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Running On Autopilot?

When we’re kids, we see the future in a hundred different shapes: possibilities and dreams waiting for us to reach out and grab.

As we grow towards adulthood, we start to bring some structure to all of those possibilities,

forming ideas about who we are, what we value, and what direction we want to head in life.

Of course as time goes on, some of these determinations can seem to fall away, get pushed to the side, or get overtaken by the demands and complexities of life. We slip from living intentionally to just going through the motions, allowing our unconscious minds to take over our daily lives - and we run on autopilot.

Now in some ways, we can thank our brains for helping us out. When life becomes particularly overwhelming, autopilot can be the thing that helps us survive, taking some of the emotional and mental burden off the conscious mind. But we can also get lulled into a permanent state of mental cruise control that doesn’t serve us in the long run. This state can hold us back from measuring our lives, navigating our goals, and evaluating core beliefs and values that are meant to guide our actions. How do we tell if we’re stuck in autopilot? It might look like:

  • Our days are on repeat

  • We’re staying in our comfort zone

  • We feel mentally checked out

  • We’re not getting on top of things

  • We’re not making progress toward goals

Of course, life is complicated. It often doesn’t unfold according to the rosy ideas we formed in our youth. But what do we do when we realize that we still have time left to make a change, and we don’t want to let that time pass us by? Here are some ideas to begin shifting out of autopilot and start living more intentionally:

  • Look for things you can offload from your schedule. Busyness is a perfect environment for the autopilot reflex.

  • Take some time to calibrate your internal compass. Ask questions like: What do I value in life? Do I believe what I say I believe, or have I ever really evaluated my beliefs? What do I want my life to have looked like? What do I absolutely want to have accomplished? What legacy do I want to leave?

  • Stop and take stock during the day. Is what you’re doing right now serving your vision for your life?

  • Take some time for emotional introspection. We can find a hundred ways to avoid interacting with our emotions – but when we are aware of the emotions and thoughts holding us back, it’s that much easier to tackle the roadblocks to change.

That’s just a start – but when we begin to take the time to mindfully engage our daily lives, we can begin to shift from an involuntary life to a more fulfilling one. We can start living deliberately.

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