At times, we all feel dissatisfied.
At times, we all feel stuck.
Although many aspects of our lives may be fulfilling and fantastic, many of us, when we think about it, still find ourselves asking ‘is this it?’
The nature of life is such that we get carried away with our own busyness. 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 honor, a behavior we are often not actively aware we are doing. Author and researcher Brené Brown succinctly explains “I often say that when they start having 12-step meetings for busy-aholics, they’ll need to rent out football stadiums. We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.”
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Our relationship with this avalanche of demands on our attention is becoming increasingly fraught as we are becoming hyper-stimulated and our only way to deal with it is to filter stuff out.
Every day we are bombarded by ever-increasing amounts of stimulus. “We now consume about 100,000 words each day from various media, which is a whopping 350 percent increase, measured in bytes, over what we handled back in 1980,” explains the journalist Winifred Gallagher. To cope, our subconscious naturally seeks out things it is familiar with so it can save energy. Therefore, as time goes by it is likely we will develop more routines and habits as a result. We need habits to survive, but when we are stuck in constant habit loops we are numb to the world and lose our shine.
Much of our life we therefore spend asleep or on standby. It’s a waking sleep; we look as if we are functioning perfectly and seem efficient as far as working through our to-do lists, though we are anything but conscious. We are on autopilot; going through the motions, like zombie worker ants.
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, or buying the same item twice without realizing, even turning up at the office on a day off.
In this mode, we become reactive to the world and our emotions, and therefore bounce around like a pinball rather than responding consciously. To cope, we overindulge in sugary foods, caffeine, and alcohol and then escape into the world of social media, television, gaming, and film.
We are surviving this onslaught of stimulus, but by numbing ourselves as protection, we are not living life to the fullest.
The key to getting off autopilot more often is to embrace new experiences. However small they may be. 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!, my new book, is a series of human, playful experiences 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…’ All of these exercises help people break free of their habits and live a more fulfilled, engaged and creative life.
When we tap into who we really are and learn how to get off autopilot deliberately, we have a genuine opportunity to make sure that every day counts.
Chris Baréz-Brown is an author, speaker and founder of Upping Your Elvis, which helps people and businesses unleash their creative potential. His new book, Wake Up!, is available wherever books are sold. Wake Up! the app is available in the App Store and at Google Play. @BarezBrown
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