We now seem more confused than ever before. Knowing who we are and where we are going seems just beyond our reach. There is something particularly destabilising about these times and it is affecting how people regard their place in the world and how they define themselves. Some blame it on the all pervasive technology; ‘hyper-connectivity’, the near-continuous access to the internet. Others on the selfie generation and their desire to endlessly seek outside approval. Some of my favourite hippies see a universal energetic imbalance and cry out for us to address its innate vibrations.
Regardless of the cause, many of us have an inner knowing that something is not quite right in our world and it’s becoming increasingly unsettling.
Much of our life is spent on autopilot. Many of us turn up to work and then the next thing we are conscious of is going home. Days fly by as we are caught up in a maelstrom of activity. Busyness has become a badge of honour.
We have all had the experience of driving a long-distance and when we arrive at the destination, we can’t remember large chunks of the journey.
This happens because we are on autopilot.
A few years ago, in a survey conducted by an accident prevention charity, 80% of respondents admitted to going through life on autopilot; arriving at the end of a car journey with no memory of driving there, buying the same item twice without realising, even turning up at the office on a day off.
The brain uses more energy than any other human organ; up to 20% of the body’s total haul. Therefore, it is always looking for shortcuts to be efficient. Our conscious brain uses a lot of this energy: You have probably noticed when we learn something new that needs real focus and attention, such as playing an instrument or learning a new language, we become tired quite quickly.
Our subconscious, however, is a much more efficient beast. It saves energy by looking at similarities of today’s experience with those we have seen before. If they look familiar enough it just assumes they are the same and therefore takes over to run the show. The conscious brain can rest and save energy for more taxing times. So when we get into a car, our subconscious recognises the act of driving, and therefore kicks into autopilot so that the brain fuel can be reserved. Clever design.
However, due to the increasingly frenetic nature of our lives it is likely that as they become more complicated and 24 seven, the already massive 80% of our time spent on autopilot will rise.
The secret to getting this more in balance is to be gentle with yourself. We need autopilot to survive. The problem is that it creeps in and takes over too much. Don’t beat yourself up when it takes over; it will.
The key to getting off autopilot is to embrace new experiences. Get some increments of control and it will pay back exponentially. An extra 5 minutes of consciousness a day will change your life. Something fun that will grab our attention and help us become more aware of ourselves and the world in which we live.
Wake Up! is a series of 54 human, playful exercises I have designed to do just that. Introduce them into your life one by one over a period of a few days or dip in as feels right for you – ‘I will help a stranger every day’; ‘I won’t buy anything beyond food and water’; ‘I will slow down and see the beauty in everything’; ‘I will only eat when I am hungry’… all help people break free of their habits and live a more fulfilled, engaged and creative life.
If we can gain a snippet of that feeling every day we will start to Wake Up! and become part of something bigger, brighter and more fulfilling.