Depending upon which professional you ask, our unconscious drives anywhere from 50 to 90% of our daily decisions. This is to say anywhere from half to nearly 100% of our decisions are made without contemplative conscious thought. To some people, this is a frightening statement. How can we not be in control of what we choose to do each day? The truth: most of of what we do each day is on autopilot. Our morning routine before work? Autopilot. Our commute to work? Autopilot. The meetings we attend at work? Autopilot. The incessant checking of email? Autopilot. Checking all social media feeds? Autopilot. Our fast food picks for lunch? Definitely autopilot. Afternoon work activities: conference calls, more emails, project status updates? Mostly autopilot. Commute home after work? Autopilot again. Skip the gym. Autopilot. Turn on the TV news. See what happened in the world today while making dinner. Autopilot. Eat dinner, back to the TV for the evening’s stories. Autopilot.
Your work day looks quite similar day-to-day.
Some people get blown away when the outline of their work day existence is laid out for them to see. If you work in a traditional office environment and you rarely travel, your work day looks quite similar day-to-day. It is an easy and simple and trackable pattern of behaviors. And just like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day, it is the same day over and over and over again. It isn’t hard to discern. We aren’t Navy SEALs trying to divert the enemy; we are people working in office buildings.
How do we get ourselves off of autopilot and back re-engaging with who we are and what we do? A great start is self-examination. To begin, awareness: what am I doing? Look at what I am doing. Why am I doing this? What is its purpose? Does this activity serve me? If not, why do I continue doing this? Awareness is the first spark to ignite the catalyst for behavior change. How can we change an undesirable behavior if we’re not even aware of it?
There is no fairness to be found in food.
Once we’re aware, we can think about alternative behaviors to substitute or swap in for the one we want to chuck. Food cravings are a very common, 90% unconscious, behavior. We have great difficulty in facing them. Typically, we cave. Nearly all of us cave, in fact, especially if we’re suffering from ego depletion (e.g. 4 PM on a Friday afternoon at the office). We don’t think it is fair despite the fact that there is no fairness to be found in food. (Whoever said there was?) What we find unfair is that one of our wonderful, esteemed colleagues just brought in cookies and ice cream for his birthday and, despite being on a new diet plan, we already know we cannot resist them. Due to our sweet tooth, we are unable to say no. This, to us, is unfair, even though, as sovereign adults, we have a choice as to what we eat each day. Food cravings and sweet teeth win again.
There is nothing wrong with being on autopilot if it consists of happiness-inducing, productive habits. The trouble is being on autopilot which consists of repeated, poor choices and unproductive habits. We cannot help but run on autopilot for much of the day. There are simply too many options and daily decisions to be made. The best we can do is make conscious, productive choices and work to develop strong, healthy habits that serve us in the long-term.