I was on autopilot for many years. Sure, I was traveling through life with my eyes open and my hands on the wheel. But it seemed as if I was heading toward some pre-determined destination that had been chosen for me by others. In addition, it seemed that whenever I turned the wheel to guide me toward this destination, that there was no conscious thought behind my actions. Are you on autopilot?
Admittedly this can be a tough question to answer. First, it is always hard to be brutally honest with oneself. If you realize that you are traveling through life on autopilot, you may just need to make some big changes. Second, how can you tell if you are? Personally, I believe the best method is to look for particular signs. The following are 5 signs that are either relevant to my life or the lives of some close friends of mine.
1. You know exactly where you will be in 5 years (and it depresses you!)
In many circumstances, knowing where you will be in 5 years time is a good thing as it is a sign that you have direction, goals, and purpose. But if you know exactly where you will be, and it depresses you, it is time to wake up, grab control of the wheel, and change course. I have a few friends who studied accounting at university and yet hated the idea of becoming an accountant. Fast forward 5 years to the present and guess what? They are accountants, and they hate it.
2. Your career is what your parents wanted you to do
Many of us make decisions, whether consciously or unconsciously, to please other people (eg our parents). If you are happy with your choice of career then there is probably nothing wrong with this. But it may be worth looking in the mirror and asking yourself a few tough questions. For example, am I really happy with my choice of career? Am I doing this because it is what I want to do? Or am I doing this to please someone else?
3. You went straight from school to college to work
Have you ever taken some time out to explore the world, find new interests that you never knew existed, or just get to know yourself better? One piece of advice I was given by my parents was this: finish your study (ie school and college) first and then travel. Was this good advice? Maybe. Maybe not. The scary thing for them was that I would take off midway through my university course and then, upon return, would no longer want to complete it. In my opinion, if someone returns home after travel and is not compelled to finish their study, it is a fairly good sign that it does not reflect their calling.
4. You did well in school and automatically chose a college course that was the hard to gain acceptance into (eg medicine or law)
I did quite well at school. Whilst I was not eligible to study medicine or law, I could basically do whatever else I chose. I remember feeling that because I had a relatively high score, I should choose a course that required a high score for entry. The problem with this attitude is that I automatically discarded a number of other potential career paths because I felt I was above them.
5. Your interests and/ or hobbies are all the same as from when you were a child
Once again, this is not necessarily a bad thing. But consider this example from my life: I began playing tennis from a young age, and played competitively at a fairly high level for a number of years. At 21, I decided I wasn’t having fun anymore and stopped playing. In retrospect, I should have made this decision much earlier as by the time I quit I had not been enjoying myself for approximately 3 years. Why hadn’t I quit earlier? I believe it was because I started playing from such an early age and just didn’t know any different. Putting away the tennis racquet, though, was one of the best decisions I have ever made (although, as a side-note, these days I enjoy playing on a social basis). I started to spend time pursuing other interests that had lied dormant because tennis had consumed my life.
Photo by Andrew Vargas