Reducing & Preventing Overload by Filtering Thoughts

1430223_49148998 (2)Filters purify. They keep out the harmful and leave the beneficial. In any are of life, improvement comes through removing or keeping out bad and adding in good, through filtering.

A defective filter does little good. Only remove bad and fail to replace with good, and the bad comes back in full force (Luke 11:24-26). Only add in good and fail to remove the bad, and the good fails to have much – if any – benefit (Colossians 3).

Filters in our thought lives reduce overload by sifting through all the information and opportunities constantly coming at us. They allow for separating and removing what we don’t want and keeping what we do want. This filtering involves processing information received by placing it against truth, and with the Holy Spirit’s guiding choosing the appropriate response.

Filtering to Prevent & Reduce Overload

Applying filters involves creating habits and establishing priorities that help keep out negative and allow positive to shape us.

Habits go a long way in directing our thought lives. For example, I make a habit of considering the impact of whatever I choose to read. This means reading very little romance or horror and also flipping between fiction and nonfiction as a routine. I also regularly consider the benefit of the various blogs and articles I read. This habit keeps me balanced since my thoughts are easily influenced by the written word.

Filtering thoughts also involves prioritizing. This means realizing that sometimes we have to say “no” to good things simply because we cannot say “yes” to everything if we hope to avoid overload. Prioritizing includes everything from the what to read, what movies to watch, who to spend time with, and even what commitments to accept or reject at church.

My husband and I have created a filtering system that orders priorities within our schedules. This system works well in keeping my inner atmosphere from getting overwhelmed with too many details and lack of focus and my husband from getting out of balance by failing to relax and rest.

Our prioritizing filter involves keeping each other accountable and not adding any large and/or long-term commitment to our schedules without consulting one another. We ask if the added commitment will tax the margin in our lives because lack of margin almost always results in an overwhelmed thought life.

Creating Your Own Filters

Start by looking at what overwhelms you easily and finding specific ways to simplify and keep overload at bay. Remember that a good filter usually involves the following…

  1. An accountability system.
  2. Acknowledging and recognizing limits.
  3. Prioritizing to maintain healthy margins.
  4. The Holy Spirit’s guidance.
  5. Consistent time with God.
  6. Adjustments with the seasons of life.

The idea that focus determines reality is never more true than in our thinking. This is why we must deliberately choose a filtering system based on absolute truth, God’s truth, and not on the relative truth of man that changes like shifting shadows.

“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)

DISCUSSION: What filters can you apply in your own life to prevent and/or reduce overload of any type?

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9 Replies to “Reducing & Preventing Overload by Filtering Thoughts”

  1. Very good points. Filtering defines who we want to become based upon an evaluation of who we are. How do we know what we filter out versus accept in? Our eyes are the mirror of our soul, but our mouth, legs and hands are outward reflection of the condition of our heart, soul and mind. Even Paul struggled with doing the things I knew he should not do. I imagine he worked daily on his filters as he evaluated what he caught himself saying and doing. This subject has so much potential…sounds like it could become a great book…uummm??
    My recent post Sheep in a Strange Land Need a Shepherd

    1. Filtering definitely defines us. Paying attention to filtering gives us a way to shape how we want to be defined. Paying attention to our attitudes, actions and words goes a long way in helping us know how our filtering systems are working and if we need more or to tweak the ones we have. Another book idea… you'll have to help me focus and get through the several ideas I have going!

  2. Time limits can be set. People limits can be set, i.e. someone reminding us time is up. For some, real filters (like blockers) have to be used. But the most important one, and i agree with you on this, is my time spent with God.
    My recent post Turnabout

    1. We definitely are not at a loss for how to set filters, with God's Word being the most important one. I think the biggest problem is actually taking the time to create those filters and then use them regularly. I see way too many people with little to no filtering, and I see the consequences of a filter-less life too. Sad. I've been there. I know it feels sad too.

  3. Kari,
    All great points for filtering. It also makes me think of filtering not only what is coming in but also what is going out. I hear it said of someone sometimes that they don't have a filter and most of the time that is not a positive comment. We do need to be aware of what we put forth in our words and deeds and are we considering it's impact on others not only ourselves.

    1. Great addition, Mark. I actually have a friend who I would say "filter" to every so often. She has gotten better, and I don't have to say it anymore. I've actually heard her reminder herself though. An awareness of what comes out of us helps us better know what's going on inside of us and where we need to focus in our time with God. And the ripple affects are definitely huge.

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