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How to Spend Less Time on Autopilot and More Time Living

The art and science of conscious living.

When times get tough, I have a habit of going into autopilot mode. I learned to do this long ago – it was a way of making sure I got things done, even if all hell was breaking loose around me. So I guess you could say it works for me. Except when it doesn’t.

The trouble with autopilot mode is that it has no heart. You do everything by rote, without putting any of yourself into it. This is because you care more about getting things done than about how you do them. Or why you’re doing them. And when you do things without heart, your heart shuts off… a bit, at first, and a lot if your autopilot state persists.

Once you start to shut off your heart to get tasks done, you also start to shut it off for everything else. You see, you can’t selectively shut your heart off – hearts don’t work like that. They’re either open, or they’re not. So while you may be efficient on autopilot, you’re not effective. Effectiveness has a level of complexity that requires heart. Chances are, when you’re on autopilot, you’re not being as compassionate, either. Compassion comes from the heart.

When your heart shuts off, your groove is another casualty. I describe my ‘groove’ as a combination of my particular rhythm – my essence and how it manifests – and my routine.

It took me years to find my groove. I was subjected to such a dominant nurture environment as a child that my groove was silenced. What I thought was my groove wasn’t mine at all – it belonged to my nurturers. Being groove-less for all those years had a huge impact on me. I became very task-orientated – it was my way of feeling more in control of my life. I had little resilience. I wasn’t very happy. I tended to overreact to challenging situations. I was a stress-head. I got sick with an autoimmune disease. I hid behind my autopilot efficiency. Yet, my innate personality often came to my rescue, enabling me to build an amazing network of friends, and a successful career.

Once I found my groove, life got much easier. And happier. I became more productive and my creativity started to come to the fore. I became much more resilient to whatever life threw at me. I got the autoimmune disease I’d developed into remission, without medication. All was good.

Except when my groove disappeared. It did this when I became overwhelmed by or disinterested in what I was doing. Then I’d default to my old autopilot behaviour pattern. And stay there for a while, because I wouldn’t notice that I was in autopilot mode. Autopilot is, after all, a subconscious behaviour. Some time later, I’d notice that my joie de vivre was missing. The minute that happened, I could switch out of it – action follows awareness.

Nowadays, my autopilot moments are few and far between, and not as long-lasting. I am, for the most part, in my groove – and here’s what that looks like:

  • I have a clear life vision.

  • I have a comprehensive list of all the components that will bring me to this vision. Knowing your life’s purpose is the starting place.

  • I set 90-day/monthly/weekly goals for all these components and take action on them, every day.

  • I act consciously on a daily basis, doing only those things that bring me towards my vision.

  • I create healthy habits out of as many of my desired behaviours as possible. That way, they move into my subconscious mind and free up space in my conscious mind for things that arise. Many of my healthy habits are daily ones – these have become as automatic to me as brushing my teeth.

My younger self would laugh at my planning, process and routines. “How stifling this all must be!”, she’d say.

But she’d be wrong.

Being in my groove keeps me anchored. Instead of limiting my life with goals and plans, being in my groove has liberated me. It has allowed me to live with limitless wholeness.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

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Feel more alive with these 8 top tips!

“Fatigue is one of the fastest-growing issues in the U.S. Not too surprising. In a culture that fetishises working as hard as possible, it’s easy to trade good sleep and home-cooked meals for 10-hour days fuelled by on-the-go, prepackaged junk.1 Almost 15 million Americans work full-time on evening shift, night shift, rotating shifts, or other irregular schedules, and about 19% of working adults clock in 48-hour or longer weeks; 7% work 60 hours or more.”*

Let’s face it, it’s impossible to feel alive when living like this – and this way of life is not unique to the US. As the article says, modern society has made a fetish of working as hard as possible and sleeping as little as possible. You may think that you’re super productive and that this level of stress benefits you in some way, but you’re wrong. You’re not and it doesn’t. In fact, the truth is quite the opposite. Your ability to think clearly and effectively is severely compromised by continuous stress, and far from energising you, a stressed lifestyle depletes you.

If you’re honest with yourself, you actually know this. That’s why you feel so much better after a couple of weeks of holiday – after you’ve recovered from the cold or ‘flu you got at the beginning, that is. And don’t your sleep issues miraculously disappear when you’re away from work for a few days?

So how do you go from existing on stress to living fully? Here’s how.

My eight pillars of a life worth living

  1. A clearly defined life vision. Without knowing where you’re going and why, it’s hard to start living the kind of life that makes you feel alive. To create your life vision, you need to go back to the basics of who you really are and why you’re here, removing all of your family and societal conditioning (it’s there, even if you can’t see it yet). Find out what your true beliefs, values, rules, personality and worldview are, and craft these, along with your dreams, into your life vision.
  2. A positive mindset. With this mindset, you are happy and in control of your life. You prioritize meaningful relationships, cope well with the challenges life throws at you, enjoy what you’re doing (because you know why you’re doing it), and spend your time in ways that are consistent with your life vision and goals.
  3. Regular exercise. There’s no denying the fact that regular exercise is good for you. It increases happiness and improves productivity. Try this as an aliveness booster: 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day, ideally in nature, and 20 minutes of more vigorous exercise three times a week.
  4. Quality nutrition. You are what you eat – you really are. You can’t expect high quality performance from poor quality fuel. Quality nutrition is the best investment you can make in yourself and your family. For starters: eat chemical-free, unprocessed food; cut out all sugar and artificial sweeteners; watch your consumption of grains – many grains contain mould and other toxins that deplete your energy and promote brain fog; cut out ALL soft drinks, including diet ones; stay away from GMO products / products made with GMO ingredients – “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified (GM) food (American Association of Emergency Medicine 2009),” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM has asked physicians to advise all patients to avoid GM foods.[1]; drink lots of water. I’m a big fan of the Bulletproof Diet – the science behind it makes a lot of sense to me.
  5. Resilience. It’s important to be able to weather life’s storms when they arrive – and arrive they will. Greater resilience is a by-product of a positive mindset and a daily meditation practice is a key way to develop both. Find a type of meditation that works for you and start small – even two minutes a day makes a difference, so start there and gradually build up!
  6. Continuous learning. A bored mind leads to an unhappy person. Develop a lifelong passion for learning about things that interest you! Learn something new every day – it’s empowering and invigorating, because you’re doing something for yourself that truly engages you.
  7. Good sleep hygiene. You can’t expect to wake up feeling refreshed and raring to go if your sleep hygiene is poor. A good night’s sleep is essential, so you need to prime yourself for it. Start preparing for sleep a few hours ahead of time: turn off all LED lights – they reduce melatonin production and the regenerative and restoring capacities of your eyes; turn off all computers and smartphones (more blue lighting); relax; meditate; make sure your bedroom is cool and completely dark.
  8. A toxic-free lifestyle. Just as you are what you eat, you are also what you absorb via your other senses. Mainstream personal care products, make-up and household cleaning products contain many toxins, so do yourself a favour and buy the least toxic variants (i.e. those without ingredients you can’t pronounce). Better still, make your own, as I do. You also need to stay away from toxic people – those who are negative and bring everyone around them down – as their energy affects yours negatively.

There is nothing like waking up every day looking forward to the day ahead, and going to sleep at night grateful for the day you had. You can be this person – it just takes a 100% commitment to yourself to do whatever it takes. And now you know how to start.

* https://blog.bulletproof.com/fight-fatigue-with-these/

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).