I was having a LinkedIn conversation with a co-worker the other day and I don’t remember how it came up, but I shared how about once a week either my husband or I say, “WTF??!! We live in Mexico!! When did THAT happen??” She shared that she says the same, but inserts “Indiana” instead of “Mexico.” For her, she is in the Midwest for her children’s benefit. For us, we are in Mexico following my husband’s dream. Either way, we both look at our lives and say, “how did we get here?”
As a child of the 80’s, I loved the band the Talking Heads. Their song Once in a Lifetime has taken on a different meaning for my adult self. Or maybe the reality of the song has just sunk in. Like many critics, I initially thought the song was about the consumerism of the American culture. Now I see and experience it as David Byrne explained on NPR, “We’re largely unconscious. You know, we operate half-awake or on autopilot and end up, whatever, with a house and family and job and everything else, and we haven’t really stopped to ask ourselves, ‘How did I get here?'”
Yes, my husband and I consciously chose to come to Mexico. Yes, we consciously chose to stay here. But before then, we were on the autopilot David Byrne talks about – get the degree, get the job, get the promotion, buy the house, keep up with the Jones’. We were unconsciously moving through someone else’s system and found ourselves disillusioned and unsatisfied. Now we are only slightly awake. We consciously came to a new world, but it still feels strange because it was not the plan we had when we were younger. Every day feels like a “how did I get here” moment.
Living unconsciously is not living fully. Living on autopilot keeps us trapped and depressed. Take some time every week to check in. Where are you spending your time? Who are you with? Do you feel satisfied and invigorated by your current life? What are you choosing to do? What do you feel like others are choosing for you? What fear do you have about following your own path, your own true desire? How would your life change – good and bad – if you took the leap and followed your definition of life?
It is very easy to fall back into autopilot after taking a risk. I see this with my husband and me. We made a big change, and now slowly and sometimes not so slowly, we are falling back into our old routines and our old thought patterns. For instance, whether we are in the States or in Mexico, we find ourselves consumed by our work. We have changed location, but we have not changed our thinking. We have not changed our belief about life. We have made some conscious decisions for positive change and yet we are still challenged by unconsciously falling into the autopilot of our previous beliefs.
What I am working on now is to be fully awake, fully aware. To do this, I first need to be present. I must turn off the autopilot and make conscious choices in each and every moment. Besides being present, I also need to give myself permission to choose. Often, we take the dictates of society, family and peers as the gospel truth, the only way to live. To be fully awake, it is important to embrace the reality that in every moment we have a choice. There are no absolutes. Being fully awake not only means freedom, but also means we need to take full responsibility for our choices and our life.
Where are you living (or really “not living”) on autopilot? Where are you slightly awake? Have you had moments of being fully awake? Share your thoughts with us here.