Even the most innovative of us have an inclination towards doing what is familiar to us.  What we eat, what we wear, the routes we drive, what we read or watch, and the list goes on.  The majority of our decisions are made on autopilot, and for the most part this is okay.

But your autopilot will not help you make improvements.

Your autopilot just helps you to stay in your routine.  And so now, anytime I find myself with a reoccurring frustration,  I turn my autopilot off and I let my Captain (my conscious self) lead.  What am I frustrated with?  How can I change it?  It sounds simple and easy, but I really challenge you to think about one or two things that are a daily aggravation to you and why you haven’t just implemented a solution.  And sometimes that may mean asking (a friend or Google) for ideas.

A practical example:  Every time we get in the car two of my four girls are begging to sit in the middle.  My autopilot said to myself, “I don’t want to hear them fight over the middle, so neither will sit there.  They each get a side and the baby will sit in the middle.”   At the same time, I noticed my back was aching every time I had to lean over to place and buckle the baby into her middle seat.  One morning my Captain overrode my autopilot and said, “Why are you fighting with the girls at the expense of your back?”  And from that day forward, the baby sits behind the passenger seat and the two toddlers have one seat in the middle and one behind the driver.  And they rotate sitting in the middle.  I’m even able use the middle seat as leverage when someone is misbehaving: “The middle seat is a reward.  If you are not a good listener, you will lose your turn to sit there.”  And my back is saved.  Now, this only works because my girls are close in age and use the same car seat.  So keep in mind that your decision has to be practical.

Another example:  Before he took the big leap out of the corporate world, my husband had two route choices for driving into work.  Route A was a 20 minute drive if there were no accidents.  If there was an accident on the route, it became a 45 min plus drive.   Accidents occurred very frequently on this route.  Route B was a 30 minute drive with various side roads that could be used as alternates if an accident occurred, meaning less of a time impact if there were an accident.  But even so, accidents rarely occurred on route B.  It may sound crazy but his autopilot said, “You take the shorter route.  Maybe even build in the cushion of extra time in case there is an accident.”  But eventually his Captain overrode his autopilot and decided that having a consistent start time at work made more sense.  It said to his manager, I am dependable.

Last thought: Is there something you spend a lot of time doing, and you wish you could have that time back?  Your autopilot may say, “But I have to do this myself (yard work, house chores, grocery-shopping).  I can’t afford to pay someone.  It doesn’t make sense to have another person do this.”  Turn off your autopilot.  Ask your captain what you would do with the time you get back by having someone else do whatever your “this” is.  Can you pay your neighborhood babysitter or a friend who is financially down to make a weekly grocery run for you?  Can you hire a trusted someone to do a few hours of housework? And in return, you spend a few extra hours doing something that is more valuable to you than grocery shopping or housework?

-Inyam

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