Why are some people always happy? Why are they gaining followers and influencing others, while others are just negative and have no influence on the world? The answer may surprise you. Most of the time, they are rooted in the same reason: Our brain’s filter.
Every day, you are overwhelmed by a barrage of messages competing for your attention. Your brain is literally being pulled in hundreds of different directions, all in a span of minutes.
Even while doing something as mundane as meeting a friend for lunch, we have the input of the background music (I know that song, who is that?), the conversations of others (that lady sure is loud!), and choosing what we want to eat (I know I should eat healthy, but the fried cheese with the butter dip sure sounds good). Not to mention trying to listen to his story about his son’s baseball game, thinking ahead to your 2:00 meeting with your boss, and the fact that you need a new washer and dryer. And that’s just a small percentage of the information-processing going on in your brain in a one-minute span.
How does your brain deal with all of that input?
Simple. It filters it. And that filtering is the reason why some people are always happy. It’s why they are influencing and changing the world.
Actually, the reason why some people are always happy and why they are leaving a mark in the world isn’t that their brains filter the information around them. It’s how they program their filter.
All of our brains are filtering information. Your brain is doing it right now. Five minutes from now, you will remember (hopefully) the content of this post. You will likely remember the premise, maybe the image I used, and one or two memorable quotes. But you most likely won’t remember the type of cars that drove by outside of your office window while you were reading it. Or the song that was playing. Or even what color shirt your boss, who just walked by your desk, is wearing.
In fact, you only remember about 1% of the information that you receive. The rest goes through your brain’s filter. (Remember, your brain is a lot less powerful than you might think. You need this filter.)
Think of your brain’s filter like the prototypical executive assistant.
She is demanding. Who are you and how does this concern my boss (your brain)?
The assistant is timely. Is this urgent or can it wait?
She disposes of irrelevant information. A good assistant will filter out most of her boss’ email before she ever sees it. People looking for “just a few minutes with the boss” are told to make an appointment.
But the assistant ultimately acts at the direction of her boss. Her boss tells her who to let in, what kind of emails to respond to herself, and what kind of news needs to be sent through.
In other words, the boss programs the assistant.
Just like you program your brain.
That is the reason why some people are always happy and are influencing others. It’s why some people see the world through a positive lens and others “can’t seem to get a break.” It’s why some people will live out their dreams and others will die with theirs.
Programming your brain’s filter
Think of the last time you watched a hysterical movie. The kind that made your sides hurt and tears roll from your eyes in laughter. What was it? (For me, it was watching Black Sheep for the 33rd time last week).
Got one in mind? Good.
Do you remember any negative thoughts coming into your mind?
Probably not. But the reality is that you likely had more than one. Maybe even hundreds.
But, in that moment, your brain was programmed to look for humor. It was programmed to expect funny things on the screen and, in response, you easily filtered out the negative thoughts.
That’s how your brain works. You can either use this filter to your advantage or it can become your worst enemy.
Key takeaway: Your brain scans the world only for what you program it to look for.
Just like it did when you were watching the funny movie. If you tell it to scan for negative events, brokenness, or problems, that is what it will find. Like an accountant, who is trained to search for errors, your brain will only see the dark side of the world and filter out all the positives.
On the flip side, you can do what those eternally happy and optimistic people do.
Action item: Program your mind to search for the good. Tell it to look for positive events. Tell it to filter out the bad. And over time your brain will reprogram itself.
The choice of how you program your brain is up to you. Choose wisely. And you too can be happier and more influential.
In what ways have you programmed your brain’s filter?