Someone asked me recently how I find ideas for a weekly blog. I told him that I am always on the lookout for stories because I know the blog is waiting to be written.
You could say I have a story filter on my life. Moments will turn into stories in the shower, on a walk, while cooking dinner, or in a client conversation. Sometimes, a story simmers for a while and various sources come my way to enrich my story. Sometimes, a minor moment turns into a story.
Perhaps you have had this experience too? When looking to buy a new car, have you observed how you then pay attention to cars on the road? Even more specifically, cars that are like the one you may have in mind? Or when expecting a baby, you suddenly notice more pregnant women or people with babies?
This phenomenon has many names – frequency illusion, selective bias, or “the red car syndrome.” It is the tendency to notice something more often after you’ve noticed it for the first time. For example, after noticing a red car, perhaps because your friend bought one, you notice red cars and suddenly they are everywhere! This leads you to believe that there is a higher frequency of red cars than there actually are. There aren’t. You are simply noticing them more. The rate of occurrence hasn’t changed, you have. More specifically, you have put a particular filter on. Like I have a story filter, you have a ‘red car’ filter.
This made me think about how easily we are led into believing in trends, based on our filter. Are there really more “For sale” signs in my neighbourhood or is it just my filter because I want to sell my house? Is the world really more dangerous than before or am I just taking note of danger? Am I falling behind on my retirement planning or are financial markets just having a poor year?
We need to be cautious about the filters we have, as too often, the resulting trends that we then follow are not true trends. We just think they are. I believe it is necessary, for our own well-being, to interrogate our own observations and conclusions daily. We need to develop an awareness of the filters through which we create meaning in our lives. It is not enough to just let your thoughts run or be misled. Not when we can employ our brains to do more than that. Not when it impacts the story of our own life.
In having a story filter, I have become more aware of the filters I have in my own life. And I have interrogated them, and where needed, made conscious decisions to create positive filters that improve my wellbeing. For example, I started keeping a regular gratitude journal which very quickly helped me notice an abundance of things to be grateful for. Make a resolution to notice beauty and you will soon see the spring flowers along the highway or the soulful eyes of the barista pouring your coffee.
It has helped me pay more attention and forced me to search for truth in the chaos we sometimes live in. It has focused my attention on creating perspective for myself and others. In having a story filter specifically, I have developed an awareness of stories that happen around me all the time. Crucially though, it has taught me to make a conscious decision on what I talk about. And I try to talk about the ones that I hope make a difference. For myself and others.
So, in asking me how I find ideas, I again find myself, having created one, and being grateful for the changes that the process has wrought in me.
It would not be far stretched to say, ‘This blog has changed my life.’
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