Month: July 2007

Learn To See Your Own Rose-Colored Glasses Part 2

Perception is how you understand reality after it has passed through all your internal filters.  You can change those filters, but first you must become aware of what they are, how they are formed and strengthened, and what role those around you play in this process.

So you want to change the filters through which life around you passes before coming into your conscious mind?  Be warned, the process is not instant, nor is it necessarily easy or without pain.  Some of the filters you have will be buried so deep that it can take years to change them significantly, let alone actually remove them, if that’s what you want.  Even the shallow ones often take weeks to change or remove.  Be prepared, then, for this to take quite some time… but if you stick with it, it can change your life completely.

If you’re still with me, then you’re interested in positive change, in spite of the effort, and possibly pain, involved.  The first step in your process is to understand how filters are formed.  There are three major sources of filters:  people you associate with (they don’t have to be friends, just people you are around frequently), your own experiences, and “third-party” information (things you read or see).  Each of these sources imparts filters of varying strengths and complexity, depending on factors within the category.

When you pick up filters from people you associate with, the strength and depth of the filter is strongly affected by the amount of time you spend with that person, and more lightly by how you feel about that person.  There is also a factor involving how much of an authority you consider the person, especially in regards to the specific area of the filter.  So a co-worker you don’t like but spend hours with each day can affect you more deeply than an old friend that you see once a year, but a friend you see a few times a week may have more influence than a coworker you see five days a week, while someone that you see rarely, but consider an authority on the area of life in question can have a profound effect on your filters.  Parents and spouses tend to be the strongest influences of this type, with parents having an advantage due to the fact that there are no competing/conflicting filters when you spend so much time with them, and the fact that when you are young, you consider them to be an authority on almost everything.

You also build up filters from your own experiences as you live life.  If you have been bitten by dogs a few times, you will form a filter that looks for that type of behavior from at least the type of dog that bit you, if not dogs in general.  With this type of filter formation, the amount the event catches your attention, whether via mental involvement, emotions, or pain/pleasure, is the primary factor in how strong and deep the filter is, with repetition of the event (or of similar events) strengthening and deepening the filter, and conflicting events weakening it.  The strengthening effect of similar events is considerably stronger than the weakening effect of conflicting events, unless the conflicting event is of considerable significance.

Filters formed from third-party sources tend to be the weakest of the three types.  They generally have less “authority” than people you know, and certainly less than your own experience.  However, in areas that you don’t have any personal experience or particular input from someone you know, such as when you’re learning about a new hobby that you don’t know anyone who shares, your filters will generally be formed from what you read about it.  Third-party sources can also extend and expand already existing filters, especially if they generally agree with your existing filters, just adding a bit more detail.

Once a filter is formed from one of these sources, it can also be strengthened by any of the above sources (it doesn’t have to be the same one).  For instance, your parents may tell you to be wary of strangers, causing you to form a filter that causes you to be cautious when meeting someone new.  This can then be strengthened by personal experience, if a stranger does something to you that you don’t like, or particularly if you have several bad experiences with strangers.  The filter can then be further strengthened by reading/listening/viewing the news and learning about random murders and kidnappings.

A filter can also be weakened by any of these sources, but it is much harder to weaken a filter than to strengthen it.  It is easier to accept reinforcement of your already held filters, opinions, and beliefs than it is to accept contradictory information.  This is true of all people, though noticeably stronger in some than in others, often referred to as being closed-minded or open-minded.

So now, in order to keep this post from getting ridiculously long, I will push how to become aware of your specific filters and how to change them to another post.

Articles In This Series:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Learn To See Your Own Rose-Colored Glasses

Perception is your interpretation of reality, based on where you are standing in space and time, and processed through all of your filters and biases*.  Unfortunately, or actually perhaps fortunately, there is no way to avoid this, and there is no way to base your choices on reality.

You cannot, as a human being, consciously comprehend reality.  Instead, your  consciousness is presented with an interpretation of reality, filtered by your subconsciousness from the input received by all your senses.  This interpretation is what you must use to make your choices.  If you were standing directly in front of the building pictured above, you would be forced (assuming no prior knowledge) to make any choices based on it being three stories tall.  If you were to move to the side, however, your perception changes, and with it the basis for your decisions.

There is no way to avoid this.  You can only work with what your senses feed your subconscious, and out of that, only what it passes on to your conscious mind.  This is probably fortunate, as the sheer vastness of the amount of information contained by reality would likely overwhelm your conscious mind in seconds.  Unfortunately, however, it does mean that your choices may be based on a falsehood, as any bias you have is automatically inserted before you ever have a chance to consider anything else.

