Sometimes you can lose track of time and lose sight of the bigger picture. We may not stop to really think about what we are doing, where we want to be, or how we are going to get there.
Living on autopilot refers to the act of going through the motions of everyday life, without being engaged or aware in the moment. It essentially means that you are doing things without actively thinking about them.
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There are many different signs that you may be living life on autopilot. While not everyone will experience all the signs, things to look out for, according to British life coach Lucy Seifert, may include:
Having little memory of how you got to where you are. For example, not being mindful during the daily commute, disconnecting during the weekly shop or even in regards to major life events. Feeling numb, distracted or distant from feelings in the moment or in life in general. You may feel like you are not making progress in life in general, or with the things you are trying to accomplish right now. Experiencing difficulty stopping and savoring the moment. Waking up unenthusiastic as you know what to expect and there is nothing exciting or inspiring. The daily routine is stale, predictable and requires little (or no) thought to complete. There is trouble putting down the phone. This could mean scrolling erratically, closing and reopening apps or emails, or simply wasting time online. Difficulty remembering the little things.
Oksana Leitane, a British counselor and psychotherapist, explains that “most people live most of their lives on autopilot. People are shaped by someone, at some time, in some way. Drive in some direction. Generally, people sense whether they are moving towards something good or bad, but often there is a lack of accurate perception of their goals and life path.”
Automating certain routine behaviors is a way of saving energy for our brain. (Photo: Adobe Stock)
“The journey of self-discovery is intricate, and understanding our desires involves navigating life's uncertainties. Accepting responsibilities and uncertainties can lead to a more authentic self-understanding.”
Feeling disconnected from life can be a sign that you're struggling to find and focus on what you really want, but it can also be a sign of something else. When we feel busy, overwhelmed, stressed or anxious, switching to autopilot can be a way to cope.
Between certainty and uncertainty
Performance and life coach Laurence Knott explains that in our need for certainty, we can sometimes forget to focus on personal growth.
“Many people have been living life on 'autopilot': same job, same routines, same old. And for many, that is an extremely comfortable place to be. Why rock the boat? We get used to predictability, to certainty. But that can limit our potential. If we have been going through our lives avoiding risk, not pursuing what we really want, perhaps always putting other people before ourselves, perhaps we have been living a life of avoidance. The fear of uncertainty often manifests as a life based on predictability and routine. It may take courage. “When we are willing to face our deepest fears, we open up a world of possibilities.”