Are You Living on Autopilot?

See if this sounds all too familiar. Wake up at 6 am; get a cup of coffee and perhaps eat breakfast; watch the morning news programs or read the paper; get in the car for a one hour commute to work; get to work and go through the motions for eight hours; get in the car again for another one hour commute back home; eat a dinner or something called a dinner; watch four hours of moronic TV; have another terrible night of sleep and start the entire process all over again.  Does this sound like a typical day for you? If it is, or is something similar to a typical day for you, you may be living your life on autopilot.

For many of us, our lives could be compared to the experience of learning to drive a car. When you first learn how to drive a car, you are very conscious of what you are doing. You consciously hit the breaks when it is time to stop, step on the accelerator when it is time to go, and check the rear view mirror consciously before changing lanes. Once you get comfortable driving, you no longer really think about it. You just get in the car and go. After something becomes comfortable, we no longer have to think. This is fine for mundane activities, like brushing your teeth or answering the telephone. However, what happens when your entire life is in process, or cruise control, without thinking? 

Do you ever stop to wonder how much of your life is lived consciously?  How often are you engaged actively in what you are doing day to day? The brutal reality is that most people are simply going through the motions in life. Only as each day that gets closer to Friday, do you start becoming more conscious about your life. You live for the weekends and have to get as much life in as possible on Friday and Saturday. Sunday is a wash because the next day you have to go back to work. Where did you learn to accept such a life? From your parents, friends, TV, the movies? It does not really matter where you learned it. What matters is being aware of it and changing it. That is, unless of course you are satisfied with your life.

Brutal self-analysis is a difficult thing. Change is difficult because most of us resist the process. We may want to change, but the person you know today is more comfortable than the unknown person you have the ability to become. Yet, without careful examination of who you are, you will never go from living a barely engaged life to an actively engaged life. When it comes to your health, do you actively take care of yourself or do you like to convince yourself that you do?  If you exercise, are you truly seeing the benefits or are you just going through the motions blaming exercise for your lack of progress? It is far too easy to blame everything on something or others for where you are today. You have become a pinball in the game of life, allowing everything else to push you all over the table. Not the way to live and certainly not the way to live an exciting, healthy, and vibrant life.

You must learn to think for yourself and take both personal responsibility and accountability. Stop reacting on autopilot and get engaged in the moment. Figure out why you do what you do and if it is ineffective, have the courage to change it. You can change at any moment. How you live your life is up to you. How you react to what happens in your life is up to you. You do not have to do what you have learned from TV, movies, magazines, friends, and family. You can break the cycle, but you must know where and how to start.

First you need to learn more about yourself. One effective way is to keep a daily journal. Just as a journal is effective for tracking workout progress or dietary intake, a daily journal is an effective way to determine who you are. Be brutally honest with yourself too as no one else should read it but you. Write down what ever comes to mind no matter how crazy it sounds. Write about how you reacted to various situations through out the day; what you accomplished that was meaningful; why you skipped your workout; how did you spend your time; etc. After a month or so you will start seeing some patterns and what you will learn about yourself may be frightening. Work through it for as the sooner you work on this process the better. Take a look at your journal after thirty days. Read through each entry and you will be amazed by how much you will learn about yourself and the way you think.

Life is not meant to be lived passively. When you are always comfortable, you are not growing, and when you are not growing you are not living. Break out of the comfort zone and stay out of it. As Sir Isaac Newton theorized in his first law of motion, “an object at rest tends to stay at rest; an object in motion remains in motion until acted on by another external force.” Switch gears. Take control. Make a change.