This doesn’t mean that your subconscious mind rejects anything that doesn’t match your bias, or that you can’t perceive contrary information.  It simply means things are “colored” by your biases, beliefs, and other such filters.  That is, if you are “biased” against spiders, when you see one in the corner, you may see something dark and scary, and may even perceive it to be larger than it actually is.  On the other hand, if you have no such bias, you may see a harmless critter (or, with other biases, see a life worth carefully preserving, something to add to your bug collection, or something else entirely).

Other things that you might not think of fall into this category of biases and filters, as well.  You can have a bias for or against financial opportunities… meaning that you either filter them out, or give them special attention.  Your taste in music, art, and humor are all biases as well.  All communication passes through your filters, which may be different between “groups” of people (like lawyers, doctors, politicians, preachers, or even as general as men vs women) as well as between individuals.

For example, consider the phrase “I love you.”  The source of the phrase makes a huge amount of difference in how you interpret it, as it passes through your filters for that individual and whatever classes you associate them with.  If your wife says it, it passes through filters associated with her, meaning you perceive it differently than if, say, a stranger said it to you.  With your wife, it might make you feel a little closer (or want to be closer, which is not the same), it might make you feel the love you have for her, or if you’re having marital problems, it might make you think of those problems.  With a stranger, it’s likely to creep you out, make you want to push them away (emotionally/mentally at the very least… depending on how close they are, it might make you want to do it physically, too), and bring all kinds of other negative things to mind, as well, although this depends greatly on the groups you associate that stranger with.  Think about the difference in how you would react if a beautiful woman said that to you, compared to an ugly woman, an effeminate appearing man, or a biker in full tattoos and leather.

Fortunately, your conscious mind IS capable of reviewing its filters and biases, and so you can change the way you perceive information from the world around you.  It’s not alwayseasy to do so, but you can do it.   You can choose to change, remove, or add filters, but first you have to learn to become aware of them first.  My next article will deal with how to do this, how to become aware, and from there how to choose which filters you want.

*  These filters and biases mentioned in the article are what I call patterns elsewhere on the site.  The speed and accuracy with which these filters are applied is what most people call intelligence.

Articles In This Series:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

The Secret Of Killing Envy

When you see a celebrity driving their ridiculously expensive car, wearing clothes that cost thousands, and jewelry that costs more than you make in a year, do you feel envious of them?  Do you feel that they don’t deserve it?  Maybe even that you deserve it more than they do, with your hard work and long hours?  Well, that’s all from a faulty mindset, one that is centered in lack, in scarcity.

You only envy something you feel that you can’t have.  That’s why you don’t feel envy for someone who is wearing clothes cheaper than yours… unless of course it’s a limited thing, and you can’t get them.  See how it’s similar?  You don’t feel envious unless you feel like you can’t have what they have.

You also don’t have that feeling that they don’t deserve it unless you feel like you can’t have it.  How often have you looked at someone making less money than you and felt like they don’t deserve it (unless it’s you that has to pay them… that changes things a little, but it’s STILL only because you have a scarcity mindset)?  It’s pretty difficult to think of a time you’ve ever had any negative thoughts about what someone has when it’s of less value than what you have of the same type.  If you have a Lambourghini, you don’t worry about whether someone deserves a Mercedes.

It works that way for all areas of your life.  If you think you can have something if you want it, then you don’t envy someone else who has it.  If you have a great relationship, you don’t envy someone else with a lovely wife (unless you feel your wife isn’t lovely, which is a pretty solid indication that you DON’T have a great relationship).   Possessions, relationships, finances, spirituality, respect… whatever it is, you don’t envy someone else having it unless you feel like you can’t have it.

It’s heavily related to the temptation of the forbidden fruit.  In that case you want it because you can’t have it.  In this case you don’t want someone else to have it because you can’t have it.  Which, of course, brings us to the title, the secret of killing envy.

The secret to killing envy is to change your mindset.  Since you don’t envy someone for something you can have, if you change your mindset to believe that you can achieve (and have) anything, then envy goes away.  If you feel like it’s simply a matter of not wanting it, rather than not being able to have it, you don’t grow attached to it.  You don’t really care if someone else has it… you could have it if you wanted, it’s just not worth the effort it would require.

Change your mindset… accept that you can have anything, do anything, be anything, it’s just a matter of weighing the costs of having, doing, or being versus the benefits of the same.  Then envy will wither on the vine, dying a deservedly obscure and unimportant death.

Being Distracted Is Your Own Fault

Are you distracted all the time?  Do you have trouble focusing on what you’re doing? Well, it’s your own fault, but there is something you can do about it.

