5 Filters Guaranteed to Remove the Stink from Your Life

There is so much emotional dust and negativity and other bits of self-defeating debris floating around in the atmosphere of our daily lives.

Too many people are ill-equipped to recognize the dust and debris for what it is. They are therefore unable to remove it, block it, filter it from intake, from ingesting the garbage and digesting its message, thereby preventing it from becoming part of the DNA of their lives.

What Filters Are Operational in Your Life?

The interesting thing is that our physical bodies have some of the most amazing filtration systems in the world. From the kidneys and liver to the membranes of the 60-90 trillion cells that make up the adult human body that act as microscopic filters as well.

We have filters on our air conditioning and heating units. We have filters for our tap water, fish tanks and on the airflow of our clothes dryer. We even have a stand up air filter in the bedroom to remove dust and pollen particles from the air as we sleep. There are parental filters to block content online and the TV and air filters on our cars and light filters on our cameras.

But do we have working filters for our lives? Do we have filters that effectively block our lower impulses and external influences that undermine potential, dignity and happiness?

The simple answer is that yes, we have them. But are they working for us, against us or sitting idle gathering dust, failing to block the crippling thoughts and behaviors that plague too many of us too regularly?

5 Essential Filters to Optimize Your Life

1. Conscience

What it Filters:

Our conscience, if it hasn’t been damaged in the process of growing up, helps prompt us from taking action on self-defeating temptations to act against universal principles and our own principle-based values. It keeps us true to ourselves and inspires change and growth when we fall short – as we inevitably will.

Why it’s Important:

When our conscience is healthy, living in harmony with it means we are better able to live with integrity to our values, avoiding moral pitfalls and ethical quicksand, avoiding circumstances that can lead to moral compromise.

We feel the discomfort of moral failure, the pang of hypocrisy and guilt for the pain we intentionally cause others. We’re prompted to do better, to correct mistakes and rise to our higher selves. We feel better about ourselves the more in-tune we are to that inner voice that leads us on to higher moral ground.

Moral decisions and dilemmas and ethical questions are passed through the filter of conscience. If it’s working, it serves us very well, saving us from so much heartache down the road.

How to Optimize Performance:

Meditate on uplifting, inspiring and Godly matters. Fine-tune character, clearing the communication clutter of our character deficiencies. Note, however, that perfection or holiness is not necessary to start recognizing the “voice” of conscience.

Listen to the voice within, the quiet whisperings of your heart. As you “listen” and respond to the message it sends, you will fine-tune your ability to “hear” your conscience “speak” to you.

2. Wisdom

What it Filters:

Wisdom filters good ideas from the free-flow downpour of bad ones. Wisdom prevents us from swallowing hook, line and sinker, all the garbage dressed in eloquence that so many people peddle as truth.

Wisdom helps us differentiate between grandiose movements that fail to take into account human nature. It aids us in seeing through the false impressions of studies, polls and statistics used by charlatans to mislead and misinform.

Why it’s Important:

The importance of wisdom is in its capacity to keep us from wandering down roads that lead us off intellectual, moral or emotional cliffs. Wisdom allows us to see through the fog of moral confusion and intellectual gobbledygook.

Where intelligence helps us know things. Wisdom helps us know what things are important, true and useful.

How to Optimize Performance:

To develop wisdom requires some work. It requires reading deeply from the world’s pantheon of wisdom literature. Read the words of deep and worthy thinkers. Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Confucius, Lao Tzu and Scripture are good places to start.

On our journey to greater amounts of wisdom, it’s important to understand the difference between the accumulation of knowledge or the state of intelligence from the acquisition of wisdom. Knowledge is what you learn. Intelligence is the ability to learn it. Wisdom is the ability to recognize the important parts of what’s learned.

In other words, wisdom is to intelligence what directions are to a map. Put another way, if knowledge is the car and intelligence is the engine, then wisdom is the steering wheel, gas pedal and brake. And Lord knows we need better steering than faster cars!

P.S. Schooling conscience will also school wisdom.

3. Values

What it Filters:

A well-developed set of values helps us differentiate among competing good ideas. They help us prioritize what’s most important from what’s less important.

Many people run on autopilot here. They haven’t thought through their core values or what’s important to them, what’s right and wrong or what system or mechanism or doctrine or ideology is used to help them decide. As a result, they often find themselves pushed in the direction of the prevailing winds rather than plotting their own course in life.

