a similar filter for all of your experiences. There are some moments that shake up the norm, what we might think of as "peak experiences" -- they break the monotony by showing us the colorful world out there. Think of the last time that you fell in love, or achieved something meaningful to you, or felt connected to the world around you. Those experiences are wildly colorful, vibrant and different than your normal interpretation of events; this heightens them in your mind, body and soul. In reality, there is nothing that separates that moment from any other moment other than the choice of our filter.

Knowing that we choose our filters and that they impact our lives in such a powerful way, it becomes critical to bring awareness to our current filter selection and actively seek for one that serves our highest and best selves. The very act of choosing our filter brings us power. It tells the world that we are not willing to settle for a default but that we are reaching for the most elevated view of ourselves, the world and our place in it.

As we continually reach for a slightly better filter than our current norm, our set point changes. Imagine that my default filter setting was Anger: I am always angry at the world, feel frustrated by the events in my life, and view every event in my life as a personal disrespect. One day, I get sick of always feeling angry and I make the choice to instead view an event as an opportunity rather than an affront. All of a sudden, I've chosen a Courage filter. This one small choice can completely change the way that I respond to the event, the way I talk to myself about that event, and the way that this event becomes a part of my personal narrative. It could become the moment that convinces me to use the Courage filter more readily. Each time I reach for it, it comes easier to me, until one day, I readily see the world in a very different light.

At the end of the day, our filters are what teach us our most important lessons. We start to learn that there is beauty everywhere, even in unexpected places, when we choose to see the world as an ultimately good place. We start to recognize that even in pain and sadness, there is something to learn. We can see that every single moment deserves a beautiful filter, because every moment is precious. One day, we might even be able to apply a filter of Love to moments where we don't get what we want or face setbacks, knowing that our challenges are what deserve the most love.

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