First of all, let’s get what distractions are out of the way.  Distractions are when something comes to your attention that draws your focus away from whatever it was that you were doing.   This breaks your concentration, and can throw off your rhythm, making it harder to get back to what you were doing before you were distracted.

That being said, there are, at any given time, hundreds or thousands of things going on around you that could get your attention.  The vast majority of these things pass by beneath our conscious awareness, but some pop up into that realm.  This is because your subconscious determines that whatever it is needs your attention urgently enough to take your conscious attention away from what it is you are doing.

Your subconscious takes its cues as to what is important enough to distract you with from your conscious mind.  If you give a lot of importance to what you are doing, if you love it and are passionate about it, then it takes quite an occurrence to distract you.  If, on the other hand, you are doing something that you feel you HAVE to do, not something that you want to do, your subconscious listens to this guidance as well, and the threshold for something to come to your attention will be much lower.  The barrier to something coming to your conscious attention is lowest when you’re doing something you don’t want to do AND have something important to think about, and especially if that thing that is important to think about is one you don’t want to think about.

So your subconscious mind does what your conscious mind tells it to do, even if you barely realize you’re doing it.  If you tell it that you don’t want to be where you are, doing what you’re doing, then it will try to present you with other things going on around you.  If you tell it that you are totally engrossed in what you are doing, it will filter out all but the most important events.   If you try to avoid thinking about something that you know you need to think about, it will pass you just about everything, not doing much filtering at all.

There’s the problem and its cause, so now what can you do about it?  Well, the first thing you can do is make sure you take quiet time.  This gives you the opportunity to stop avoiding all those thoughts that you’re trying not to think about, thus lessening your seeking for distractions.  The second thing you can do is learn to prioritize, and work on things in priority order… this will cause you to be working on something important to you up until you get all of that accomplished, at which point distractions are not so bad, anyway, as they may provide you with an opportunity that you otherwise would have missed.  The final thing you can do is work on increasing your awareness, as the more aware you are, the more your conscious mind is in direct control, rather than sitting back waiting for the subconscious to filter everything for it.

So now you are aware of what you are doing, and know how to change it, so what are you waiting for?  Don’t let anything distract you on your path to growth and awareness!


How To Make Your Life Happier In One Simple Change

What do envy and jealousy, perfectionism and anger, fear and loathing, and all other things that make you uhappy have in common?  There’s one thing they all boil down to… they are all focusing your mind on something that isn’t perfectly the way you want it to be.

One of the easiest signs by which you can tell that you are thinking too much about something not being perfect is when you start complaining.  Whatever it is that you are complaining about, it’s obviously something you don’t like (or why would you be complaining?).  If it’s something you don’t like, why are you wasting your time and energy thinking about it?  As I’ve written before, spending energy on something gives it importance in your life, whether that energy is negative or positive.  However much impact something has in your life, in who you are, is determined by how much importance you give it.

Every time you complain about something, your are giving it more importance, so it’s becoming a bigger part of your life.  Since you only complain about things you don’t like, that doesn’t seem like a very desirable outcome, does it?  This includes, by the way, when you only complain about it in the safety of your own mind… you are still thinking about it and giving it more importance.

Now, let’s think about the other side of the coin.  How often do you specifically mention the things that you do like that are going on in your life?  How often do you thank someone for something they do that makes something go well in your life, compared to how often you complain when someone does something that you don’t like?  For instance, do you thank your spouse if they do the dishes, or only complain when they do not?  Do you thank your boss when he stands up for you, or only complain when he does something you don’t like?

Happiness in life is all about your focus, whether it’s negative or positive.  If your “thanks” outweigh your “complaints”, then you will be happy most of the time.  If your complaints outweigh your thanks, you will be unhappy most of the time.  If you want your life to be happier, you can make it that way, without changing your circumstances at all.  Want to know how?  Just make this one simple change:

Every time you catch yourself complaining, find two positive things about your life to tell the same person to whom you’re complaining.

This forces you to focus more on the things you do like, and keeps the things you don’t like from obscuring the overall quality of your life.  If you want to make even more difference, if you’re complaining about a person, find something good about that person to tell to whomever is receiving your complaints, and then go over to the person you were complaining about (if it’s feasible… obviously you can’t do this if the person you were complaining about was an anonymous driver on the freeway) and thank them for whatever it is that they do that you like.  Do this and you’ll find it hard to harbor grudges or do more than vaguely dislike someone, since you are aware of their positive traits, too.

