Is Your Life on Autopilot?
When my Dad was 18 years old, he took a road trip from Pensacola, FL, to South Carolina. He didn’t have a GPS, cell phone, or debit card. All he had was his friend’s address, a map, and cash.
The map was used for trip preparation to map which major roadways he should expect to hit along the way. Other than that it was for emergencies only, because the interstate road signs pointed him the direction he needed to go.
Thinking about my Dad making that trip on his own without the technology we have today, blows my mind. I realize that I’ve become completely reliant on technology to take control and literally direct me exactly where I need to go. It tells me how long it’s going to take to get there, if there are alternative routes, and if there are traffic jams along the way.
Why am I telling you this? I can promise it’s not to sell you on the benefits of Google maps and a GPS. I’m just going to assume almost everyone has bought into those technological advancements.
I’m sharing this because upon deeper reflection, how I have been living vs. how I want to live are very similar to the differences between my Dad’s road trip and how I travel today.
How I have been living is what I’ve deemed as “autopilot.” I’ve let society and other people’s expectations and opinions plug in the coordinates to my GPS and I’ve followed diligently.
- Get good grades. Check.
- Go to college. Check.
- Get a job. Check.
It definitely gets me somewhere…but is that somewhere the place I want to get to?
How I want to live (and am working on living now!) is what I’ve deemed a purposeful life. I have my destination/goal in mind, similar to my Dad having his address in South Carolina. I check the road map for ways to get there. Yes, I am looking for the faster route; however, I know that it’s more about the journey than the destination. Therefore, if I have to redirect or I get lost, I know that it’s all part of the process of learning how to get where I am going. I also consult people who have taken the journey before.
This shift in mindset has been the biggest differentiator between being successful based on society’s terms and being successful on my own terms. Questions like, “what am I supposed to be doing” and “what will make me successful” are externally focused questions, dependent on society and those around me to answer. The “what do I want to do?” and “what do I define as success?” questions, that I try to ask more often now, redirect the focus to me.
When I made this shift in thinking and questioning, I started to approach my job search with a new level of confidence. I wasn’t milling through the job posts hoping to find one that told me I met their standards. I sat down and thought first about what I was looking for. Then, searched for jobs that met MY criteria.
When I got to the interview, I sold them on who I was, not what I thought they wanted. I believe I have found success in this because I’m only putting myself in front of people and organizations that have met my criteria, so naturally they’ve been a good fit.
Have my criteria changed over time? Yes, and I know that they will continue to shift. Staying self-aware and constantly reflecting on what it is I want my life to be keeps me focused on how my current situation is either helping me get there or slowly drifting me away.
If I find that my current lifestyle or commitments take away from my ultimate
goal, passion, or purpose, that’s when I begin to contemplate charting a new
So, I ask you. Are you living a purposeful life? One in which you’ve gotten in the driver’s seat and taken control? Are you asking questions like “where is it I want to go? Why do I want to get there? How will this path bring me what I desire?”
Or are you on autopilot?
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