Life Lessons for Under 50

Things I Wish I Knew Sooner: Part 3

Being on Autopilot is Detrimental to Growth

Photo by Ross van der Wal on Unsplash

Everybody seems to think I’m lazy
I don’t mind, I think they’re crazy
Running everywhere at such a speed
’Til they find there’s no need (there’s no need) — The Beatles

We get stuck when we are on autopilot. Autopilot is definitely helpful when we don’t have to think about how to do the simple things in life, like driving a car, getting dressed, or pouring a bowl of cereal. However, it can startle when that smooth sailing autopilot feeling is interrupted.

Being on autopilot is a way of being disconnected from ourselves by consistent distractions.

Raising a family in the suburbs is definitely a strong case for autopilot. The structure in which we form our lives is important for our lives however, sometimes autopilot needs to shut down. We miss our lives happening right in front of us if we are consistently on autopilot. Think of when you are out in public on your phone, texting or scrolling. You are not being present to life around you and there is no conscious awareness, no planning, or complex thinking happening. When we are present, we can prepare for obstacles or interactions.

While I may have the self-awareness that I am disconnected from the present moment, it still happens throughout the day. I may meditate for 30 minutes per day there are rare moments when I can respond instead of reacting. Mindfulness always is a great base to start from, even if it is only 10 minutes per day.

How to move past autopilot and connect with your life:

  1. Meditation — Download a meditation app and begin each day with 10 minutes of whatever guided meditation suits you.
  2. Grounding — 2 ways to ground: Notice your distractions, take a deep breath, and look around the room and name everything in your vision. Literally. Another way to ground is to walk outside on the grass, connecting to the gravity of the earth. Breathe. You can imagine a root like a tree shooting out of your feet intertwining with the tree roots. This is powerful.
  3. Therapy — A great way to spill your guts in a non-judgemental, safe atmosphere that will allow you to reconnect to your feelings and experiences that you may have missed along the way being on autopilot. This is where you re-discover your emotions that have been squashed for so long, and you sit on the therapist’s couch with tears and boogers and get it all out.
  4. Journaling — 2 purposes: First, it helps you find out who you “really are.” It’s a safe place to process all the stuff that happens to you, around you, for you. Second, make a list of all the minutia you are grateful for, from the coffee table to the clean water to the friend who texted you to your health. This establishes an attitude of gratitude.

“The feeling of Gratitude actually has dramatic effects on the body, including strengthening the immune system and upregulating genes.” Dr. Joe Dispenza

It doesn’t end there. Sorry, not sorry. These are significant steps for level 1 of self-awareness. If you want to get to level 2 of self-awareness there has to be more understanding of blind spots or shadows of personality. It is uncomfortable to look at your blind spots.

How to uncover your blind spots:

  1. Notice your triggers — When someone is criticizing you, do you clench your jaw or make a fist? Tap your pen? What is physically happening to your body?
  2. Realize patterns of your personality — Are you repeating conversations with the same reactions and hoping for a different result? These are inherent patterns in our personality that keep us trapped within our egos. It disconnects us from our depths of heart when we repeat these patterns.
  3. Monologues not dialogues — Are you talking past a person or at a person or with a person? Monologues reward us with hormones and we ignore the fact that how the other person is receiving the information presented.

Now what? Ways to heighten self-awareness:

  1. Identified Triggers — This is tough to overcome, and I’m still practicing these methods. The goal is to RESPOND instead of REACT.

I use 2 methods once I notice my physical “tells.” The first is daily 30-minute meditation, grounding, keeping the gratitude journal, and setting intentions. This practice allows me to be in the moment more readily throughout the day. Starting the day with gratitude is key to living an abundant life.

The second is a new tool that Life Transitions expert, Janet Caliri taught me with her Visible Transitions method. In short, when triggered, instead of reacting internally or verbally, pause in curiosity, scan your environment, and name things with no adjectives to neutralize your story which causes the trigger. This simple Neutrality Practice has helped me drop back into my body and at a moment’s notice.

2. Patterns of Personality — You can find out what your patterns when you learn your Enneagram type. The Enneagram is a tool that helps you get out of the box of your personality, which is your ego. Once this is uncovered you will understand your shadow and work from there.

3. Dialogue not Monologue — If you do the above, more meaningful and honest conversations should ensue.

These entry points are vulnerable and brave ways to have a more fulfilling life with meaningful relationships. I am not claiming that I know everything. I’ve been a seeker of knowledge around the human condition and have committed to being a better person. I do know is that if you don’t do something, autopilot will leave you unfulfilled and one day you will wake up and either be angry and not know why or you will be old and ask yourself, “Where did my life go?” We have this one precious life, let’s own all of it.

If you would like to explore with some structure and support, you can find me here:

Writer of Meditation and Musings - a weekly newsletter navigating curiousness thru spiritual seeking as a human BEing