Again, happiness is a state of mind that you choose.  If you leave the choice to your subconscious, your conscious mind may not like the results, until you have trained your subconscious to STOP concentrating on the things that are going wrong and instead focus on the things that are going right.  Choose to focus on the things you like, and bring those things more into focus, making them a bigger part of your life, rather than the things you complain about.

PS – Doing this won’t make everything in your life positive, and can’t make you happy 100% of the time.  It will, however, make it easier for you to be happy the majority of the time, and make it easier for you to return to happiness after something causes you to depart from that state.


Love And Fear

We all have two basic ways of approaching any decision. We can look at it from a perspective of love, considering what path is best for all, or we can look at it from a perspective of fear, considering what path is best just for the person making the decision. Either way can come out with the same outcome (what’s best for the individual and group may be the same), but the path to get there, and the journey along the way, is different.

If you always act from the love side of things (which, admittedly, requires a lot of effort), you are very likely to find love coming back to you, as well. People, in general, instinctively recognize the type of person you are. Those who actively seek the solution that is the best for all involved (without ignoring the effects on the individuals) are usually liked far better than those who look out for themselves. People in general will go more out of their way to help someone they like, so the love you give returns to you.

On the other hand, if you act from the fear side of things, it seems to require less effort, as there is a natural instinct to look out for yourself. You also get the advantage of always looking for what’s best for you, so that you make decisions that will most benefit you directly. You may find, many times, that what is good for the group is also good for you, with a rising tide lifting all boats, and also that it keeps people from disliking you for being greedy and selfish, which can very much affect what benefit you receive.

God created the universe to have a constant flow of love. What this means, essentially, is that as you give love (working from the love oriented path), sending it out from the inside, more love will flow into you from the outside. As you take love (working from the fear oriented path), it will be pulled from inside to out, whether through negative emotions like fear and guilt, or through opposition in the world.

These two paths are opposites, and mixing them renders them less effective. For instance, people go out of their way to help someone who they know to be helpful to others. If you mix that with the selfish side, you end up in the middle, and don’t receive that benefit. If you mix love in with fear, it makes it less powerful as well… obviously if you only focus on yourself sometimes, it’s going to be less effective than doing so all the time.

Mixing them also creates confusion and kills motivation inside you. It removes clarity. If you are clear on how you approach all decisions (either through love or through fear), some choices fall away as unacceptable, and some move from should to must. This makes for much less confusion, much less in the way of distractions pulling you away from your goal, and therefore it becomes much easier to reach (think of trying to swim across a pool with a 45 pound weight strapped to each leg, then doing the same thing with no weights).

To use one path or the other, you must first be aware of your choices. Then you have to actively choose to use one side or the other, and make an effort to follow that path all the time, not just part of the time. It does become easier with time, and it will make you much more effective at whatever you choose to do.

So, if you’ve become aware of your choices (living consciously), you now have another choice to make. Do you want to approach the world looking to make it better for everyone, or live your life to take as much from it as possible?

Watch What You Say

What is in your heart will come out of your mouth, and what comes out of your mouth can go into your heart. This being the case, be aware of what you say. You don’t want to keep speaking things that you don’t want in your heart.

You should also be aware of what you say because it may impact others more than you would ever imagine. My father told me a story once of someone he hadn’t seen for a very long time coming up to him and telling him “I’ll never forget what you said to me.” The conversation in question had happened twenty years earlier, and my father didn’t even remember it. What you say can make a difference in someone’s entire life, even if you don’t have any such intention.

What you say molds peoples’ expectations, including your own. This means more than you might think… expectations are powerful things (More on expectations in a coming post). Words can do much harm, or much good, more than it seems at first glance. So be aware of what you say, and if it will shape things in a negative way, then don’t say it.

A Different View

This time I’ll go a bit more religious than I have previously. I’m a Christian, as you may know/have figured out. So today I’ll present another way of looking at things from a Christian perspective. this is NOT to say that this is the view of most, or even many, Christians.

Let’s start out with how I think most people view others right now. Most of us think of each person as a completely independent individual, with possible exceptions of some sort of tie to immediate family. There is, however, another fairly interesting way to look at it, one that I think may be closer to how God sees it.

That view consists of looking at all humanity as something like a tree. It all started with Adam and Eve, and spread out from there. Each person is an individual branch on the tree… but it’s all one interconnected living thing. That helps explain why we need other people so much… what happens to the branch of a tree if you cut it off of the tree?

There are all kinds of interesting ideas that can come from this view. It makes all of us connected, every single person. It even makes us “more” connected to people to whom we were already connected, like grandparents. It’s one thing to look at them as individuals who happened to have a child who happened to have you. It’s quite another to actually look at them as being part of the same living being as you, and a pretty close part, at that.

