Signal to Noise

Because our minds use stories to help us understand and interact with the world around us, and these stories are fed by the information we let into our minds, it is helpful to monitor what we let in and what we filter out.

If we are most frequently listening to noise, which Shawn Achor identifies as unhelpful information that distracts us from our goals, distorts our positive view of ourselves and the world, and clouds our ability to spot opportunities in our lives, we most likely are not experiencing ease, joy, and meaning in our days.

What we want to learn to seek out and let in is the signal. This is what Achor identifies as reliable and helpful information that opens our awareness to the possibilities presented to us and moves us toward our goals while supporting our ability to evolve into the next version of ourselves.

If we can identify the noise, we can choose to shift our focus to more helpful information. In Before Happiness, Achor identifies 4 guidelines to help us to pick out the noise that is coming in:

  1. Information that does not in any way help us move toward our goals, better us, increase our skills, or motivate us to act is noise. And MUCH of the information that comes in through all of the media and social outlets falls into this category. Some of it is entertaining, some of it stirs up emotion, but it does not typically highlight opportunties for growth or change in us.
  2. Information that we are not going to use immediately just takes up space in our attention and awareness. What we do not need to be concerned with at the present moment or that we do not even need to use the energy to find or store at all can be categorized as noise. We often tell ourselves that we need to take it in to be “informed”, but it is a distraction from what we could be taking in to move forward in our lives. Our mind can become bogged down and stagnant with extraneous information.
  3. Information that is a prediction, educated guess, or based on someone’s opinion can also be categorized as noise. If we spend our time and attention seeking out what others think rather than taking action and then forming our own opinion from our experience, we are again getting caught up in slowing our own progress forward.
  4. Any other information that distracts us from our goals and what we truly want to be doing or feeling is also noise. In the age of constant stimulation, we can become so addicted to taking in information that we become completely sidetracked without even realizing it.

The goal is to begin to identify what is noise for us and then to reduce the noise or even reduce our overall intake of information. To do this may mean taking a break from social media, shifting who we spend time with or listen to, or even just turning the radio off when we are driving in the car. These practices can also be a helpful way to cleanse or to take better care of our senses and nervous system.

We can even create and perpetuate noise in our own minds, so we also want to practice noticing our internal noise-creating tendancies. Becoming aware of the patterns in our thoughts is the first step to creating the results we want to achieve in our lives. If we believe something, we manifest it in our lives, so if we can notice the unhelpful, unproductive, unhealthy thoughts that we have on a regular basis and fact-check or question those thoughts, we can begin to shift the results we are living with.

It is helpful to talk to others about our thoughts as it is difficult to see them when they are in our own heads. It is the “can’t see the forest for the trees” metaphor in our minds. We often can’t see the patterns we are stuck in or identify which thoughts are keeping us stuck or unhappy when they are coming from within. One helpful tool to see our thoughts that is accessible to everyone is a daily “mind dump” or “thought download”. This is the practice of writing out all of the thoughts in our mind without worrying about it making sense or being pretty and without censoring what we write. This practice can be done anytime, but a morning mind dump can clear space, help with planning, and start the day off with a broader perspective. This practice can also help us to let go of unhelpful worries, create to-do lists, and gain clarity by unweighting the mind from excessive noise.

This week, I invite you to try doing a daily mind-dump and to begin to discern the noise from the signal. Give it a try and see what happens.

I will be practicing right along with you.

Chat again soon,


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