What’s with the cat? It makes you click on the link. Cats work like that. Now let’s move to the question.
Have you ever felt like you’re not living your own life? Things just happen to you and all you do is react to them. It’s like you’re living on autopilot and you can’t turn it off… You’re constantly tired, stressed, overworked and unhappy. The fog in our own mind feels to thick to break through.
It’s another way to explain the inertia you get into from being passive for too long. Not speaking up your mind, not eating healthy, not doing exercise. The more you do it, the harder it is to stop doing it.
You see, our brain uses over 20% of our energy, even though it only amounts to 2% of our body weight. Therefore, one of its most important functions is to preserve energy. It always looks for the path of least resistance. That’s what the autopilot is meant to do – it makes us stick to doing things the way we’re used to because making a change would mean wasting precious energy. That’s why changing a habit is so hard. Our brain sabotages it – energy-wise, it’s not efficient.
We end up spending most of our lives on autopilot, as if nothing depended on us. And when we occasionally stop and wonder why we’re going with the stream, our brain pulls the emergency brake, saying: „Hey, what’s going on?! Why change things now? Look how much energy we’re saving on autopilot here”.
But enough with the bad news. There are two great ones as well:
1. THERE IS A GOOD AUTOPILOT, TOO
Your brain only wants to preserve energy. It doesn’t want you to stay poor, miserable and unhealthy. So all you need to do is make the right choices easier to choose than the wrong ones. Which means you have to create the right habits. And habits are created simply by repeating an action until it becomes automatic.
Just as you automatically stick to your bad habits in the bad autopilot mode, you can automatically stick to good habits. You can develop that positive inertia which is also hard to break. Your brain will be your ally, making it hard for you to go back to bad habits.
You’ve probably felt the good autopilot at one point or another and it’s the greatest feeling. You just act and if it doesn’t work out, you change the strategy or adjust the direction and move on. You feel like you can’t make a wrong move.
2. THE BAD AUTOPILOT CAN BE SWITCHED OFF
Here’s what always works for me, in 3 steps:
1) Realize I live on autopilot
Being aware of the problem is the most important step. You can’t work on a problem you don’t know about. But there’s an easy way to tell if you really are living in the bad autopilot mode. If I’ve been feeling too tired, busy and unhappy for a too long, it’s obvious I’ve got the bad autopilot turned on.
2) Understand what caused it
For me, it’s always one of two things:
Either I have too much on my plate – too much work, too many people to meet, too much going on, too many expectations. I’m contantly busy and spending any time on myself seems like an unaffordable luxury. It makes me live in a pace too fast to actually realize what’s going on.
Or, more often that not, I’ve been trying to control everything. Which can be just as overwhelming.
We try to control life, but deep inside we know how little depends on us. The world around us spins like a ferris wheel and we’re trying to stop it, instead of hopping on to take a look around. We fight with life, instead of cooperating with it, like Norman Vincent Peale used to say. We can only control your efforts, not the outcome. We don’t have power over how we perform, only over how hard we try. Nevertheless, we spend hours every day thinking about what to do with our lives, how others perceive us, what we are unhappy with, what we lack, what we should have done. So much thinking, so little action.
3) Switch to the good autopilot
Like in flying, being on autopilot is not a bad thing by itself. It’s supposed to make your life easier. All it does is automatically take you to your end goal. What’s bad is not having an end goal, i.e. not knowing where you’re going, because you might end up anywhere, even crashing.
If you’re running on bad autopilot mode, all you need to do is:
1. Turn it off. Being aware of the problem and wanting to change it will do the trick.
2. Temporarily take manual control. Set a worthy end goal and figure the next step.
3. Turn the good autopilot on. Do one positive thing and while on fire, do another. And another.
Once you stop doing things just because you’ve been doing them like this forever, the bad autopilot is off. Now all you need to know figure out is your next step. You don’t have to see the whole staircase to take one step. Take it, see if it works, adjust and repeat. Positive effects will soon start to snowball.
For me, too much thinking „what if“ and „how exactly“ never ever took me somewhere worth goinf. It just helped me chase the illusion of security.
Inside each of us there’s a strong voice telling us what the right move is – our intuition. Being stressed and overwhelmed makes it noiser in your head, so it’s harder to hear it, but it never disappears. The moment you see a problem, you usually know what to do. All the thinking is simply looking for security.
It’s simple. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. You can turn off the bad autopilot in less than a week. And move into a permanent “good autopilot” mode in less than a month. Just get into the habit of acting more and adjusting quickly.