A life ‘less’ on autopilot

by | Sep 15, 2017

Most of us have experienced driving from home to work with little or no recollection of the journey. Obviously, we were doing something right, as we arrived safely, on time and in control of a vehicle. Yet, we can’t recall the details about getting there! This is autopilot.

This mode doesn’t just switch on when we are driving, it is happening at work, at dinner, at social events, on holidays and being honest  – most of our lives! According to Chris Barez-Brown we spend over 80% of our waking time on autopilot. This is to do with how our brain work: consciously (complex, rational thought and decision making) and subconsciously (autopilot). If we were consciously thinking about every little detail of the day, we would be exhausted, this type of thinking is also very costly to our energy. Instead we generalise, delete and distort things, so if something looks a close enough fit, our subconscious mind just assumes they are the same and responds as we did before. This kind of thinking does wonders for our driving ability, think back to when you were learning to drive, considering each gear change, carefully assessing every use of the brake and the deliberate eye movement to check the mirrors – it would take us 20 minutes to get off the driveway!

Thank goodness then for the subconscious brain, it’s faster and automatic and a lot more efficient – right? Well the issue is that this part of our brain has no ‘off switch’, so this automation is played out in more and more areas of our lives, making us almost robotic in our approach to things. It also means we don’t get to appreciate some of those subtle, precious moments, that then become the big moments in our lives.

Think back to a moment in your life where you have really felt alive, connected and content. In these moments, we appreciate our family, friends, work, the world around us and ourselves in the most fantastic way. Fear, stress and worries melt away and we are truly living in the present. These moments are usually fleeting and before we know it we are back on autopilot and being bounced from one task to the next. Normally followed by stress, worry and feeling overwhelmed.

I don’t know what the correct balance is between the two sides of our brain, I don’t think anyone does, but what I do know is we could all do with breaking free from autopilot a little more often and really enjoying a life more lived.

Chris Barez-Brown in his book ‘Wake Up!’ proposes easy strategies to do this, here are a few of my favourites and I have added in my suggestions too:

  1. Follow your body clock. Our days our dictated by time and clock watching. What if one day you wake up at a time when your body feels like it, eat when you’re hungry and do whatever takes your fancy? or any dilution of this that is feasible for you!
  2. Slow down. Life is getting faster, we are overwhelmed and demands for our attention are at an all-time high. What to do? Spot a time in your diary where you need to walk somewhere and plan in some extra time. Why? Because you are going to walk the long way around, the scenic route – sounds crazy eh? We always need to be somewhere in the minimum (or less) amount of time. Yet for this – take more time! See what you notice, no rush, no stress.
  3. Kill your television. When we are tired and looking for comfort, we go on autopilot and switch on the TV. In the UK we on average watch the TV for 4 hours per day! Yet we are reporting that we are so incredibly busy. This time could have been spent with family, friends and doing something we really love – like reading that book we bought an age ago, seeing an old friend or just chatting with our loved ones rather than in a TV-induced coma. I challenge you to try it for a week and see what the extra awareness brings.

I couldn’t agree with Chris more on this: ‘time is limited, let’s not waste it’. From the Wake Up! 2016 test research of Wake Up! users said:

  • 83% of the experiences were deemed to have had a positive impact.
  •  96% felt happier and 92% would strongly recommend them to others.

Why not give one or all of them a go, maybe buy the book and truly experience some more of those magical moments!

“I don’t know where we are going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” David Bowie.

New Book Coming Soon!

'Work Fuel' is co-written by Colette Heneghan, Optimum Living and Graham Allcott, the original productivity Ninja due to be released March 2019

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