Don’t underestimate the power of your autopilot.
Learning to drive a manual-transmission car is the best metaphor I can think of to explain mindlessness, and the relationship between the conscious and autopilot parts of your mind.
Automatic transmissions may work just fine to translate your intended direction via the steering wheel, gas pedal and brakes. But people are often drawn to the manual transmission because it gives you a different level of control.
If you haven’t yet, coming to understand how to operate a manual transmission can be very eye-opening. You learn that an automatic transmission is actually directing many more functions than you had ever realized needed attention. Decisions about what gear to use, at what speed, and many others, are all conveniently made without us even being aware of them. But if the automatic transmission starts to have problems – slow acceleration, stalling, or abrupt speed changes – you have little recourse for control without manual options.
Whether it’s driving a manual or spending less time living on auto-pilot, the solution is to increase awareness of the mechanisms in play and improve your responsiveness to them. Increasing your tangible knowledge can be a good first step. But knowing and doing are two separate steps.
Understanding the mechanisms in play can help you see things more accurately, and that can be the beginning of positive change. But the doing is your own creation. It’s very tempting to look outside of yourself for answers. But the most vital information is already within you.
Jessica is a psychotherapist, relationship and addiction expert, and creator of The Visible Self ® and VisibleU™ system. Over the last 17 years she has helped hundreds of busy adults create healthier habits and more satisfying relationships.
Jessica received her Master’s in Applied Psychology from New York University, and completed mediation training at the Columbia University School of Law. She has held numerous clinical roles, managed clinical operations for a national EAP, and advised executives on employee-relations concerns at Fortune 1000 companies. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband and a master instructor of mindful living …their Border Collie/Pointer-mix “Abby”.