Life on Autopilot & How to Fix It
Life is not a journey you want to make on autopilot. (Paula Rinehart)
Are you familiar with the feeling "It's Monday once again"?
For the majority of us, this is associated with a rather negative than positive feeling. I have asked myself many times why do I feel this way and I found even more answers. The interesting discovery was that some Mondays, quite rarely, I feel happy and fulfilled. That made me wonder, what makes these Mondays special and how can I feel this way more often? After some reflection, I understood that the 2 main reasons for my Monday happiness were: 1) I had an exciting weekend before and I'm looking forward to repeating that experience and 2) Monday or not, there is an exciting event taking place this week and I'm looking forward to it. In conclusion, it's all about pleasant activities and experiences which are usually related to my personal life such as a weekend trip, a drink out with friends or a new season of my favorite TV show being released.
I was super excited to discover this because it means that I can control the way I feel and I can make sure most of my Mondays will come with a dose of excitement. Fast forward few months later, another Monday morning, another feeling of "Oh god, not again!". I realized what the problem was: I was living my life on Autopilot!
You might wonder, how did you figure out that your life is on Autopilot? In my case, there are 5 signs which are recurrent.
1. Waking up drained.
It's hard to wake up, I need several alarms to finally get down from bed. I'm not enthused or inspired to begin the day because I have a good sense of how it will unfold and there is nothing exciting.
2. Doing things without thinking.
I act without stopping to think what I'm doing, how I'm doing it, or most importantly why I'm doing it. My actions and decisions have become so automatic that they require little to no thought. Sometimes I say to myself that I'm in power saving mode in order to give it a positive conotation. But saving energy for what? Is it safe to take decisions this way?
Life is a journey, not a destination. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
This quote became a mindset for me and that is why doing things without thinking, no matter how useful it may seem short term, in the long run it's not worth it.
3. Wasting to much time on your phone.
This is my most frequent "symptom". It all starts with spending around 20 minutes in bed every morning after waking up, checking my email, all social media channels I'm subscribed to, messages, notifications and more. The phone routine continues during every meal, commutation to and from work and the worst, after work while I'm at home.
4. Saying "yes" when you should have said "no".
I frequently agree to things I don't want to do and later I wonder why I said "yes" to something that brings no benefit, and I also dislike doing it. It's a sign that I made "yes" my default response instead of thoroughly analyzing all options. For example when I'd rather stay at home and rest, I end up saying "yes" to working late hours, hosting gatherings, or going to social events.
When we don't pay enough attention to our needs, we have a tendency to pleasing others. The biggest sign here is letting other people's expectations influence our decisions.
5. Lack of progress.
Days, weeks, and months appear to go by with little to no substantial progress toward my goals. I feel depressed because you I'm not focused on what is most important in life. This also activates my fear of missing out on opportunities which leads to extra anxiety.
If you resonate with most of these signs, there’s a high probability you’re living your life on autopilot.
The good news is that you can take your brain off autopilot and train it to be less wandering. This will result in deliberate decision-making. An eye-opener for me was reading Nobel awardee Professor Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. This book presents two different modes our brains can work.
"Mode 1" is autopilot—it's automatic, fast, and an unconscious way of thinking. This approach is autonomous and efficient, but it is also deceptive. It is more susceptible to
bias and repetitive errors.
"Mode 2" is slow, conscious, and laborious—it requires focus and energy. It is more reliable and can filter Mode 1's errors.
Source: Gustavo Razzetti/ Liberationist
We need to keep in mind that our brain is lazy, thus is leans towards Autopilot. It's not that one mode is superior to the other. The key is to use both in a balanced manner.
Mode 1 is best suited for making quick decisions based on limited information. You don't have to overthink when you're driving or doing the laundry. However, you would not use it to make more important life decisions such as your career or where to live.
Mode 2 is best suited for more complex mental activities such as logical reasoning, interpersonal relationship management, learning new things, and habit formation. It can assist you in turning off the autopilot.
Switching between the 2 modes can be challenging. I will present my 4 steps approach for making sure you don't overuse the cruise control and live a more joyful and fulfilling life right away.
Step 1. Notice your behaviour
First step is identifying whether you are living your life on Autopilot. Take a moment to analyse your own recurrent signs underlining Autopilot behaviour and write them down. Next, schedule a periodic reflection (e.g. weekly) for checking whether you have any signs present in your life, until each sign becomes a trigger, a wake up call to reality. If reflection may seem difficult, you can share your recurrent signs with friends and ask them to let you know when they observe these negative behaviours.
Step 2. Take a break and reflect
The autopilot is turned off when you press the brakes. A pause is more than just slowing down; it creates space for you to begin paying attention. You can ponder your life. What do you enjoy? Are you having fun with what you're doing? What exactly is going on? Are you paying attention or are you distracted? Why? We are prisoners of our busy minds; pausing frees you.
Step 3. Set a Vision
The first action you can take is create a life vision so that you know exactly how you want your life to look. You can align your thoughts and actions once you know what you want. Following that, you can practice being present and living in the moment.
According to research, we are happiest when our thoughts and actions are in sync. How you spend your day doesn't reveal much about how content you are. Your mental presence, on the other hand, is a far better predictor of your happiness.
Next time you're walking outside, having lunch or waiting in traffic, focus on what you see, hear, and feel in the moment. It's a simple exercise, yet powerful. This will enable you to be more intentional in all aspects of your life, allowing you to live your life by design rather than by default.
Step 4. Step outside your comfort zone
When we live on autopilot, we stop challenging ourselves and become bored and repetitive. Discomfort can lead to personal growth and discovery. When you push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you learn. Push yourself to the limit. Experiment with new things. Develop the habit of introducing new experiences into your life—you don't have to skydive to feel alive.
In conclusion, keep in mind that you are in the driver's seat. Moreover, people are different and it's important to find your own ways to juggle with the 2 thinking modes.
If you are interested into relaxing, recharging and reaching a deeper level of reflection, consider an escape in the Alps with Jungle Retreats. You will have the chance to connect with like-minded people and boost your self-development.