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Break out of Autopilot


Most of us will have described a scenario where we considered ourselves to be on ‘autopilot’, for example we may have arrived at work, whether by car or bus, but had no real sense of the journey! Oftentimes that sensation is created out of habit, when we have done something over and over, that we literally do it automatically. But in the case of driving, it can be a scary feeling to realise that you carried out a journey whilst not in a ‘mindful state’.

On the whole autopilot mode is very useful in our everyday lives; it enables us to get up, to go through a routine of washing, dressing, eating breakfast etc. without having to pay too much attention to the activities. This enables us to multi-task and to free our minds to things that do require our conscious attention.

But there is a negative side to autopilot and that is in regards to things that have happened to us in the past. If we are faced with a similar situation in the future, we are likely to go into autopilot mode and react the same way as before. In reality we do not need to be hurt in the future just because we have been hurt in a similar situation in the past (in a relationship for example), but we do need to look at the situation in a conscious and mindful way, rather than an in an automatic way.

If you feel like you are in a situation and you are not moving on with your life – not moving forward; then try applying a more engaged style to your thoughts and decisions:

The Auto Mode                       The Conscious Mode

Reacting out of habit                                               Respond with awareness

Re-live the past                                                         Live in the present

Ignore reality                                                             Accept reality

Miss important details                                             Notice important details

Recreate patterns of behaviour                              Take a new approach

Feeling like your choices are limited                     Knowing that you have many choices

Recreating past emotions                                        Have fresh and new emotions

Neglecting your potential                                        Realising your full potential

Not enjoying life to the full                                     Maximising all of life’s pleasures

  • With practise hopefully you will find that autopilot-thinking disperses when mindfulness takes over.


Ref: Practical Mindfulness, Ken A.Verni