Why it’s Important:

Humanity is a mixed bag. Human nature includes compassion and courage. But it also includes selfishness, greed and lust. So living life based on whim, immediate desire and what gratifies in the moment is a life surrendered to our darker impulses. A life dedicated to a high set of values is lived higher, happier, healthier and just plain better.

How to Optimize Performance:

Once again, we see the interrelatedness and interlocking harmony of the filters. Conscience and wisdom literature can help us identify our moral priorities.

Go deeply within and sense what those highest values are. Sit still and quiet and listen to your heart identify what’s right and wrong.

I’m convinced that somewhere within our souls, we can recognize principle-based values when we hear them. Some commonly shared values that every major religion teaches to one degree or another include love and compassion, courage and gratitude, kindness and forgiveness, patience, dedication, perseverance and honesty.

It would be wise to start with these.

4. Preference

What it Filters:

Even among competing good ideas, even when we’ve identified what’s most important, sometimes it’s crucial to delay the best to work on the preferred. Doing things we like adds passion, zest and enjoyment to life.

Why it’s Important:

Not every meal has to include spinach and broccoli. Not every workout has to be a marathon. Not every date has to move her soul or rock his boat. It’s okay to periodically watch a sitcom or take a walk instead of a jog or eat a bowl of ice cream instead of a handful of almonds.

Besides, when we keep saying yes to other people’s preferences, we sometimes squeeze ourselves out of the picture.

When we always follow others’ wishes, never take the lead, eat what others want, watch what others watch, play what others play, go where others go, if we never put our desires or preferences first, if our lives are paid in deference to others, we shrink and fade and disappear a little at a time until we are only reflections of others, shadows of what we were meant to be.

Life is a give and take, after all. Some people only take. But those who only give will find life more difficult than it has to be as well.

How to Optimize Performance:

Don’t push and shove and shout your way through a crowd. But with a quiet dignity, require your way and your preferences to matter. Regard yourself highly and others will come to regard you that way too. Act with self-respect and others, in time, will lend you theirs.

5. Choice

What it Filters:

With much of life lived unconsciously, conscientious choice filters out what we might call “life in drift” or living life on idle, softly floating downstream without oar, rudder or sail. It filters out excuse and justification and self-pity from the power of decision.

The more life is recognized as the result of our choices, the greater power we have to direct it and experience it on our terms. Then we start living life on purpose, choosing a path to follow, no longer blown about by circumstance or luck, no longer content to travel the path you just happen to be on.

Why it’s Important:

The power of choice may not be readily recognized as a filter, but it’s one of the most powerful (and underutilized) filters we have. But the free will to choose is a filter only when it’s used correctly, to enhance life at its potential.

It can, of course, be disconnected altogether from its filtering function by the type of decisions we make. The power of decision can be used to filter out time-wasters and morality-sapping, self-defeating activities that create obstacles to living our highest selves.

How to Optimize Performance:

The power of choice is enhanced as all the others filters (conscience, wisdom, values and preference) are applied and fine-tuned.

When our preferences respect our values and our values are informed by our conscience and wisdom influences the choices we make within the context of our conscience-driven preferences, we will then be equipped with power to direct our lives in profound ways.

The power of choice and free will to take one path over another, to change one mode of conduct from another, to choose how and when and why and if we will walk one direction or another becomes a profoundly important component to our filter system.

So many people all around us every day, blindly walk through life, doing what’s always been done, raising kids the way they were raised, following cultural patterns and expectations without much thought, living by rote, thinking without questioning, building without creating, acting without deciding.

In the most fundamental sense, decisions are indeed being made. But they are being made by default. They are the automatic settings of repetition, not a willful act of choice.

In effect, every choice filters out every other option, diversion and self-defeating alternative.


With so much intellectual smog floating thick in the atmosphere today, poisoning our moral lungs, sapping our emotional strength with the toxicity of the intellectual trash that’s spewed across the airways and internet, in the swirling cesspools of pop culture, we need tools to help us breathe a little better, live above the acid clouds of pain and self-defeat and moral inertia.

My promise to you is that as you fine-tune the filters outlined above (conscience, wisdom, values, preference and choice), you will notice a difference. It will be a big difference. It will be like a breath of fresh air filling your lungs, displacing the moral, emotional and intellectual smoke and pollution with something richer, cleaner and more indefinitely enduring.


  • How have these filters worked in your life?
  • Any suggestions for making them work more effectively?
  • What filters have I missed?
  • I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

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