Understanding Your Context Filter

By: Jill Pack

One of the first things I work with my clients on is understanding the difference between thoughts and circumstances. This is one of the foundational concepts to understand if you want to create something different in your life. Understanding the difference between the two allows you the opportunity to act instead of being acted upon. 

For example, my husband is my circumstance, and I am his. The words we say are also circumstances. They aren’t necessarily good or bad. They just are. There isn’t a problem until we each have a thought about the other person and what they said. 

Now, does that mean we have to love what the other person says or does? No, of course not. But we empower ourselves to be our best selves when we realize that it is the way we are thinking about what they said or did that causes us to get upset, not the actual words or behaviors. Understanding this allows us to decide on purpose to act in a certain way instead of reacting to the situation. 

But there is another part to this. There is a space between the circumstance and a person’s thought. 

It is called the Context Filter. 

A context filter is like a pair of special glasses that everyone wears, but each person’s glasses are different because they are made up of their own stories, what they believe, what they think is important, and where they come from. These glasses help them see the world in their own special way. This means that when they look at a problem, a chance to do something, or when they are talking to someone else, their glasses make them see and think about these things in their own unique way. This is how they decide to handle different things that happen in life. 

Some things that make up a personal context filter include: 

  • Past Experiences & Outcomes or Results in our life 
  • Culture (ethnic, religious, family, regional, etc.) 
  • True Self (divine self/spirit/soul, natural abilities, personality, genetics) 
  • Current Emotional State 
  • Core beliefs 
  • Values 

All of these things make up the lens through which we view life, so it makes sense that we think the thoughts we do. 

When I begin looking at what is part of my personal context filter, I can begin examining it and deciding what I want to keep or let go of. This really is a lot of what coaching or self-coaching is. It is taking a look at what is in our context filter, questioning it, and deciding on purpose what we want in there. 

Here is an example. 

Let’s say you grew up believing that getting a college degree was very important. You went to college and got your degree. You have a successful career and are able to provide for your family. You teach your children that education is important and you believe that attending college is just a given. You value learning and education. You believe that a college degree is key to living a fulfilling and productive life. Of course, college is the logical next step after high school. Then one of your children decides college is not for them and you can’t believe it. It doesn’t make sense to you. 

Can you see your personal context filter at play here? 

Viewing their decision, which is your circumstance, through this lens shapes your experience. You feel sad and disappointed because you are making it mean that everything has gone wrong and there is no way that their life can be as good as it could be if they were to go to college. It just feels so true. 

Yet, how do you show up in your relationship with your child when looking at the situation through this context filter? Are you behaving in a way that helps you be the parent you want to be? Do you feel more connected to your child? My guess is the answer is “no” to both of those questions. 

Again, it doesn’t mean you have to love their choice, but it doesn’t have to derail you either. 

This is when your emotions can be a clue that it is time to take a deeper look into your personal context filter. Examining those things that may not be serving you in your relationship with your child. Curiosity is key to shifting your lens. 

What if you are wrong? What if it is possible that your child might even be happier if they don’t pursue a college education? What if they are learning exactly what they need to learn by not going to college? What if whatever they decide to do, it will all be ok? What if your belief is just your opinion and it isn’t the same as your child? What if that is really ok? Of course, you might feel disappointed. It makes sense because of your filter. Let yourself feel that. But, what if you can still be the parent you want to be and have a very connected relationship with them whether they choose to go to college or not? 

Using your emotions as clues can help you use questions like these to help you shift your personal context filter. Then you can begin showing up in your life and in your relationships as the person you want to be. 

We don’t want to judge or be critical of our personal context filters. That isn’t the point. Objective self-examination or awareness opens the door to change. Of course, we view life through the lens we do. It makes total sense because of how we were raised, the experiences we have had, and the things we value. We can validate that and still decide to change our filter. 

The work I do, as a life coach, is to help people take a deeper look into what makes up their personal context filters, question them, and decide what they want to keep and what they want to let go of so that they can show up in their life and relationships as the person they want to be. The person they like being. When we take the time to really look at the lens through which we see life, we can begin to see how this filter affects what we make it all mean, the emotions we feel, our behaviors, and our overall experiences. 

Click HERE to listen to this week’s podcast episode to learn more! 

Understanding Your Context Filter Read More »