Reducing & Preventing Overload by Capturing Thoughts

In Solving the Problem of Information Overload, we realized that the goal for reducing overload involves balance, which comes through deliberately capturing and filtering thoughts and by setting information boundaries.

When we receive information, regardless of its source and avenue, we react to it through our thought lives. The more aware we are of this process, the better able we are to deliberately make choices regarding our focus.

A large part of capturing thoughts involves creating a strong core of truth within us out of which our thoughts can then operate.

Capturing Thoughts

sf_spiritOfTruth_05Taking thoughts – the products of our God-given ability to reason, reflect and respond – captive means avoiding decisions based solely on our finite processing. This requires holding to a central truth to help govern those thoughts.

Truth should shape us, not the information we take in. The information we receive and digest, whether overloading us or not, should not sculpt thoughts. If it is, we’ve got it backwards. Instead, let truth determine the shape & direction of thoughts. Information then becomes a tool for spreading truth.

Spending time in Scripture allows truth to become part of our thinking and to fuel our filtering system. This practice must exist at our core instead of as a problem-solving method only, and this only happens by spending time regularly dwelling with Him and allowing His Holy Spirit to guide our thinking (1 Corinthians 2:10-16).

Reducing Overload

An overloaded mind produces a divided focus, and a divided focus fails to live fully by truth. So, in addition to establishing a habit of building core strength on truth, capturing thoughts involves limiting and managing the information we take in to allow for a more singular focus.

To reduce overload in a way that allows truth to direct and guide, first limit incoming information and then make sure what you do allow to dwell supplements your thinking instead of draining it.

This process requires taking the time to think about what you’re thinking by asking the following questions regularly:

  1. sf_beautifulMind_04What am I allowing to shape my thoughts? Psalm 1:1-2 says to avoid bad influences and focus on good. We’ll cover more of how to manage this in the next post.
  2. What am I allowing to dwell in my mind? If you think you can’t help what you think about, you’re wrong. Scripture tells us we can choose where to fix our thoughts (See Romans 8:5, Philippians 4:8 & Hebrews 3:1)
  3. What is the source of my thoughts? Do they come from the thinking of others? Or, do they flow out of the truth of Christ established in you? (See Colossians 2:8)

Overload blocks deliberate thinking and even an awareness of the thinking process itself. At some point, you just have to say “Enough!” and give yourself time and space to stop the inflow of information, consider what’s going through your head (writing thoughts down or talking them out can help), and pit them against God’s truth.

If you fail to capture your thoughts by thinking about what you’re thinking, you’ll be the one in the cage while your thoughts wreak havoc as you watch through the bars of overload. Choose to use information as a supplement and an avenue to spread truth instead of letting it overload you.

DISCUSSION: What experience do you have with reducing information overload? What role did God’s word play in that process?

How Do the People You Hang Out With Influence Your Thinking?

Who are the 5 people you hang out with the most? Do they encourage you? Do they tell you what you need to hear, not just what strokes your ego or helps justify your feelings? Do they challenge you to grow? Even when you disagree, do they stand firm in their convictions? Are they loyal to you even when it’s not easy being your friend? Do they help strengthen you when you’re stressed?

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Sure, we ultimately make our own decisions, but the more time you spend with someone, the more their impact on your thinking. For good and for bad, the people you spend time with influence you. Do you find this to be true?

But because we can’t, nor should we, eliminate all interaction with negative people or those who disagree with us, we must instead seek to deliberately choose what we allow to impact our thinking. Certainly, this involves the actual amount of time spent with someone. But how much does it also involve the depth to which you are vulnerable & transparent?

For example, you can spend time with negative, gossipy coworkers but refuse to let them influence your thinking by counteracting their influence through the other people you spend time with, the books you read, the movies and TV shows you watch, and even the music you listen to both during and outside of work.

Bob Sorge, in the final chapter of The Fire of Delayed Answers, brings Biblical application to this concept using Psalm 1:1-4.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.

The Psalm doesn’t say we can or should avoid ungodly values, morals and attitudes altogether, but it does tell us we can choose not to walk, stand and sit with those living them. We can avoid much ungodly impact simply by how and where we choose to position ourselves. Failing to do so results in a gradual giving of ourselves to sin. Sorge expresses the idea this way:

“The sequence of “walks,” “stands,” and “sits” describes progressive entrapment in sin. The temptation of sin is to walk by, then to stand and hang out, and finally to sit down in it.”

Truth is, we will be tempted in these ways regularly. No practical way to avoid them. Influence comes at us constantly and in uncountable ways, but we can choose where to dwell and what we allow to dwell within us.

Let’s apply this concept to our virtual relationships. Who do you hang out with the most in forums or on social networking sites? Who do you walk, stand and sit with on a regular basis via text, email, blog reading/commenting, etc.?

For the month of April, Struggle to Victory will focus on my virtual influences by featuring guest posts, by guest posting on other sites, and by highlighting some of the regular visitors to this blog. Hopefully, you’ll be encouraged, strengthened & challenged by these people as much as I have on a regular basis, people I am proud to say have an impact on my thinking in ways that matter eternally.

DISCUSSION: Are you the average of the 5 people you spend time with, virtually or otherwise? How can you apply Psalm 1 when we have as much, if not more, bad influence coming at us as good?

Check Your Source

sf_overflow_03As a newspaper writer years ago, the source meant everything. In fact, editors insisted on at least three solid sources per article. Why? Because the sources determined the validity and impact of the words written.

When I taught writing and speech classes years later, I also stressed the importance of solid sources for conveying and supporting ideas. In fact, we spent a great deal of time determining how to identify credible sources.

