Life moves fast.
So fast, in fact, that many of us use apps to help us keep everything straight (I even have an app that helps remind me to drink enough water throughout the day). Our busy lives demand a lot of energy, and so it’s easy to try to put as many things as possible on autopilot.
And for some things, like drinking water, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The danger with autopilot is that sometimes we use it so frequently that we forget how to fly on our own. For some aspects of our lives, autopilot is actually detrimental to our ability to be present to our experiences. We live through things instead of dwelling in them. We miss out on squeezing out every last drop of life because we’re more focused on keeping all of the balls in the air.
Ask a person who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness which experiences really matter. Suddenly every moment takes on a whole new meaning–filled with opportunities that might never come again. For many, the choice of how to fill those moments becomes laser-focused. From work to fun to rest, each moment is spent with conscious purpose.
When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer over ten years ago, it was the first time in my life that I really began to contemplate what it meant to live in my experiences with her instead of through them. And that led to a larger meditation on my life: that I wanted to experience my most valued moments with a deeper sense of intention.
I wanted my life, my relationships, and my experiences to be lived with purpose. I didn’t just want my life to happen to me.
Because when you let life happen to you, you live your life reacting. When you live your life with intention, you have a consciousness of why you are making certain choices, how they are affecting you, and who you are becoming as a result of those choices.
…It’s the difference between mindlessly eating a bag of chips and thoughtfully choosing healthy food, mindfully preparing it, and savoring the experience of enjoying your meal.
…It’s the difference between getting lost in random social media for hours and setting aside time to virtually connect with people from a carefully chosen list of the friends you really care about.
…It’s the difference between doing something out of habit and doing something because it is a choice you want to consistently make.
When we live life intentionally, we’re able to be much more present to the enjoyable moments and feel much less regret about the things we choose to put lower on the priority list. We consciously decide what goes on autopilot and what experiences we savor, rather than letting autopilot make the decisions for us.
Living life with intention means purposefully focusing our energy on the things most valuable to us.
These days, I’m trying to be the one who decides what goes on autopilot and what doesn’t, rather than just letting autopilot happen. After all, I think autopilot is necessary for a lot of things–it’s impossible to be 100% present and focused on every single action, every moment of the day. I don’t think I’d want that, either–it would detract from the significance of the things I do want to prioritize. But the point is, I’m the one deciding. And for the things I’ve decided which to be present, I’m all in.
Because life is too filled with amazing experiences to give the reins of my life to mindless activity. I refuse to miss the good stuff because I’d gotten into the habit of scrolling through statuses of people I don’t really know.
Autopilot is nice sometimes. But the truth is, I really love it when I am the one flying.
Today, I choose to fly.