Is your life stuck on autopilot? Here’s how to start flying again.

May 29, 2017 | Well-being, Women at work

So often, people can find themselves living on autopilot. Going through the motions of living without really feeling alive. Living with very little intention on a daily basis.

If you find yourself feeling like you are living in groundhog day, or feeling disillusioned with your life or that you are only existing rather than truly enjoying your life, the chances are that you are stuck in the autopilot mode more often than not.

It can lead to you feeling like you have no choices and that you are stuck in a place that isn’t necessarily where you want to be. It can feel like you have lost your identity. Or lost your sense of fun. I often hear people saying they have no options or that they just have to put their heads down and get through it all.

According to the ‘Autopilot Britain’ Study conducted for Marks & Spencer (with an expert panel including Action for Happiness) 96% of the adult population are living on autopilot. During Mental Health Awareness Week, the Mental Health Foundation’s Mark Rowland spoke about the people that are struggling to cope with everyday life, feeling like they are on a treadmill and have very little choices open to them. Both the Mental Health Foundation and the #SpenditWell Campaign being run by Marks & Spencer are raising awareness of the issue that with the pressure of modern day life more and more people are getting by, trying to survive rather than leading a life of purpose, connection and choices that gives them joy, and that together we need to make changes. We need to prioritise the wellbeing of ourselves and others, and make the moments matter.

Does it really have to be this way?

No it doesn’t! There are always choices, just sometimes they are buried beneath your routines, expectations, and everything else that is on your plate. It is really easy to get into a place where things just happen because that’s what happens. You can find yourself making decisions without really thinking about them. Saying yes or no to things without considering whether there are other options.

The definition of autopilot is:
A device for keeping an aircraft on a set course without the intervention of the pilot.

When used in the context of talking about human behaviour it is the habits, the patterns, the routines that allow you to keep functioning without needing the conscious intervention from yourself (you are the pilot of your life). Is this really how you want to live your life?

In a number of contexts the automatic behaviour serves you well and allows you to be effective in your daily living, conserving your mental capacity for the tasks that require your full attention and decision making abilities. There is research that indicates that there is a limit to our conscious decision making resources in a given day and that we need to use them wisely. However, when it comes to choices in your life, autopilot is not going to serve you well long-term. If you are going through life feeling like it is happening to you, rather than you are leading it, it can have a detrimental effect on your wellbeing.

But what do we mean by living with intention? The definition of intention is ‘a thing intended, an aim or plan’.

It is making a conscious decision to do something or not do something. Often the challenge for people is noticing when and where they actually have these opportunities to make a conscious decision, because the status quo is so ingrained. Once you stop to take notice you will be amazed at all the points in your daily life where this a choice, where you could take a different route rather than the one you always choose because that’s just what you do.

How can I switch the autopilot mode off?

Which way are you choosing?There are some simple steps that you can take to start spending more time in the ‘intentional’ zone:

Set yourself some mini-challenges.

  • Next time you find yourself doing something that you have done a million times before, stop and ask yourself what other options are there? What would someone else consider?
  • eat something different this week, cook something from a recipe book, choose from a different menu;
  • go somewhere you haven’t been before
  • take a different route than your usual one
  • try a different activity
  • eat outdoors (I dare you!)


Adevntures-for-your-wellbeingPlan some micro-adventures (Alastair Humphrey’s is a big advocate of this). You don’t need to wait until the weekends or your next annual leave. There are loads of things you can do without needing huge amounts of investment in time, money and planning

  • what could you do after work? what places are there on your doorstep that you never visit?
    what could you do at the weekend, instead of your normal routine?

Start being more aware of the times you are doing things ‘just because’. Notice it. Be curious.
Give yourself permission to say No. If it doesn’t feel right or make you feel ‘hell yeah’, say No.
Give yourself permission to say Yes.
Mindfulness practice can be a great way to help you be more present in the now.


For some people, becoming more aware of it and making a conscious choice to step out of the comfort zone and the status quo, is enough to boost your well being and leave you feeling more alive.

For others you may need to rediscover what it actually means to be you, to work out what your purpose is all about so that you can feel more able to live intentionally. If you feel like you are too far buried beneath the daily grind of existing, coaching can really help you open up your eyes again to the things that have been lost. Together we can get you to a place where you can become clear on your intentions and how to really start living your life on your terms. If you want to live rather than exist book yourself a session. I can’t wait to help you get started!


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