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Interrupting Your Programming: How To Get Your Life Off Autopilot

Updated on November 25, 2013

Interrupting Your Programming: How To Get Your Life Off Autopilot

November 25, 2013

Winston Wayne Wilson


Do you feel like you are in control of your life? Hopefully the answer is, “Yes”. For some people, however, they feel that their lives are on autopilot – like robots that are programmed by invisible socio-cosmic forces. How does one wind up in this autopilot state? In most cases, your life winds up on autopilot as a result of “unintentional programming”. Unintentional programming occurs from repeating the same patterned behavior, with little to no variation, over long periods of time. For example, executing the same script relating to your weekday and weekend activities can launch your life into autopilot mode.

All of this structured programming most certainly makes it easier for you to navigate. However, as your activities get more perfunctory, you become disengaged and unaware of what is happening in your life. Your body simply goes on autopilot as you robotically execute your daily script. In the end, your yesterday starts looking exactly like your today and your tomorrow. You get bored and restless. You become uncertain about the purpose of your life as well as your legacy. Even though you might recognize that your life is stuck on autopilot, breaking the cycle can be difficult. In order to avoid having your life remain endlessly in humdrum mode you must disengage the autopilot lever. Here are a few tips on how to get off autopilot and gain greater control over your life:

  1. Change your priorities. Periodically assume that all you have is today. Most likely, the last thing you would do if you only have today, is everything that you did yesterday and the day before. Maybe you would prioritize pursuing more of your bucket list items. For example, you might want to take a quick trip to your dream destination, let go a longstanding grudge and forgive someone, start learning a few words of a new language or start a new hobby. When you change your priorities, you change the energy in your life as well as open it up to greater balance, peace of mind, contentment and purpose.
  2. Change your friends. There is much truth to John Kuebler's maxim, “Show me your friends and I will show you your future.” The people in your inner circle can either help you to enable or disable your autopilot lever. Hence, if you are surrounded by friends who themselves are on autopilot, you will tend to struggle even more in breaking the cycle and disengaging the autopilot lever. Consequently, your future will look very much like your past. Also, if you surround yourself with friends who tell you exactly what you want to hear then you might be unknowingly keeping your life on autopilot. Your friends’ validating words might feel like precisely the support you need; however, growth sometimes comes from being challenged and receiving tough love. Getting a second or third opinion might just be the thing to do to knock you out of autopilot. Also, every now and again, you should form new friendships with people who might have different opinions, interests and lives than you do. Go way outside your comfort zone. This can serve to expand your horizon and make your life feel less programmed.
  3. Change your job. Every now and again, weary commercial airline pilots falls asleep and miss the airport when the plane is on autopilot. This happens to you sometimes at work. After many years of repeating the same tasks, you fall asleep on the job and become disconnected and disengaged. You start missing out on promotions, raises, praises, and the respect of your peers. You simply go to work to collect the paycheck to pay the bills. In order to re-energize your life and renew your engagement at work, it might be worthwhile to explore new career options that will leverage your true talents and bring out the best in you. On average, most people have seven career changes during their lifetime. You might be up for a change so that you can get out of autopilot mode at work.
  4. Change where you live. Where you live has a tremendous impact on your quality of life. Sometimes when your life gets stuck on autopilot it is because you are in the wrong place. Life is filled with countless examples of people who had to move to find career success, love, quality of life or even stardom. It might take a lot of courage to change where you live; however, when you are stuck on autopilot sometimes that is what you have to do. Understandably, you might prefer to have inter-generational roots in a place that you like; nevertheless, getting out of autopilot requires the courage to do something bold. Changing where you live is equally effective in getting you off auto pilot whether you move to the next town, from coast to coast or out of the country. Ultimately, you can add new energy to your life by changing where you live. You get to meet new people, enjoy new activities, and discover new opportunities to grow and develop.
  5. Change your mindset. Your mindset about life is everything. Much of what you experience in your life starts with your mindset. Thus, if your life is stuck on autopilot it typically means that your mindset is also stuck. Stanford University Professor, Carol Dweck, talks about fixed versus growth mindset in her book, “Mindset”. The fixed mindset is rigid, fearful and limiting while the growth mindset is flexible, optimistic and liberating. The more you move towards a growth mindset the more your life will take on a dynamic hue and veer away from being perpetually on autopilot. Also, every now and again you should challenge yourself. Run a mini-marathon, climb a mountain, exercise regularly, or learn something new (e.g., a language, sport, new craft, or playing an instrument). You tend to discover more about your inner capabilities, as well as develop self-esteem, when you challenge yourself versus when you are on autopilot.

My challenge for you is to evaluate whether your life has gotten a bit too humdrum as a result of being on autopilot. If it has, then I encourage you to disable your autopilot lever by committing to change at least one of the items above so that you can begin to experience greater range and variety in your life. If you continue to change nothing then you will merely continue to live your past.


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    • annupriya151 profile image

      Annu Priyadarshini 4 years ago from India

      Awesome written words, valid in any part across the globe.

    • wwaynewilson profile image

      Winston Wayne Wilson 4 years ago from Newark, New Jersey

      jpcmc, very true. Change is indeed a scary word. However, sometimes living our lives in a comfort zone can be even scarier. That said, only until we see our current static, autopilot condition as being more scary than change, will we give change a chance. Thanks for your comment.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Change is such a scary word for many. We choose to live as we are or find a better path.