Does your life feel the same day after day? Does this sound familiar... Take the kids to school, commute to work, feel tired in the evening and say nothing to your husband because you simply have no energy? Or are you struggling to grow your start-up doing sales call after sales call, feeling exhausted? Or are you just tolerating that nagging feeling that weeks go by but there's more to life than what you are experiencing?
It's very easy to become complacent, no matter what your life circumstances are, whether you have a career, run your small business or stay at home with kids. We all develop our own little routine and then stick to it. Many people live their whole life on an autopilot!
Two friends of mine have a lovely little design business and they have trusted me the job of a mentor, which I'm very honoured about. This means every three months or so I run a workshop for them and nudge them to direct their business towards growth. Two weeks ago the topic for our session was 'how to increase sales'. The girls were worried, stressed out and exhausted. They were putting a lot of time and effort into sales already and working long hours. Just a thought of increasing sales was stressful as they thought the solution would have to be to do more of what they were already doing.
We have all been there. You want a change but you think there's simply no way you can do more of what you are already doing! You feel stuck as there's no room for movement. The train is going so fast that there's no time to think, just repeat what happened yesterday or else, the whole house of cards will come crashing down.
If you get this feeling you are most likely living on an 'autopilot'.
How would you answer the following questions...
Do you frequently find yourself saying 'No' to new opportunities? You simply don't have any time!
Are you afraid to try something outside your comfort zone? What if it fails!
Do you think if you do more of the same thing you get better results? At least I know what I'm doing!
Do you feel uncomfortable reaching out to people outside your everyday contacts? What if they say no!
Is it difficult to come up with new ideas? What I know serves me just fine!
If you answered 'yes' to most of the questions above you may be living life on an 'autopilot', reacting to situations rather than actively driving to your own destiny.
Most of us have got the capacity to be happy but we haven't developed this side of our personality. It takes time and effort. The characteristics that you want to flourish within you need action plans to bring them out. Prof. Steve Peters.
The reason most of us function on an 'autopilot' is the way our brain has developed over thousands of years. One part of the brain thinks logically but the other part is virtually automatic and thinks for us without our input and is based on emotion. This part of the brain is much faster and it's task is to keep us safe from danger. This was very useful in the jungle, but it's less helpful today as it keeps you from developing into the person you truly are. It keeps you on the 'autopilot' avoiding anything unfamiliar!
The 'autopilot' function saves you time and brain energy. You know how to react when people ask you to do something a little scary, you say 'No'. Your primitive part of the brain simply wants you to feel safe. For the same reason you don't look for new ideas or answers to your problems because they may feel uncomfortable, though there's no lives at risk.
An 'autopilot' can kick in any time in your life, and on all levels of professional or personal development.
When we get comfortable, we stop searching. When we stop searching, we stop learning. When we stop learning, we shop growing. Welcome: the 'autopilot'.
I could have kept marketing DrivenWoman through the usual channels (Facebook, web links, word of mouth, etc.) but I didn't want to become trapped by my new 'autopilot'. Starting DrivenWoman was scary and exiting at the start, but like all things, it turns into a familiar the longer you do it. As soon as I started feeling comfortable I recognised this, I interfered and I committed to something new and potentially very scary (though no lives will be at risk). I will be bringing my public speaking up to the next level, I've signed up to a top public speaking coaching club and will be starting my training in June. (Wish me luck, this is scary!)
Mentoring my friend's company, I was able to help them to see that simply doing more of what you do now and to expect a different result is, in fact, insanity. They will have to stop looking at quantity of their sales efforts and start thinking of the quality. They will have to step outside of their comfort zone of cold calling and look for actions that have 'leverage', ie make what they do newsworthy. I'll expect them to be on the morning TV and speaking in public forums very soon!
"But I have always been successful in everything I do."
This was my friend's reaction to my suggestions, and it unfortunately sums it up for most women. If you always expect to succeed you are never trying something new. You are living life on your autopilot!
We girls are thought to be perfect, not brave. (Watch Reshma Saujani's TED talk 'Teach girls bravery, not perfection'.)
The only way to get out of the 'autopilot' is to be brave. And to be brave you must expose yourself to being vulnerable, to a potential failure. Because when you try new things you will occasionally fail. But that's ok.
Brené Brown is the leading researcher on the topics of vulnerability, shame and being brave. If you haven't watched her TED talk on vulnerability yet, it's time.
If you are comfortable, you are not growing. Expect and embrace periods of discomfort in your life, and step outside of your comfort zone. Brené Brown
Don't let your daily patterns become an 'autopilot' and steal your life. Before you know it, years have gone by and you haven't done anything for yourself, it's time to get out of the rut. The first step is to realise that an 'autopilot' is happening. And second step is to do commit to something new and different. Book a course, change a habit, or join DrivenWoman and start exploring new options and your vulnerability in a safe environment.
I wish you all a brave week!