By Kristin Allaben, Executive Assistant & Strategic Communications Specialist
I remember the first time someone told me to “be aware.”
I was 16, sitting in my driver’s education class. My instructor played a short video, showing a driver’s view as they drove a car down several side streets and took a few turns before parking. My instructor shut off the short 15 or 20 second video and asked the class to identify the first road sign the driver passed.
I had no idea. I remember feeling stunned into awareness. I was watching the road but certainly wasn’t paying attention to the things within view of the drive, like the road signs.
This alarmed me to the things going on around me that I may be missing by moving through life in autopilot. If you are in autopilot, you will miss what’s happening around you – all the information and opportunities your world has to offer.
The next major awareness wake-up call happened for me the year after I graduated from college. Working full time and going to graduate school online at night, I had a routine. Get up, go to work, come home, go for a run, eat, go to class, go to bed. Repeat.
I vividly remember working on an assignment for one of my courses when I realized the content being taught went against what I was being taught on the job. Awareness. Enlightenment. My wake-up call. I had a moment of clarity that pointed to the fact that the program was not for me. I chose to leave the program and focus on my career instead.
If I had been moving in autopilot, focused on just getting the work done vs. being tuned in to the information I was reading, I may have missed this critical moment to decide if the degree was worth the investment (both time and money).
Moral of the story: catch yourself when you’re moving in autopilot, but don’t confuse it with routine. Routine can be healthy and help you stay focused. Though you are in routine, you are still aware and still making choices on purpose. But when you’re in autopilot, you tune out much of what’s happening around you. You do things out of habit and risk the chance of missing some of the greatest opportunities life can present to you.
Be mindful of what’s happening around you. Tune in to be aware of the opportunities that come out of every situation. Life has a funny way of surprising you. Get out of habit and autopilot. Get into being mindful, aware and ready for life’s opportunities.