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Living on Autopilot

Is Living on Autopilot Good or Bad?

Sometimes you just seem to drift though life without thinking about what you’re doing. Your mind is unfocused and you’re living on autopilot. But is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Sometimes you suddenly think, “I don’t remember if I locked the door when I left this morning.”  That’s because you’re so used to locking the door each morning, you don’t even realise whether or not you actually did it.  Odds are, you did perform the particular ingrained behaviour, but when you wake up from the autopilot state, you can’t seem to remember physically doing it.

living on autopilotAutopilot is a state that is within all of us, but it has both a good and bad version.

The reason why we slip into the autopilot state in the first place is because the brain is always trying to conserve its energy. When running at a high rate, the brain can take up as much as 20% of our total energy.  So, whenever possible, the brain is always striving to find ways to save energy.

On autopilot, the brain doesn’t have a whole lot of work to do.  Habits and consistent behaviours are stored up in the brain, and can be carried out with little effort or energy.

This explains why it’s so hard to break a habit. Your brain has to use energy to create a new habit, and fights you along the way when you are trying to change. After all, reinforcing a new habit or behaviour takes up a lot of brain energy.

Good Autopilot

Living life on autopilot isn’t always a bad thing.Good habits

For example, if you were to create a positive habit that keeps you healthy, you would make decisions and take actions that would keep you healthy. After repeating these healthy actions over and over again, they can run on autopilot in your brain. Just like a bad habit, good habits can be placed in the brain too.

By repeating good habits and locking them into your brain, autopilot
can work towards your advantage because you won’t want to break the good pattern and replace it with a bad one. And this keeps the brain happy because it doesn’t require a lot of energy to keep those healthy habits alive.

Bad Autopilot

However, if your brain is full of bad habits or behaviours, autopilot can work to your disadvantage.Autopilot habits

If you’re trying to quit smoking (which is an unhealthy habit) and try to replace it with a healthy habit, your brain will have to use considerable energy.  And your brain doesn’t like to do that.  It likes to take the path of least resistance, or use very little energy.

If you find yourself living in bad autopilot mode, here are some tips to break out of it:

How to Stop Living Life on Autopilot

Acknowledge the fact that you are on autopilot
If you feel like you’re in a rut. Or things need to change. Or you’re experiencing some negative emotions that aren’t going away, you may be living on autopilot. At this point, it’s time to stop and see if you keep doing the same things over and over.  If you keep doing things that make you feel stuck or bad, it becomes really hard to stop taking the actions making you feel this way.

What is causing you to go into autopilot mode?
If you think you may just be trapped living on autopilot, ask yourself why it’s happening.
So, if you are experiencing a problem in your life, and you keep focusing on the problem, the problem will not go away.  This is an example of bad autopilot. If you were to break out of autopilot mode and take a different action, the odds of the problem being solve have increased. You may also slip into autopilot if you’re overwhelmed or are looking to control everything in your life.

Simply turn the switch over to “good” autopilotpositive outcome
Ways to switch away from living on autopilot include:

  • Stop the bad cycle by becoming aware there’s a problem and wanting to find a solution
  • Take back control by setting a goal or brainstorming on possible solutions to the problem
  • Ignite good autopilot by taking one positive action, then another and another

If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, maybe it’s simply a matter of being stuck in a rut or in a bad autopilot state.

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