Taking Your Life Off Autopilot and Finding Happiness

It’s 6AM. Your alarm goes off, and you hit snooze twice before getting up and putting on the coffee. You shower, thinking about the coming day. What’s my schedule look like? What should I wear today? Am I prepared for that meeting? You get dressed and grab your bag and coffee before heading out the door.

You sit in traffic alongside a sea of other people you don’t notice, all sleepy eyed with blank stares ahead as you wait your turn to move forward. You walk into the office, passing people who’s faces you don’t look at, listening to your podcast and thinking about your to-do list. At work, you communicate with people like any other day. You text in the group chat of friends, chiming in on their purchase choices and relationship struggles but you don’t really care. You leave at 5, maybe going to the gym for a bit but after your long day and commute you’re tired and you think “tomorrow”. You eat dinner, checking social media while watching TV at the same time and drink a glass of wine, taking the edge off and provoking sleep. Then, you set your alarm for 6AM.

As much as we don’t want it to be true, we live a lot of days like this: on autopilot. Sure, there’s the sprinkle of weeknight dinners with friends, but most of our time is spent grinding towards those glorious 2 days off where we can sleep in, have beers with friends, and do the things that make us feel alive.

If this is relatable – you’re like most people: we spend about 70% of our lives on autopilot, putting work first and saving the living for later. So how do we stop this vicious cycle? How do we get off autopilot? That is the question of the century. If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to just be living, you want to feel alive. You want to challenge yourself, go with the moment and see where it takes you, not following any routine and make decisions on the fly. Unfortunately, this type of living requires an income, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have both.

Take Mindful Breaks & Switch Things Up

It sounds strange, but stopping to think about how you’re on autopilot will help take you off, because in that moment you’re being mindful. Taking these brain breaks and challenging yourself to do something different during the day will remind you that Wednesdays don’t have to suck; you can meet friends to rock-climb after work, or paint a bookshelf or write a blog on the struggles of being a millennial in debt (hey).

Practice Gratuity

In my planner, there is a section titled “What I’m grateful for” that I fill in each week. Sometimes, it’s general things like “my family” or “my health”. Other times, it’s focused on what’s going on in my life. It challenges me to think of things in a positive light and find something to be grateful for, taking me out of that autopilot mindset. Doing this helps to pull you out of that funk and focus on the good, bringing more positivity into your thoughts and ultimately your day.

Have Your Cake

We all have that dream we wish we could quit our jobs and follow. For me, it would be traveling the world, volunteering with animals. Unfortunately this isn’t something I can have right now, and thinking about that too much can be really depressing. Instead, when I’m deep in that funk that autopilot puts you in, I take a sliver of that dream and I book a trip. Suddenly, my soul feels a little lighter. I have research to do, I have places to see, I’m excited. I may not get the whole dream right now, but I’m getting a taste. Whatever your dream is, and however unattainable it may seem, you can find a way to get a taste and feel alive.

It’s normal to end up on autopilot, and sometimes it’s what we need. But as easy as it is to fall into, it’s easy to get ourselves out. First step – awareness. Realizing these mundane moments in our day is the first step to fixing them by adding a little excitement.

Why? Because life is too short to be lived for the weekends!

What do you do to pull yourself off autopilot and feel alive? Share in the comments below!

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