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Are You Living On Auto-Pilot?

“Most people are running on automatic. They have rules, set procedures, or automatic responses for what to think, what to feel, and what to do in various situations-rules, procedures, and responses they learned when they were too young to know any better.”–Bill Harris

Do you ever wonder how much of your life is lived consciously? How often are you engaged actively in what you are doing day to day and how much is simply you on auto-pilot. Many of us live our lives like experienced car drivers. When you first learn how to drive a car, you are very conscious of what you are doing (at least I hope so). You consciously hit the breaks when it is time to stop. Hit the acceleration when it is time to go and check the rear view mirror consciously before changing lanes. Once you get comfortable driving, you no longer really think about it. You just get in the car and go. Once something becomes comfortable, we no longer have to think. This is fine for mundane activities. However, what happens when your entire life is in process without thinking?

The brutal reality is that most people are simply going through the motions in life. Get up at 7am, get a cup of coffee, watch the morning new, and then get in the car for a one hour commute to work. Once you get to work, you go through the motions for eight hours. Then it is time for another one hour commute back home where you have a microwave meal for dinner, watch four hours of moronic TV, have another terrible night of sleep and start the entire process all over again. Each day that you get closer to Friday, you start becoming more conscious about your life. You live for the weekends and have to get as much life as possible in on Friday and Saturday. Sunday is a wash because the next day you have to go back to work. Where did you learn to accept such a life? From your parents, friends, TV, movies, who knows? It does not really matter where you learned it. What matters is being aware of it and changing it. Unless you are satisfied with your life. In that case, kick back and enjoy the unconscious ride.

When I first started working for myself it was very hard to get over the traditional working work. Work Monday through Friday and then take the weekends off. After a while I realized that when you work for yourself at home you can break all of the rules. You can go out on Monday night and have a blast and then work on the weekends when everyone else is out. You can take spontaneous days off or go through months without taking any days off. Regardless, it was hard to get over what I have been taught my entire life. Monday through Friday is for work and the weekends are for fun. To this day Carol and I often go out on the weekends for fun even though both of us are self employed and can work when we want to and have fun when we want to. Conditioned living is no doubt hard to break.

Brutal self analysis is a difficult thing. Change is difficult because we fight the process. We may want to change, but the person you know is more comfortable than the unknown person you have the capacity to become. Yet, without careful examination of who you are, you will never go from living a barely engaged life to an actively engaged life. It is far too easy to let others think for you and be a pinball in the game of life. Just let others push you all over the table. Hopefully they know what is best for you and you will do okay. Not the way to live and certainly not the way to live an exciting vibrant life. Most people have no idea who they are and you certainly do not want them in charge of your life.

You must learn to think for yourself. Stop reacting on auto pilot and get engaged in the moment. Figure out why you do what you do and if it is ineffective, have the courage to change it. You can change at any moment. How you live your life is up to you. How you react to what happens in your life is up to you. You do not have to do what you have learned from TV, movies, magazines, friends, and family. You can break the cycle.

Where do you start? First you need to learn more about yourself. One effective way is to keep a daily journal. Just as a training journal is effective for tracking workout progress and determining what programs work best, a life journal is an effective way to determine who you are. Be brutally honest as no one is going to read it but you. Write down what ever comes to mind no matter how crazy it sounds. Write about how you reacted to various situations through out the day. After a month or so you will start seeing some patterns and what you learn about yourself may be frightening. Work through it as the sooner you work on this process the better. Take a look at your journal after thirty days. read through each entry and you will be amazed how much you learn about yourself and the way you think.

Life is not meant to be lived passively. When you are always comfortable, you are not growing, and when you are not growing you are not living. Break out of the comfort zone and stay out of it.


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