Are You Living on Autopilot?


I feel like I’ve been living on autopilot for awhile now. One I just woke up and had this gut feeling that something had to change. If you have a similar gut feeling, stay with me.

Pretty much right out of college, I entered the corporate world. It’s what you were supposed to do, right? During the first few years, I was motivated to advance and do well within the company. Then slowly, that fire went out and it was just a job. At the end of my tenure, I was waking up at 4am to catch a train by 5:45am, get to work by 7:30am and scramble to leave by 3pm so I could make my train coming home. Every day was literally the same. There were no changes in my Monday through Friday life because I didn’t have the capacity to do anything extra. I was feeling disconnected and I started to despise my life. I was living on autopilot.

What does “living on autopilot” even mean?

The simplest way to describe it is when you go through your daily activities and routines without putting much thought into anything. You’re participating in life but aren’t really aware that you’re participating. When you’re in this state, your actions are driven more by habit than by making active, mindful choices about what you want or need. Like I did, you probably feel disconnected too. From friend and family and even from your work. Think of it like going through the motions.

The problem with living this way is that doing so for too long can lead to a sense of detachment or a feeling that life is just passing you by. You’re not really living when you’re in this state and you don’t even give yourself the chance to decide who you want to me. Trust me, no one wants to wake up on their death bed and regret not doing certain things in life. Instead, we should want to live with intention and make our own choices that bring us closer to the world and people around us.

Why do people go on autopilot?

For years, I had no idea I was in this state. Over time, while working my 9-5, I fell into this pattern. I was in this routine of working in the corporate world that everyone said would be a dream. It became my nightmare. I became too comfortable and it was easier to continue stay living the same way than make changes. No one told me there was a better way out there so I just assumed that would be the way it was for the rest of my life. During my last four years in the corporate world, I learned there was a better way.

Signs to Look For…

If you’ve read this far and are wondering “Am I on autopilot?” here’s a few ways you can tell if you are in that state.

  1. You stop engaging in activities – Do you brush your teeth twice a day? We know we should, but do we?! When you’re on autopilot, sometimes you forget to brush your teeth before bed. Showering can even become a chore that you just don’t want to do. Instead, you just want to stay at home in your pjs, every weekend and feel like you don’t have the energy to do anything.
  2. Time is passing by too fast – I blinked and it was already March 30th! And what do I have to show for the year? Hardly anything. When we’re living on autopilot, time seems to pass without us having anything accomplished. Those goals that we made at the beginning of the year now seem like an afterthought.
  3. Difficulty remembering things – Like what day of the week it is or where you left your car keys. Have you ever been asked “How was your weekend?” and you have no idea what to say? This is what I’m talking about. You don’t remember activities you just participated in 12 hours ago and even going on a Target run to grab a new Lego set seems like a mundane task.
  4. Nothing makes you happy – I’ve been there. One day you wake up and find yourself unhappy with your life and your work. You see other people laughing and enjoying life, doing big things and have that jealous twinge creep up inside you. Or you start to wonder if there’s something bigger and better out there for you.

Living on autopilot doesn’t have to last forever. In fact, I think doing it temporarily for a finite period of time isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It gives us a break from always being “on” and let’s us catch our breath. If that period goes on for too long, we can experience increased anxiety and depression, stop eating well and no longer move our body, and our relationships suffer.

Shift from Autopilot to Intentional Living

Instead, let’s shift our focus to being more intentional with our lives. Shut off the autopilot and start making conscious choices that lead you to a more fulfilling and purpose-driven life. As you do this, you’ll become more aware and pay even more attention to how you feel every single day. One of the ways I keep myself in check is by carrying a journal around with me so I can jot down my thoughts in the moment. It allows me to see what I’m thinking and then make the shift. Here are a few other ways you can start taking control of your life back.

Find a Mindfulness Practice

It doesn’t have to be meditation where you sit for 10 minute and your skin starts to crawl because you can’t sit still. I’m referring to finding a practice that forces you to be present. Doing this allows you to see what’s in front of you, hear your thoughts and start to find aspects you want to change.

Set Goals Regularly

Regularly as in often. Whether you choose weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly (or even all of them), set them. Make them clear and in alignment with with person you want to become. Use the mindfulness practice to help you learn what your values are and use these as your focus.

Create a Night Time Routine

Every night before bed, take a few minutes to reflect on the day. What kind of thoughts did you have? How did you feel throughout the day? Were there any actions you took that made you feel off? Jot these thoughts down, get them out of your head and you’ll start to learn about yourself more.

Say Yes to Something New

Instead of allowing yourself to do the same old thing, say yes to something new. Seek out experiences that you’ve never done or tried but have always been interested in. Curious about pottery? Take a class! Want to be adventurous? Go hiking! The only time to say no is if the activity doesn’t align with your values.

Find a Post-Autopilot Community

This is a group of people you can rely on. May it be friends, family or acquaintances in a private Facebook group, these are the people that will call you out when you need it most. If you need support, they run to you and are there. Find them and be with them as much as you can.

I hope you take a few moments to brainstorm your thoughts on living in autopilot. The changes you make will help you refocus and start a new path to becoming a better you. Take small steps on this journey so you don’t overwhelm yourself. And share with me what you’re doing so we can be part of the community that cheers each other on.

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