Are you truly living or are you simply existing? Are you in the driver’s seat or are you living your life on autopilot? Does life happen to you or do you make life happen?
Have you ever reached your destination only to realize that you can’t remember much of your trip? This is a perfect example of how your brain can automatically and seamlessly shift into autopilot mode. This can happen to you during virtually any task throughout the day, and even during long periods of your life, if you are not careful.
The problem with this way of life is that when we live on autopilot it feels like someone else is driving, not us. Scientists have suggested that this type of mindless behavior was intended to protect us but it can have the ability to disconnect us from truly living in the present moment.
Scientific research has determined that many of our decisions are greatly influenced by our unconscious mind as opposed to our conscious mind. Over time, through repetitive tasks the brain literally begins to imprint new neurological pathways. Many of these routine, sometimes trivial, tasks become part of our brain’s “unconscious decision-making system.” This prevents our brain from overloading, while making room for other conscious tasks that may require additional critical thinking. However, many of our modern routines have hijacked our lives— from binge watching Netflix to scrolling unconsciously through social media on our phones— making it difficult for many of us to consciously remain engaged in life.
Essentially, the mechanisms that are supposed to assist us are disengaging us from truly living.
In Professor Daniel Kahneman’s book, “Thinking, Fast, and Slow,” he highlights two ways of thinking labeled as System 1 and System 2. System 1 is unconscious, intuitive, automatic and quick thinking. System 2 is slow, conscious, mindful, effortful thinking.
Our brain tends to gravitate towards System 1 because it is comfortable and easy. System 2 requires effort and intention. The correct balance of both is necessary to survive and obtain optimum levels of human thinking and problem solving. Our brain has the innate desire to call upon System 1 type thinking rather than System 2, which may inhibit us from staying engaged in life. Simply put, staying engaged in life requires intention, which stems from System 2 type thinking.
It’s time to get back in the driver’s seat and become conscious, alert and aware of where your life is headed. Living with intention requires effort, and choosing which mode of thinking is totally up to you depending upon your life’s undertakings at hand. You must be a conscious driver continually being aware of when it’s the most appropriate time to shift to a different gear, or in this case two ways of thinking. Knowing how to balance between the two requires practice, patience and adaptability.
Life can seem easier when you let it happen but if you remain in autopilot mode throughout your life you are simply, existing not living. To live requires intention. Live with intention and get back in the driver’s seat of your life.
Positively Caviar, Inc. is a nonprofit organization focused on a message of positivity and optimism. The Nucleus Team writes a column focused on mental and physical health tips, scientific studies, nutrition facts and stories that are positive in nature to support a purposeful and positive lifestyle. To learn more about the organization, visit: staybasedandpositive.com