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How to shift out of autopilot


Written by
Shoban A.

Working, studying - everyday life can become repetitive. Here's how you can change things. 

Commuters on a train

As we get older, we also become more entangled in the web of life. Most of our lives consist of this: we wake up, get fresh, grab breakfast and pursue our daily tasks. Later, we use the remaining time to relax and share stories of the day with our families – and the cycle continues.

We can perceive this routine in one of two ways: a perfect rotation of events that exposes us to few risks, or a dreadful set of instructions leaving us little or no opportunity to find a way out. The way we think of such a routine lifestyle depends on our desires. Adhering to a set agenda each day can be comforting and stable, and such stability is important for prosperity and health.

My interaction with the world outside of home stimulates my mind in many different ways. During my commutes to work I would browse news articles online for the hour as I sway with the rocking train taking me to the city. Now, in those moments, increasingly my mind wanders: what could I do differently with my life? What sort of change would make me more satisfied?

My life of going to work every morning, meeting the same faces and coming back home to the same family is so perfectly automatic. . When I finished undergrad, I asked myself, what's next? Post-grad or work? Happily, I landed a job closely related to my degree. I thought I was finally satisfied with where I was, until I really acquainted myself with some enthusiastic, ambitious colleagues. Learning about their accomplishments and understanding their future endeavours made me wonder, where did my own desire to achieve go? Had I let the money I was making drown my ability to dream? I decided to call this concept “auto-pilot”.

Akin to setting a vehicle to cruise at a constant speed, autopilot is a low-risk solution making little or no changes to the current situation. This sometimes seems comfortable, but eventually I started perceiving autopilot as dangerous. Working only for the money, even if the job is stable induced a fear of becoming dependent on the pay cheque. Meeting the same faces daily changed my personality and led me to mimic traits of those I worked with. While autopilot needed no adjustments from myself, my lack of critical thinking and formation of my own perspectives left me vulnerable to societal pressures.
If like me you also feel like life is on autopilot, you might wonder how you can turn it off. At present, your cruise has several dependent factors. You have a stable job that is currently paying your bills, so you cannot just quit your job in order to seek change. Dismantling the autopilot system requires changes in phases, which I outline below:

Inspiration: How you perceive other's goals, achievements and successes is a good indicator of how your own life works.  If you ridicule someone else's goals too often, you may be averted to ambition and hence, settle for autopilot.

Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a powerful way to exercise meta-cognition (thinking about your own thoughts), pay attention to the purpose and quality of your daily tasks and activities.

Networking: If you suspect that autopilot has taken over your life, your peers may also be under the influence of such a lifestyle, or even worse, you are surrounded by negative people. It is always important to ignore those who cast disbelief upon your abilities. Allowing new people to enter your life and not just continue to associate with the same people regularly leads to new thoughts and experiences.

Goal setting: A good start I made was writing down some projected goals for the next year. While I knew not to make unrealistic, dramatic changes, I started off with the questions I stated above: What could I do differently with my life? What sort of changes would make me feel more satisfied in the long-term? Such reflections lead me to pursing my Global MBA degree with the University of London. It has helped me stay motivated as I look forward to expanded career prospects and the feeling of great achievement upon completion.
As I continue to find myself, I hope this article motivates you to find what inspires you and not stay stuck in autopilot mode.

Shoban is studying the Global MBA in Canada.