December 17, 2018

Autopilot to Engaged

I have a theory.

Most people walk around on autopilot. Yesterday's behaviors predict what we'll do today. We have free choice (I think), but for the most part, human beings operate like machines. Wake up, scroll through social media, eat breakfast, check email, shower, get dressed, drive to work, park in the same spot, grab a cup of coffee, say hello to Sally, work until noon, get that sandwich you like from that restaurant you like, work until five o'clock, drive home, experience road rage, take the dog out, walk the same loop, get mad when she takes too long to poop, eat dinner, watch Netflix, goof around your phone, go to bed, repeat.

That's not my life. Parts of it are true (I do shower). Parts are true for everyone. But regardless of how we spend our days, most of our hours seem to be spent on autopilot. Ever drive somewhere, arrive at your destination, and think, "How the hell did I get here?" We have no memory of the trip itself because our brains actually do operate on autopilot sometimes. Scary, but true.

I wonder if the switch is stuck on autopilot more often than we realize.

Something magical happens every time I fast from something (dessert, Twitter, alcohol). I become more aware of what's happening around me. My brain is more focused. I'm more alert and, ultimately, more alive. Is that because fasting is a spiritual discipline? Perhaps. But there's another explanation. Maybe shaking up our routine flips the switch from autopilot to engaged? Maybe breaking our predictable patterns wakes us up? It's as though consciously making a decision to do something different from my normal routine stirs parts of my brain that are normally dormant.

Maybe we should choose something every month (or week, or day) to keep the switch permanently locked into the "engaged" position.

Chocolate? Social media? Television? What will wake you up?