Balancing Balance, Part II: Personal Filters

If you find yourself with a to-do list longer than your stamina, you need personal filters.* If you find it difficult to say no to requests to organize the soccer tournament, bake fifteen dozen cookies for the bake sale, or teach Bible class for the next decade without a break, you need personal filters. If you have a hard time figuring out how to prioritize your time so you can end the day feeling like you have really accomplished something, you need personal filters.

Even if you don’t know what they are, you already use personal filters. Every day, you sort through countless possible choices by sifting them through a set of mental sieves – your personal filters. They help you decide what you will and will not do, what you will and will not say, where you will and where will not go, and they assist you in these ways mostly unconsciously. For example, I was unaware until I thought about it just now that today I chose not to commit murder, acquire a cat, or begin to learn Latvian – all things it would have been possible for me to do if I had made the decision to do them. My personal filters helped me choose the things I am doing – take a shower, prepare a couple of chickens to roast for dinner, discuss the next novel selection to co-read with our son, plan to attend a borough council meeting, and water my languishing porch flowers. I choose to do those things today because I have personal filters in place that direct me to stay reasonably clean, to cook dinner every night (and to start early because I like to have a good dinner and I want to know it is underway before the day gets too full of demands), to see to our children’s education by homeschooling them, to fulfill a commitment I made to serve my town as mayor, and because when I chose to plant up two big pots for each side of our entry last spring I necessarily chose to maintain them throughout this growing season.

But what are personal filters? If you think about it, personal filters are actually your conscience and your wisdom working in tandem to direct your life. They are comprised of your values and all of your knowledge about yourself — your energy level, your commitments, your priorities, your desires, and more. For most of us, a constant dance (or struggle!) is going on inside to balance(!) outward, service-oriented behavior with inner, self-oriented behavior. It is what we mean when we speak of keeping our lives in balance, and personal filters are what determine, consciously or not, the side on which every single choice we make falls.

Which filter is most important? Well, that depends on the person, doesn’t it? For some people, the primary filter through which every option passes is Do I Feel Like It? For some, it is What Will People Think of Me? For some, it is Will It Benefit Me? For others, it is Is It Easy? For a few, it is What Does God Think About This? Whoa, you’re getting all existential on me, and all I wanted was help to decide whether or not to volunteer at the animal shelter this year! Exactly so. There are probably hundreds of possible primary filters, but knowing what mine is tells me a lot about who I am. And that’s just the first one. Each filter below it gets progressively narrower (and lower in importance to me). It is the order of the filters that determines what sort of person I am, and therefore what choices I will make about how to spend the moments of my life.

Becoming conscious of what my personal filters are and the order in which they occur is the first step toward balance in my life. The second step is to make sure my conscience and my wisdom are in the best working condition I can muster right now, so that my filters will lead me in the direction I truly want to go. Fine-tuning my conscience and wisdom is a life-long process – it is the essence of growing spiritually. My personal filters will evolve and re-orient themselves as a matter of course as I grow.

So, spend some time today noticing your first thought when you are faced with a choice. Be honest! Are you satisfied with your primary filter? Do you need to do some major renovation? Fine-tuning? Remember, that first filter is providing the major direction of your life, and you only get one life. Great filter = great life. What do you think about this idea of personal filters?

*I did not originate the term “personal filter,” but I wish I had. I first heard it while reading the excellent blog, Small Notebook for a Simple Home. The author, Rachel, does a great job, so give her a try.

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  1. Posted September 18, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Wow, this one really gave me food for thought. I never thought about what my primary filter is but I will be thinking about it today for sure.
    Dija recently posted..Believe…your soul is worth it.My Profile

  • Your comment is the best part of this blog! Share what’s on your mind here.

  • In My Kitchen, In My Life is a place where women (and the odd male) can be encouraged, nudged, and occasionally kicked in the pants toward living their lives on a higher plane. Oh, and readers get plenty of chances to laugh at the author's foibles, which is always worth a click.

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