Are You On Autopilot?
It’s when you’re going through life without conscious awareness.
It’s that feeling(actually, most of us are so busy we don’t even recognize it) of moving fast and not remembering how you even got there.
Have you ever had car rides like that? I have. I’ve driven to my destination and had no recollection of how I got there. I’ve even had days like that, where I’ve put my head down and soldiered through. By the end of the day, physical and emotional exhaustion would inevitably wash over me, yet I couldn’t even remember what I did. (Heavy sigh.)
And, I wonder if you, like me, have had years like that.
I was operating on autopilot, rudderless, the year I graduated from college, got married one month later, moved to a new state, began a new job, and then moved again.
Autopilot mode got me through the year my dad died of cancer, only eight weeks after being diagnosed. Soldiering on moved me through the year I learned of my husband’s three-year affair that ended our20-year marriage.
And I definitely was operating on autopilot the many years before I learned that I had had a stroke.
For countless years I acted as “the glue” that kept the family humming along, unaware of the toll it was taking.
I thought the only way to manage was to plow through, head down, praying for things to get better. Our “lean in” culture encourages us to push through and strive harder, doesn’t it?
But, maybe pushing through has left you barely hanging on.
I’m guessing that you work hard to:
• Raise your children and simultaneously try to succeed at work.
• Take care of your bustling household’s evening schedule while you try to sneak in a bit more work before you crash for the night.
• Struggle to choose between the rare moments of family time or some much-needed time to unwind.
You’re not alone in your angst between external pressure to do more and internal signals to step back. In between the external pressures and your internal symptoms is our inner compass. The challenge for us, in a society that honors busy, is to slow down long enough to follow it.
But, the truth is, it’s easier for us to go into autopilot mode. It’s a protective strategy, actually, and it’s not necessarily bad. For example, we’re on autopilot when we’re brushing our teeth.
However, when running on autopilot is the default mode, it will eventually lead to feeling imbalanced, unfulfilled, and burned out.
Those above examples of autopilot living aren’t hypothetical. They are real stories from real women with whom I work. These women wanted to restore their energy, feel beautiful in their own skin, and expand their capacity to be fully present in, and fully in love with, their very full life.
They knew they were missing something, but they didn’t know exactly what it was or how they were going to get it back.
You’re not alone if:
• Your temper with your family is on a super-short fuse and you lash out knowing that it’s irrational behavior, but you aren’t able to stop it.
• You feel like you can’t make anyone happy, even though you are trying so hard.
• You frequently get colds or other little illnesses.
• You make careless mistakes, have trouble focusing, or experience brain fog.
Because of our busy lifestyle, we tend to shrug these off as just “the cost of doing life.”
But running on empty doesn’t have to be your norm. And burned out doesn’t have to be your future.
No matter how busy and overwhelmed you are now, I’m confident that through pausing, gaining perspective, and planning ahead you can take back control and succeed at work and at home … and feel a sense of balance doing it.
I know because I lived it, and I teach it now.
It was through this process of going against cultural norms, finally pausing for long enough to gain perspective and use what I learned to plan for the future, that I developed a transformative methodology — the Living Fully Balanced Process.
It was this process that made it possible for me to study coaching and positive psychology, which helped me transform my health and build a business and life that I love.
I know what I’m asking you to do will feel counterintuitive and perhaps even uncomfortable.
But, in order to have the life we want, we’ve got to pause long enough to design it.
Here’s the foundational piece of my methodology and how I reversed my own burnout.
To prevent burnout, practice the three P’s:
1. Take a pause before reacting to the day. Choose what’s important for you to respond to. Slowing down gets us out of autopilot mode, giving us clarity to make better decisions.
2. Gain perspective of the day. There’s always something to learn from, adjust to, or remove.
3. Plan ahead using the information you just gathered. Don’t expect the plan to go perfectly; it never does. But, keep the focus on the outcome.
There is massive power in the simple pause. Oprah Winfrey and Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks, know this. They make sure to take time every morning to pause, gain perspective, and plan accordingly. Every. Single. Day.
Your pause doesn’t have to be long — just five minutes in the morning before you get out of bed and five minutes in the evening before you leave the office. These 10 minutes have the power to connect the minutiae of your day to your goals and dreams. I know you’re busy, but I also know you can prioritize 10 minutes a day.
Feeling balanced in our busy life, though, begins with self-awareness.
To help you understand where you are in the balanced/burnout continuum, I’ve created a “Burnout Warning Signs” checklist, with overlooked symptoms of burnout.Knowing the signs of burnout is the first step toward your balanced life.
Autopilot mode may work for a while, but eventually, if we don’t take the time to pause, relationships will erode, careers will stall out, and health will decline.
We’re smart women, leading full lives, and we’ve got the power to prevent our own burnout.
The power’s in the pause.
Lisa Bobyak, founder of Living Fully Balanced, LLC, works with high-achieving women, increasing their energy and focus so they can lead with excellence and live with balance. Lisa has been transforming women’s lives for over 13 years through her inspirational and educational presentations as well as through her private coaching. However, she’s best known for her proven signature program, “The Love Your Life Again Program.” Lisa authored 7 Days to Loving Your Life Again and is the creator of the Living Fully Balanced Life Planner.