The fact remains that the credibility of our words play a large role in our overall reputation. That holds true for individuals as much as is does in the media.

Considering the source makes all the difference in how the words of a person, whether writing or speaking, are received, accepted, believed and followed.

Careless words ruin a person’s credibility, certainly for the short-term. But the longer they precede a person and mark their presence, the more long-term, negative impact careless words have on a person’s reputation.

All About the Supply

Careless words usually indicate carelessness in some area of a person’s inner life, often symptomatic of a much bigger problem. Our words and actions indicate the condition of the heart and, when careless or unloving, usually point to an unbalanced state in some aspect of the inner self. And the more a habit of careless words receives room to roam, the greater the storm’s rage and the more numerous the careless words.

The only way to calm this storm is addressing the root cause. This means considering the source, the supply, of what’s coming out of a person’s mouth.

Begin the process by asking some tough but necessary questions. Does your source of supply – your automatic way of dealing with life – come in the form of acting, moving, talking and pushing? Is this your “go to” pace for life? If it is, consider how Isaiah 30:15 may have a much needed solution for calming every aspect of life from our schedule to the words we speak by bringing us to a stable source or supply on a consistent basis.

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The flow of careless words decreases and may even stop altogether when we quit trying to make things happen, for example when we try to talk people into things or attempt to justify our choices. More time spent in rest and quietness, as Jesus made a point to do regularly (Mark 1:35), reduces the number of unnecessary words by focusing us on the only source that can tame the tongue.

Bob Sorge in Chapter 10 of The Fire of Delayed Answers breaks Isaiah 30:15 down this way:

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When we’re out of control and not letting God direct our lives, not setting Him as our source of supply for all of our words, thoughts, attitudes and actions (Psalm 19:14 & James 1:26), we lose the ability to glorify Him. Our lives simply appear chaotic, holding nothing beneficial for others to desire to pursue.

Often, the root cause of our careless lives, which often becomes first apparent in the words we speak, involves failing to heed Isaiah’s advice. The more we purpose to implement these elements into our lives and allow God to be the source of all that we are, the more we’ll realize the value of returning to God, in resting in the quietness of His presence and in having confidence for Him to renew us.

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DISCUSSION: How can you purposely apply the advice of Isaiah? How will doing so change the words you use?

This post is a part of a weekly book discussion of The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge hosted by Jason Stasyszen of Connecting to Impact and Sarah Salter of Living Between the Lines. Be sure to check out their posts!

Do You Need Vision Therapy?

Humans possess over 15 essential eye-coordination visual skills. When a child under performs due to one or more vision-related deficiencies, they are said to have a vision-related learning problem. These problems are often misdiagnosed as ADHD, behavior problems and/or reading disabilities. This is what happened with our youngest son, who is now nearing the end of a 3-month eye therapy program to correct the deficiencies.

Throughout his therapy, I have done my best to understand not only his visual challenges but also the steps for correcting the problems (thank God they are correctable). In this process, God once again proved Himself to be an Everyday God who shows Himself in the details of life. To that end, the following points not only teach about common vision-related learning problems, they also help illustrate some of the common reasons for vision problems in our spiritual lives too.

Convergence Insufficiency

This involves eye-teaming skills, which is the ability to coordinate the two eyes together. Symptoms include eye strain, fatigue, poor attention and avoidance of reading. Words overlap when reading, resulting in double-vision. Many kids with this problem don’t know that what they are seeing isn’t normal, and as a result say nothing about the problem.

James 1:8 tells us that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Just like convergence insufficiency leads to a child who struggles with stability (confidence) in reading, double-vision in a spiritual sense leads to avoidance of obeying God’s will. Like waves of the ocean, a double-minded man can be unpredictable and even volatile.

Accommodative Dysfunction

Eye focusing skills, such as the ability to focus for sustained reading and to shift one’s focus from near to far, fail to function properly with this dysfunction. Symptoms include miscalling easy words, complaints of headaches, tiring easily and poor attention and concentration when reading. Accommodative dysfunction is all about the inability to focus and results in blurred vision.

The Old Testament gives numerous examples from the lives of God’s people (the Israelites) of what happens when our focus moves from God to anything else. Psalm 1 also gets at this idea of focus telling us to be aware of the type of people we spend our time with for fear of them leading us down the wrong path. Blurred vision in our spiritual lives leads to fatigue at every level, inability to see God when He does speak to us and even failure to focus when we clearly know He is speaking.

Occulomotor Dysfunction

Occulomotor dysfunction involves eye tracking skills, which is the ability to point eyes on printed material and to move them from word to word. Symptoms include losing one’s place easily and needing a finger to keep one’s place when reading, slow reading, poor fluency and comprehension, inability to pay attention, and difficulty copying words. With this dysfunction, words appear to jump around on the page.

Luke 21:36 gets at the idea of constant alertness and paying attention since we don’t know the day or the hour when Christ will return again. Failure to have this alertness results in losing our way and wandering outside of God’s will, inability to pay attention when God gives us opportunity to move on His behalf, and struggle copying the example set for us by so many godly men and women. We jump around in life without any real focus or purpose when we fail to be constantly alert to the work God sets before us.

Vision-related learning problems affect more than just reading. My son’s ability to properly socialize, to keep focused in and out of school, and to enjoy much of life in general were compromised because of these dysfunctions. Vision-related spiritual problems have the same impact on our spiritual lives by negatively impacting our relationships, stealing our focus, and robbing us of joy.

My son needed vision therapy to correct his vision-related learning problems. Vision-related spiritual problems require vision therapy too. Next Friday, we will discuss what elements are involved with vision-related therapy.

DISCUSSION: What vision-related problems do you see in your own spiritual life?

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