How to determine if you are training and living life in "Autopilot" mode and what you can do turn it off!
Ever driven home from somewhere, through traffic lights and stop signs, only to arrive and realise you didn't really fully recall doing the drive. It's probably a drive you have driven many times and your brain and body just shifted into auto-pilot - while your mind was probably thinking about something else or sometimes nothing at all. Auto-pilot of the brain is a real thing - research has found that your brain has an ability to utilise structures called the default mode network (DMN) to go through many functions without really paying much attention. The example of driving a familiar road is one, tying your shoelaces or making a cup of tea is another. Autopilot mode isn't all bad - and in fact for familiar activities where you don't want to overthink too much and just allow yourself to perform, a well tuned Auto-pilot mode can be helpful. BUT for most people Autopilot mode can mean that when you need to be intentional, and use mindfulness - well - you don't - you just go through the motions. Missing many opportunities to be present, listen to your body and take in your surroundings and the full experience. Here are some cues that might indicate your in Autopilot mode:
You feel unhappy at times but don't know why?
You don't REALLY know WHY you're doing/thinking/choosing what you are
When you're successful and reach goals you still don't feel fulfilled
You don't know what makes you happy or what you want to do - often following others on their journeys
You have low energy and find yourself feeling unmotivated or without mojo often.
Autopilot can often occur when you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out by situations and your brain does a great job of switching you into the easier mode of autopilot rather than the more purposeful, mindful mode of being intentional. As I mentioned its OK to do some things in autopilot - but not everything!
Things that require logical reasoning, managing personal relationships, learning new things and building new habits can NOT be done well in Auto Pilot.
So if some of this is ringing true (and I wouldn't be surprised if it is this year as we are caught in a bizarre inertia out of our control) Here are some tips related to our training that can help you get back in control of the direction you are going:
Increase awareness in your behaviour, make notes and comments in training peaks about how sessions felt, how you felt, how you interpreted the workout - what you learnt.
Remember your goal and your why - keep this mind and let it guide and inspire your actions. When you know what you are doing and why - you tend to stay in your lane - and stay more present in your training.
Take time to pause taking time for rest and reflection is a great chance to make space to pay attention to what you have and what you need to be doing. Without this pause - the momentum can throw you into auto-pilot. Take time each week to read over your training, to write comments, to look over how you are doing and areas you doing well at and those you could keep working on
Keep seeking challenges outside of your comfort zone - if you slip into auto-pilot you can lose the drive to challenge yourself. Discomfort is a doorway to personal discovery and growth. Your biggest learning opportunities are when you stretch beyond what you can do today.
Make good decisions - take time to think things through, your brain can have a tendency to pick the easy route, or the more comfortable route - but not necessarily the right route for where you want to go. Take your time with big decisions thinking them through thoroughly