“Life is not a journey you want to make on autopilot.” – Paula Rinehart
Imagine a life where every action you do is done with purpose. Every activity you perform sprouts from your decision to make every moment count. Imagine a life where every step you take is a step toward your goals and priorities.
Every day, you wake up with intention. You know exactly what you want to get done and how you want your day to go.
You smile while working because you know it’s getting you where you want to go. You drive home and admire the way the breeze moves the leaves and how the sun falls on the grass and you take a breath and think, “life is good”.
Imagine a life where every moment of every day means something.
It’s a beautiful way to live, but let’s face it…
That’s not how you’re living now.
Every day, you drift around on autopilot. You wake up, climb out of bed, and drowsily make a cup of coffee. You day-dream on your way to work. 15 minutes later, you’re there, but remember nothing of the trip.
You get to work and read through the paperwork you’ve let pile on your desk. Nothing meaningful happens. You’re reliving the same events of the day before…and the day before that one.
Life is boring. You’re stuck with the same boring routine. Nothing exciting ever happens to you.
You await that big event that will shock you out of your stupor—that will change your life and make it worth paying attention to.
Here’s the truth:
That big event is never going to happen.
If you don’t turn off autopilot and steer your life the way you want it, you’ll float through life like a twig in a lake going with the flow.
How to Stop Living on Autopilot
Luckily for you, there are ways to turn off autopilot and regain control over your life. With these lifestyle changes, you’ll live life as it’s happening and boost your happiness and success.
1. Meditate & Be Mindful
The reason you fall into autopilot is because you aren’t paying attention to what’s going on in your life. While you remorse over the past and worry about the future, the present—the only moment that really matters—is disregarded.
“We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is nothing but a hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We don’t realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than the present experience.” –Alan Watts
At any given moment, you are so lost in your thoughts that you don’t have the mental resources available to take control of the present.
At work, you day-dream about what you’ll do when you get home, but at home, you day-dream about how you’ll tackle that problem at work.
You talk to someone, but when recalling the conversation, you realize you forgot to mention the most important part. You weren’t there in the moment, so you missed your chance.
Let’s face it:
The best way to start giving the present moment the attention it deserves is through meditation and mindfulness.
You’ve probably tried meditation before and hated it. Who wants to waste valuable minutes sitting on the floor and doing nothing?
Isn’t that the opposite of productivity?
The one time you did try it, you got incredibly frustrated. You could focus on your breath for three seconds max before thinking about how bored you were or how uncomfortable your cushion was.
Meditation is hard in the beginning, but it gets better. Soon enough, you’ll think, but won’t get lost in your thoughts. You’ll easily push them away.
Your ability to focus will increase in your daily life as well. You’ll find yourself paying attention during conversations and seeing little things you hadn’t noticed before.
Mindfulness is meditation without the sitting still part. You focus on your breath and the present moment while going about your day.
For example, while eating an orange, you consciously taste it, focusing on its citrusy flavor and the texture it has.
While walking, you become aware of the feeling of your feet on the ground.
I enjoy boosting my mindfulness with challenges.
Challenge yourself to notice things people do different than you. Challenge yourself to see everyday things in a new perspective.
2. Break Your Routine
Habits are activities you do on autopilot.
Habits are excellent tools for getting stuff done without the constant need for willpower. Imagine having to convince yourself to brush your teeth every morning. I bet 4 out of 7 days, you’d walk out the door without even a mouth rinse.
Yet, put too many habits together, and you build a routine.
Routine: A series of habits, typically done on autopilot.
Routines help with productivity, but they also grow tedious. You do the same things over and over and over again until you burn out. A few months later, you realize you’ve accomplished a lot, but you weren’t paying much attention to the process.
You missed out on your own success. You didn’t live the moment.
Think back to the car example. You drove your way to success, but can’t remember anything about the journey.
Shake up your routine. Do something new and exciting at least once a week. Get out of your comfort zone.
Instead of making a daily routine, make a weekly routine and do different things each day.
Don’t get stuck in the repetitive cycle of routines. Life is short, so make sure you live each day to its fullest.
3.Disconnect From Electronics
Picture yourself standing in line, waiting for your food at a restaurant, or sitting on a bus. What are you doing?
Chances are you’re on your phone, scrolling through Facebook or texting a friend.
Any free moment you have, you’re on an electronic device mindlessly doing anything that will pass the time.
Think about it:
When you’re on your phone, do you feel the time pass?
Or do you lift your head two minutes later only to realize that what felt like two minutes was actually an hour?
That unawareness to the passage of time is true mindlessness. You get so emerged in what you’re doing that you haven’t a clue what’s going on around you.
I want to point out that this is different from the concept of flow where you get lost in an activity you’re passionate about. In flow, the activity challenges you and pushes you just past your limits.
To avoid the mindlessness associated with spending your every free moment on digital time-wasters, disconnect. Turn off your mobile data when you go out and observe the setting around you.
Practice your mindfulness and notice the people around you. Talk to someone and make a new friend.
Don’t stare at a screen and let life pass you by. Live in the moment.
We live so much of our lives regretting the past and worrying about the future. Consequently, we overlook the present—the only interval we have power over.
By turning off your autopilot and starting to live life as it happens, you take back control. You grab the reigns of your life and make your goals a reality. You don’t regret opportunities not taken. You create new opportunities every day.
Start living life as it happens and witness your success.