A filter is a way of viewing our experience of reality.
It’s a tool that frames our observations about the world and ultimately gives us better results than we would have without it.
And there are as many filters as there are people to see through them. We can create and deploy as many of them as we want, once we discover how the filter creation process works.
Below I will share two examples of my favorite filters to use. Then we can deconstruct how they were made, so you can replicate the process in your own life.
First and foremost. Einstein’s theory of relativity.
This revolutionized mankind’s understanding of gravitation and its intricate connection to the cosmic forces that govern the natural world.
But it’s extremely complex, highly counterintuitive, conceptually jarring, and lacks any direct observational evidence. Reading about relativity is intimidatingly difficult and can leave you feeling baffled and foolish.
It truly is like chewing cement.
Now, I’ve personally never been much of a science student, so this theory of relativity always eluded me. That is, until I started treating it as a filter to deploy, rather than an idea to master.
Years ago someone explained to me as follows.
The rate at which time passes depends on your frame of reference. That’s the basics, and it’s all you need to know. Relativity simply means that time shrinks or expands according to intention and attention. Apply that filter to your experience, and you’ll get better outcomes.
My colleague was right. Particularly around scheduling and productivity and deadness.
Once I made the decision that I myself was the source of time, and I always had plenty of time for everything that I wanted, suddenly, I felt less rushed. More relaxed. Because I trusted that no matter what happened to me, I was still going to get done the things that needed to get done.
That’s my relativity filter. It sounds almost too simple to be true, but it makes my life better.
And what’s validating about it is, I don’t have to know jack squat about astrophysics. It’s not like gravitational time dilation is a subject I could explain to a five year old.
That’s okay. Because I only need to understand the basics to make the filter useful. I only need a rudimentary understanding of this scientific phenomenon to gradually free me from the optical illusions that restrict my view of reality.
Relativity is a filter I put on the world to help me understand it better and improve my life. What’s yours?
Here’s a completely different filter to consider. Optimization.
This word changed my life. I never used to say it, until I became friends with an economist.
He uses this filter for everything, and now I do the same. The explanation of the term is, optimization is the action of making the best or most effective use of a situation or resource. It’s about making informed, thoughtful decisions that align with your values and aspirations.
But it’s not about economics, it’s about blazing a path forward to a more fulfilling life.
Now, there are economic models we can study to better understand optimization. But let’s not shit ourselves, that’s way too much work. And in fact, it’s unnecessary to gain benefit from the filter.
For example, I try to optimize my life for joy. Wherever possible, I take advantage of, rearrange my life for, and modify my experience around, feeling more alive.
I choose to engage in activities that are uniquely appealing to me. Without guilt, shame or justification.
Doing this has made my life physically and spiritually lighter. And while I’m certainly not happy every hour of the day, or even every day of the week, by applying the optimization filter, I have a better choice mechanism than I did before.
Case in point. I got laid off three times in three years during the pandemic. I felt rejected, useless, sad and angry.
But while on the job hunt for the next opportunity, I tightened up my optimization filter. While applying for new positions, I evaluated my opportunities around my values of freedom and creativity.
Would I work on projects that were professionally fulfilling? Would I be able to start work at the time that worked for my needs? How many people I would be accountable to?
These core questions guided my interviewing process. If a company didn’t check enough of those boxes, they were out.
One firm in particular made me a compelling offer financially, but since it didn’t meet the requirements of my optimization filter, I respectfully declined. Working there would have made me slightly richer, but much less happier.
How are you making decisions that lighten your cognitive load?
Above, you’ve learned about two filters I use virtually every day of my life. Relativity and optimization. The final piece in this exploration is to reverse engineer those examples so it’s easy to replicate the process more systematically in the future.
It’s meta filtering, to coin a new term. My tool for turning ideas into filters that change your point of view, and in turn, positively influence your behavior.
Step one, identify the concept.
Choose an idea, theory or principle that resonates with you and has the potential to enhance your understanding of the world or improve your life. Allow yourself to pull from science, math, philosophy, art, or whatever strikes your fancy.
Second, simply and understand the basics.
Break down your idea into the fundamental elements. Aim for a minimum viable understanding that is enough to motivate you.
Third, extract the applicable insights.
How does this concept work as a filter for your life? How will it guide your decision making tool?
Next, define the filter.
Clearly articulate the filter in a simple, actionable manner. Give it a cheeky or memorable handle if that helps the principle inform your choices and actions.
Fifth, apply the filter.
Use it as a perspective shift that helps you navigate challenges.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be accurate or even true, it only has to be aligned with your values and improve your overall wellbeing.
Finally, evaluate and iterate.
Regularly assess the effectiveness of the filter in your life. Reflect on how it has influenced your mindset and therefore, your actions and experiences.
And there you have it. You now have a step by step guide for creating new ways to view your experience of reality.
The more filters you have, the more creatively you can frame your observations about the world, and the more fulfilled you can become.
Of course, it’s all relative, but if you optimize right, there’s no stopping you.
Does your point of view need to influence the universe, or simply your behavior?