It also makes it easy to see how hurting anyone causes hurt back to you. After all, if you cut your finger, it affects your whole body. If you cut your wrist badly enough, your whole body can die. Now you may be tough and be able to deal with pain, even a great deal of pain, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t inflicted, or that it isn’t doing any harm.

Another thing it can make it easier to see is how people who are seemingly unrelated to each other (in the independent view) can still make a huge impact on each other. You could yell at your child, who then is unpleasant in school, which makes the teacher cranky, who then yells at their spouse, who then gets drunk and goes out and gets in a wreck. That’s not to say that you’re legally responsible, or even that you bear the blame morally, as all the people involved made choices, but your one choice (good or bad) traveled through the “branches” of the human organism and affected someone severely who you don’t even know and will likely never meet.

And this happens more often than you think. Your choice to smile at someone (a real smile, just for them) can brighten someone’s day, which can affect other people, and be generally uplifting to a whole place. Being good to someone can even do something as drastic as making them choose not to commit suicide, thereby extending their branch and causing unimaginable changes to the lives of all they touch. Being bad to someone can have equally far reaching consequences.

So, in light of the human organism, be aware not just of how your choices affect you, but how they affect those around you, and how that can affect those around them, and how that can affect those around them, and how that can affect those around them…

Keeping Up Motivation

One of the best helpers for achieving your goals is to have accountability and measurability. Goals that don’t have a measurable result are not terribly effective at moving you forward. Having a measurable result and someone or something to which you hold yourself accountable provides much reinforcement to your self-discipline.

For example, if your goal is to lose weight and become more healthy, that is a laudable goal. It is not, however, all that easily achievable. It has no measurable, quantifiable steps along the way. If, on the other hand, you set out to lose 20 pounds and 5% body fat, those are specific goals, and you can set a goal of 1 pound a week, or whatever is achievable for you, until you reach your goal. This way you have a sense of progress along the way. “Oh, I’m 1/4 of the way there”, “I’m halfway there!”, etc.

Even better is having someone to whom you’re accountable. This can be a weight loss partner, with whom you exercise or whatever, a spouse whom you keep updated on your progress, or sometimes even more effective is someone you’re paying, ie a physical trainer. Most people have a strong subconscious impulse to not waste money. “Waste” has a widely varied meaning when it comes to money, but paying someone to help you lose weight and not working at it would generally fall into that category.

Possibly the strongest motivator of all, which I briefly mentioned above, is a sense of progress. There is nothing that makes a goal feel more achievable, more inevitable, than being able to see progress toward that goal. It is much easier to move ahead toward your goal when you can look back at the ground you have already covered. It’s much easier to walk five miles to reach your goal when you can look back and see you have already covered ten. Then you’re on the downhill slope, the easy part.

The hardest part of reaching any goal is taking the first few steps. Once you’re in motion, then you have inertia on your side, instead of working against you. So set specific, measurable goals, set up someone to whom you are accountable, and keep track of goals reached along the way. These things, done together, will help keep you motivated and moving toward your ultimate destination.


There are really two versions of selfishness. One is the kind most people think of when you say the word: someone who puts their own needs ahead of the needs of others. The other, more severe version, is the type of person who doesn’t really understand that other people are real. This doesn’t mean that they consciously decide other people are figments of their imagination, it’s more normally subconscious, but where the first type of person considers other people’s wants or needs and chooses their own, the second type never has the fact that other people HAVE wants or needs register on them.

The unfortunate part for both of these people is that human beings are meant to have interactions and relationships with others. Selfish people are very, very seldom happy. The second type of selfish person is even less likely than the first type to be happy. The reason for this is that physical things can only bring temporary satisfaction. As you become accustomed to having them, they fade into the background, and no longer bring much pleasure.

People are different. People are always changing, whether they want to or not. You simply can’t have the same person in your life (or, indeed, BE the same person) next year as this. This makes it much more difficult for people to fade into the background as objects do. It is very difficult to become accustomed to something which is never the same.

Since selfish people, especially the second type, dismiss people, they are left more with objects, which do not change over time, and therefore become boring and fade out of notice. One of the only ways to “reset” this fading out is to take away substantial amounts of the objects someone has. The most common form of doing this is to lose substantial amounts of money, especially if you go bankrupt.

Many times, besides making the person appreciate the objects if and when they re-acquire them, this also has the effect of making them less selfish, as they can now identify more with other people. Which in turn makes them happier. I don’t know, really, any easy way to help someone become less selfish. The only thing that really seems to work is either loss, or very real belief that loss may happen.

If you do happen to know something that works, please leave your answer in the comments.