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  • Writer's pictureDr Maike Neuhaus

Living on autopilot: Are you clocked into life, or clocked out of it?

5 self-leadership prompts to activate more agency and control in your life

Our brain is an incredible machine. So incredible, it takes in all of the information around us and can use one ‘system’ in the brain to make decisions automatically – decisions we aren’t even aware of!

When we rely on this autopilot system too much though (which can happen, especially when we are overwhelmed), the end result can be a daily drifting through life, feeling mindless or like you are sleepwalking and existing rather than really living.

You may wake up and feel a bit ‘blah’ or stuck – but not realise or know how to change this either.

Living on autopilot: Are you clocked into life, or clocked out of it?
Living on autopilot: Are you clocked into life, or clocked out of it?

Cue self-leadership: actively taking control of decisions and ownership over your life.

Ultimately, it is living life with intention and this involves being aware and mindful about how you spend your time and actions you take on a daily basis, so that it aligns with a vision you have for your future.

Here are five common signs you may find throughout your day that indicate you may benefit from harnessing your autopilot tendency and activating your inner leader a little more:

1. You are doing something to ‘fit in'.

We are wired to ‘fit in’ rather than stand out in a crowd – evolutionarily this had it’s (many!) benefits – not getting eaten by an animal and therefore surviving being one.

However, this urge to ‘fit in’ runs strong in us still and often we find ourselves agreeing or doing activities, making certain purchases, to fit into a group rather than because we really want to/are interested in it. Staying in a group keeps us safe – yes, but it also comes at a cost to us and what we truly want that will bring us happiness.

Self-leadership cue to ask yourself to increase your self-knowledge:

  • If I wasn’t doing this in a group, would I choose to do it by myself?

  • Am I making this choice for myself or for how other people will view me?

2. You do what you ‘should’ do, rather than what you really want to do.

This on is similar to the above, but more based on bigger life decisions. When was the last time you checked in with yourself about what you really want to be doing – in your career, life, spare time etc?

So many of us ‘follow the path’ created for us and let expectations from others influence our own choices, including wider societal and cultural expectations. We hear 'finish school, get a ‘good job’, settle down, buy a house, have a family' – follow this and you will have a ‘good life’, right?

We all know that is not guaranteed. Moreover, you may be left feeling unfulfilled, like something is missing from your life because you are following the ‘should’ thoughts, rather than the heart decisions. Those are often much more aligned with our values, even if they don’t make logical sense to others (like turning down that job or promotion because it would impact on your ability to show up for your family in the way you may want to).

Self-leadership cue to ask yourself to increase your self-knowledge:

  • Am I doing this because I should or because I want to do it?

  • How does this decision feel to me – does it sit in alignment with who I am and what I want?

3. You don’t feel unhappy or depressed, but you are missing opportunities and activities that bring you joy, contentment and ‘flow’ in your days.

Participating in engaging and meaningful activities is paramount to our sense of wellbeing, happiness and enjoyment of daily life. This could be anything from work, creative outlets such as pottery and painting; active activities such as walking, running, dancing; and connected activities such as a good chat with a friend or family member, or mindfully playing with your kids.

Achieving a state of ‘flow’ helps us to feel in tune with our lives and connects us closely to what lights us up inside. Without this we can feel disengaged from our lives because we are passive (i.e., watching tv) rather than active participants.

Self-leadership cue to ask yourself to increase your self-knowledge:

  • When was the last time I did something fun, and what was it?

  • What did I used to do for fun as a child?

  • What could I try now that may help me get into flow?

4. You aren’t sure of your goal or purpose

Not everyone has to know what they want to do with their life. Some of us will spend our whole life figuring that out – that is half the joy of it. But there is a difference between drifting along aimlessly without any thought about it, and pursuing your purpose or following your meaning/joy in life.

Being actively curious about life and setting yourself small goals or milestones can help us to feel like we are making progress – even when progress is towards intangible goals like our life’s purpose.

Self-leadership cue to ask yourself for goal-setting:

  • What am I working towards here?

  • What is the smallest, very next step I can take?

  • Where will my curiosity lead me to next?

5. You find it hard to get yourself to do the things you want to do

There are so many reasons why we might not do what we want to do (you can read more about that here). What is important to know, however, is how to cue into ourselves to know our triggers, what pushes us to disengage or avoid situations and return to autopilot.

Cueing into what we each need as individuals to feel a sense of groundedness and wellbeing, so we can show up for ourselves each day, is also essential for happiness and resilience – cultivating grit so that when a setback happens we can work our way through it, even when it is hard.

Self-leadership cue to ask yourself for self-regulation:

  • What helps me to feel grounded and connected to myself and my surroundings?

  • What are my limiting beliefs that get in the way of me truly harnessing all of my energy in my life?

  • What easy pleasures do I give into that get in the way of me doing what I really want to do?

Self-leadership is like switching off the auto-pilot and hopping into the driver’s seat, winding down the window and enjoying all of the sights, smells, sounds and emotions of the ride. It might take more energy – sure, but it also means a more present, enjoyable and ultimately fulfilling journey through life.

Do you want to delve more into self-leadership to fully step into your drivers seat?

Let me help you towards your health and happiness goals and access a cheer squad along the way by joining our beautiful community on our socials – we’d love to have you. Also, for more structure and coaching, be sure to join our waitlist for our next FRESH START group – due to open January 2022. Don’t forget to sign up to my monthly newsletter too, and get free access to our most recent free self-leadership resource.


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