Are you on Autopilot or Manual Control?

Driving into town, on my way to yoga, I found myself at my old office. How’d that happen? After all, they aren’t even in the same neighborhood. Well, I drove the route to that office for many years and autopilot took over as I took the familiar exit rather than paying attention to where I intended to go.

There are times when being on autopilot is an efficient and energy-saving way to go. Routines move us smoothly from one thing to the next. This personal ordering of daily activities frees the mind to consider other things. That’s why so many of us get inspired in the shower, our mind is free to wander. There are other times when routine can be disastrous.

Susie, a registered nurse, works in the operating room at a hospital. She has the option of using some automated systems as she attends her patient, and much of the time that’s a good thing. But imagine this scenario: Late in the surgery, as the procedure is coming to a close, Sally notices something wrong. Her patient’s color looks off; he’s slowly turning blue. She looks over at the monitors and sees all the numbers look fine. Yet he’s getting bluer.

The numbers look fine. He looks blue. This is definitely not the time to stick with autopilot. This situation calls for immediate manual control. She turns up the O2 level, stabilizes her patient, and averts a disaster.

Autopilot vs manual control. We may not be medical professionals, but we too have both these resources at our disposal. We too make choices in different situations between being on autopilot or going with manual control. The key is to figure out which situation calls for one and which calls for the other.

Often autopilot kicks in when we are upset or angry. We lash out "automatically" and the aftermath usually ends us up in an old familiar place of feeling guilty or ashamed afterwards and having to clean up the emotional mess. Slowing down and paying attention to what's happening within and responding differently reduces the fallout; it's manual control.

The nurse looked at the machine; it told her the patient was getting enough oxygen. She looked at her patient; his face told her that he wasn’t. She had a decision to make: continue on autopilot or switch to manual control.

You have those choices to make, too. You run, but forgot your pedometer; does it still count? Your car is on cruise control, then the unexpected occurs and you need manual control.You walk into work the way you do everyday, with the usual hellos when you notice the tense atmosphere at your co-worker’s desk; instead of walking on by, you pause to check in with him.

Autopilot vs manual control. Both rely on data. The trick is to understand the data you have. The information and insight you gather from listening to yourself, recognizing your internal signals and noticing what’s around you will go a long way towards helping you decide which is better—autopilot or manual control—in any situation that presents itself. You’ll find your way toward trusting whether it’s time for autopilot or manual control.

Posted in conflict resolution, coping with change, detour, family relationships, flexibility, self-help on 11/03/2017 09:07 am

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