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Image / Self / Health & Wellness

Are you operating on autopilot?


By Niamh Ennis
24th Feb 2024
Are you operating on autopilot?

While functioning on autopilot is quite often the path of least resistance, especially when confronted with life changing events and challenges, it really doesn’t give us much room to grow, evolve or even to change. Perhaps it’s time for us to step away, albeit temporarily, from what’s familiar and take a peep at what’s there on the other side.

It’s all too easy these days to stay busy, to facilitate the endless distractions that pressurize us into getting things done. We allow ourselves to buy into the belief that we’ll have time to focus on other things when we have first of all completed what’s in front of us. This is the art of deferring and putting off what actually needs to happen now, in favour of what we are told must happen.

It’s crucial however that you acknowledge and accept that, more often than not, you tend to stay where is familiar even if you know you’re miserable there. Your fear of change and the attachment to what you already know can be incredibly intoxicating yet it also inevitably leads you to making poorer decisions as a result.

Am I afraid of change?

When you consider your life right now and what’s happening in it, what feels most familiar and what are you afraid of changing? Once you have answered this, the next question has to be why. Why do you think you’re afraid of change? You may well discover that the reason you’re resisting change, and avoiding moving in a different direction, has in fact little to do with where you want to get to, but a lot more to do with the fear and worry about what you might need to leave behind.

Five signs you’re on autopilot

1. Your routine is too predictable. Your day-to-day calendar is full of the same activities and you find yourself following that schedule, often without thinking about it.

2. You’re motivated by what other people want. You allow their expectations to define your choices. In doing this you’re ignoring what it is you want or need.

3. You’re always on. You rarely reflect on what you’ve achieved, or how you’re feeling or what you are doing. You’re busy, distracted, or both. Mostly both.

4. You constantly feel guilty that you’re not doing enough. Days seem to merge into one another. You feel lethargic, lazy, like you haven’t accomplished much.

5. You have constant FOMO (fear of missing out). You spend so much time watching what other people have and what they’re doing and wonder why can’t it be the same for you? Why do you feel so left behind?

Blissful ignorance

We crave being consistent, reliable, stable and are most content when our belief systems and our values are in total alignment. We love when things go as we expect them to and our brains like this too. When things feel predictable, when things appear to be running smoothly and everything slots into place just as it should; we can unwittingly find ourselves operating blissfully on autopilot.

Gradually, over time, our internal and external lives become totally out of sync. The life we are living no longer matches up with what the life that we truly want. We might be stuck in a job that no longer feels challenging or a relationship that we know is not good for us. So, what do we do? We do the ostrich and put our heads in the sand, plaster over the cracks and ignore what’s not quite right. We prefer the certainty of potential misery to the uncertainty of the unknown.

We revert to doing things without thinking. Our brain defaults to what it’s programmed to think and how to react, everything is flowing freely and there are no nasty surprises along the way. This regularity and certainty results in much less inner discomfort. We feel in control and convince ourselves that this is a good thing. The truth is it isn’t always.

Spontaneity, surprises and not knowing what’s coming next is in fact where our personal skills get tested. It’s by doing this that we learn, grow and develop. When everything stays the same, so do we. When things around us are being refreshed, updated and altered then we are too. That’s what living feels like.

I love nothing better than a good routine. I love knowing what to expect and when. I appreciate consistency. But when this is taken to extremes and we find ourselves living on autopilot, this is when we end up missing out on so many incredible opportunities and living half a life.

It’s actually okay to be a little bit afraid of change; but it’s never okay to stop yourself from experiencing new beginnings, learning new lessons and availing of new opportunities. So don’t be afraid to mix things up and embrace change. And yes, you may have to give up something good but you could end up discovering something even better. Isn’t that worth taking the risk?

Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and author of Get Unstuck who through her private practice, writings, programmes, workshops and podcast has inspired and helped thousands of people to make significant changes in their lives. She’s an accredited Personal, Leadership & Executive Coach and the Lead Coach in the IMAGE Business Club. If you’re ready to make change and need help, Niamh is hosting ana transformative online 5 week group programme called ‘What If’. To find out more click here. Follow Niamh on Instagram @1niamhennis or niamhennis.com.

This article was originally published in October 2023.