How to stop living life on autopilot

Living life on autopilot? Here’s how you can turn it off

Living on autopilot mode prevents you from seizing opportunities in life and enjoying the little moments of your journey.

It’s Saturday morning. You have been looking forward to this day so you can relax and hang out with your friends. But as soon as you wake up and brush your teeth, instead of getting ready to step out of the house, you open your laptop to check emails. Unwittingly, you find yourself working again. Can you relate to this? You automatically slip into a routine and you don’t even realise until a few minutes later. This phenomenon can be referred to as living life on autopilot.

According to a study conducted by Marks and Spencer, 96 percent of 3000 people surveyed admitted to deciding something on autopilot mode. This happens when you do the same thing over and over again like a knee-jerk reaction. You form habits and develop routines that enable you to work like a machine. Yes, autopilot mode has certain benefits as it allows you to do your work quickly and correctly, like clockwork.

But living on autopilot mode prevents you from seizing opportunities in life and enjoying the little moments of your journey. Essentially, you have found yourself a comfortable spot, which you don’t want to come out from. At the same time, you develop a habit of pleasing others because you don’t want to upset anyone. For instance, you would say yes to plans you don’t want to be a part of, agree to work late or hang out after work when you’d rather go home. It stops you from leading your life the way you want to live.

Over time, you become resentful and even depressed. Dr Mark Williamson, one of the study contributors, says, “When running on autopilot, we often make unhelpful choices, so we feel trapped and like we’re living someone else’s life.”

Here are a few ways that can help you turn off your autopilot mode and live life the way you want to.

Identify what matters to you

In life, we all have some kind of obligations to fulfil. Whether it is meeting someone after work, agreeing to work late, or attending a college reunion, when life runs on autopilot mode, you may find it hard to decline requests, no matter how much you want to. A tendency to please others is developed deep within our psyche. Your default mode says ‘yes’ without taking into account your own desire or will. This builds resentment and increases stress. This is why you need to identify what matters to you. So, the next time, you can evaluate your needs first before saying yes to anyone. It’ll give you the time to think, check your calendar, and truly know whether or not you want to oblige their request. When you are aware of your priorities, you can make decisions consciously.

Break your daily routine with a new habit

Your autopilot mode switches on when you follow the same routine every day. A good way to stop this is to keep trying new things. Interrupt your daily routine with a new activity. It could be anything from reading a newspaper to eating a dish you haven’t tried before. Commit to doing one different thing each week. This will not only break the monotony but also spark new passions. Adding new hobbies can revitalise you and make you happier as you are challenging yourself a little bit every day.

Think before you react

When you are running on autopilot, you make decisions and react to things without thinking about the consequences. Because you are used to doing something a certain way, you find it difficult to break out of the habit. But your decisions or reactions may not be ideal for every situation. They should be thought of carefully before your turn them into action. So, if you want to turn off your autopilot mode, pause for a moment to think before making a decision, no matter how insignificant it may seem. This will help you be in control of how you react to a situation.

Step out of your comfort zone

Living life on autopilot is equivalent to staying in your comfort zone. You don’t challenge yourself anymore. Like a robot with no ambition, you complete your tasks and head home. You are unable to recognise an opportunity even if it’s right next to you, thus halting your growth. Your daily routine dictates how you live your life. To get out of autopilot mode, you need to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to try new things. Learning occurs when you test your limits. Take a risk and expand your horizons. This awareness can help you achieve success and stress-free life.

Practice mindfulness meditation

Have you ever finished an assignment without knowing how you did it? Can you recall reading a book without actually paying attention to it? This happens when you run on autopilot mode. You have no memory of how things happened. It is the opposite of being mindful. On the other hand, being mindful allows you to be present in every moment. You are consciously paying attention to the now with curiosity and acceptance. When you practice mindfulness meditation, you increase your ability to stay focused. This helps you maintain your calm when you are up against a challenging situation and helps you deactivate your autopilot mode.

Connect with others

Interact with as many people as you can. When you interact with others, you are present in the moment. You are aware of what’s happening around you. So, next time, let’s say when you are having lunch, don’t use your electronic devices. Rather, talk to someone sitting next to you. You are less likely to feel on autopilot mode when you are spending time with others, be it your colleague, partner or children.


How does breaking your daily routine with a new habit contribute to turning off autopilot mode?

Introducing a new habit disrupts the monotony of daily life and encourages you to be more present and engaged. It creates excitement, making you more conscious of your actions and breaking the cycle of autopilot living.

What role does thinking before reacting play in turning off autopilot mode?

Pausing to think before reacting allows you to respond thoughtfully rather than impulsively. This practice fosters self-awareness and prevents you from acting out of habit or autopilot reactions.

How does stepping out of your comfort zone contribute to turning off autopilot mode in life?

Stepping out of your comfort zone challenges the familiar and prompts you to be more engaged in the present moment.

How does practicing mindfulness meditation help in breaking free from autopilot living?

Mindfulness meditation cultivates awareness of the present moment, helping you observe your thoughts, feelings, and experiences without judgment.


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