A Practical Guide to Discern the Voices in Our Lives


“Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation.” —Jean Arp

We are inundated every day with messages from a wide variety of sources. And whether the voices that enter our mind are solicited or not, the fact remains that in today’s world, they are nearly impossible to avoid. Their entrance into our mind is nearly inevitable.

Consider just some of the sources that surround us every day:

  • Corporations and local businesses offer advice on the best use of our money.
  • Artists promote their ideas and worldview through various media.
  • Politicians sell us on their view of government.
  • Bloggers convince us on the superiority of their advice.
  • News Outlets make decisions about which news information is important for us to hear.
  • Religious institutions offer us their understanding of God and faith.
  • Parents have their opinions of life based on their experiences.
  • Friends offer new eyes and insights into the world around us.
  • Philosophers, Mentors, Bosses, Experts, Celebrities…

To further complicate the complexity of the voices that enter our mind, many of them are often in direct conflict with one another. Friends and parents offer conflicting advice. Bloggers approach the world differently. Politicians are at odds with each other. And artists, almost by definition, use their craft (music, video, paint, etc.) to push the boundaries of a society to new places.

With such a multitude and complexity of voices entering our minds, how do we determine which ones to believe, which ones to trust, which ones to follow, and which ones to disregard? In other words, which voices do we allow to enter not just our mind, but influence our lives. Because while voices entering our mind is inevitable, which voices are allowed into our heart is a decision left to us—and it is a decision of utmost importance.

Realizing that any approach based in “I only allow voices into my life that I agree with” is a formula destined to stunt our growth as humans, we must move beyond that thinking. We run into even more problems if the approach is centered around, “The voices that are the most entertaining,” “The voices that everyone else is listening to,” or “The voices that are the loudest.”

How then, do we discern which voices should be allowed to speak into our lives? Ask the following questions as a helpful guide for discernment.

  • Does the source evidence character/integrity? Is the lifestyle of the source consistent with their message? It would make no sense to allow into our lives the messages of those who do not follow their own advice. And while I start here, this may be the most difficult one to actually verify. It does, after all, take a somewhat intimate relationship with another to recognize their character and integrity.
  • Does the source evidence wisdom and understanding? Does the source have a healthy understanding and realization of people, things, events, and the world around us to consistently make correct decisions. If so, we would be wise to gladly (and humbly) allow their voices into our lives. And, quite frankly, the more the better.
  • Does the source bring inspiration into my life? Does the source inspire me to better the one life I’ve got? Does it breathe life into me or does it drain me? If it inspires me, welcome and thank you.
  • Does the source help me fulfill my life’s greatest goals? We all have goals. They may or may not be written down, articulated, or even identified yet; but in the depths of our heart, we all have something that we want to accomplish with our lives. Is the voice entering my mind moving me closer to that goal? Or distracting me from it?
  • Does the source evidence intellect and knowledge? Is the voice coming from a source who has proven themselves in the field? This question lays the rationale to seek input into our lives from a variety of sources. For example, while questions about my health will be directed towards an expert in the medical field, questions related to marriage, athletics, or business would surely seek a different source.
  • Does the source model a life I desire? Have the source’s decisions, intellect, and worldview resulted in a life that I admire and desire for myself? If so, please speak. I’m listening.
  • Does the source have a selfless agenda? Is the voice originating from a source that is selfless or self-serving? Do they have an agenda that is centered on me or is it centered on themselves? If their agenda is self-serving in any way, their voice will always be less than the best.
  • Does the source genuinely love me? I will always allow space in my life for the voices of those who have proven their genuine love for me. And while their advice may not always be the best, it will always carry a little extra weight than the others.

I realize, of course, that there may be no voice that meets all of the criteria listed above. That’s not the point. The desire is to give our lives a starting point. Because somewhere along the line, we’ve got to decide which voices influence our lives and which ones we discard. And the sooner the better, if you ask me.

Image: NJ..

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    Thanks Joshua. Great post. I tend to listen to the still small voice inside – it usually knows the score. If something resonates with me I go with it. If it doesn’t then I ask myself why.

  2. says

    I have to admit when I first read the list of competing voices in your post, I almost hyperventilated! What a great job you did of helping us decide which voices we should consider listening to. And the great thing is we can CHOOSE to ignore some of those voices!
    As a bloigger, I try to be one of those that speaks with love and encouragement, with inspiration and motivation. Hopefully I can be a voice that some will choose to listen to. Just as your voice has become Joshua!
    Is multitasking the key to productivity?

  3. prkpinch says

    Your post spoke to me immediately. Quakers or (Members of the Religious Society of) Friends recognizing this excess of noise worship in silence in order to listen to the still, small voice which comes from the Spirit, the Divine or what some call God. Thank you.

  4. says

    Hi Joshua, thanks for your suggestions.
    I try to explain to people all the time that in this current digital age- you can’t just mindlessly believe everything you read.
    I think that over the years people have come to believe that if it’s in print, then it must have some sort of truth to it.
    But what people don’t often realise, is that I could publish something on the internet right at this moment (actually I am) and although it may look “official” or “professional” that doesn’t mean that it is.
    We must always be questioning – “is this factual, or is this just the opinion of someone?”

  5. marty says

    excellent piece of writing. I especially believe the 2nd to last and last source itself. I think its going to take a while for our BS-Detectors to evolve from their TV/Radio/Print states and realize that *anything* can be published online…and though we are intelligent beings, the majority of censors and gatekeepers of public information are gone. We absolutely must become wiser deciders with regard to what information we allow to penetrate and be accepted.

  6. Sara says

    I loved the quote at the beginning of this blog. Even so much so I posted it on my FB… with the mention of your website, of course.. :-) Thanks for all the wonderful writings.

  7. says

    Excellent article. The voices that we “hear” all around us, often leaves me feeling “cluttered”. Sometimes I think our digital culture hinders us more than helps us, as it is easy to believe everything that is typed out, blogged, and said on social networks. It’s so important to find truth for ourselves. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. says

    Great article Joshua! It is not always easy to sort out the charlatans from those who are sincere in their desire to inspire and help others through their own knowledge and experience – those who not only talk the talk, but truly walk the walk. Your words of wisdom are right on target.

  9. says

    Great post. I’m such a fan of your blog and your book. I believe that it’s so important for teenagers to learn how to discern different voices. Schools should be teaching this.

  10. Robert Newbery says

    So very true…A good book to read about technology and social media interfering with many area’s of life is “alone Together” by Sherry Turkle. Many very good points to reflect upon. Bill Moyer on PBS interviewed her recently and I was mesmerized by many of the interesting concepts she wrote about dealing with this place we have created in our society where there is little silence.

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