3 Signs You Might Be Living in Autopilot Mode

Renee Bethel

Renee Bethel

iBelieve Contributing Writer
Published Jul 25, 2022
3 Signs You Might Be Living in Autopilot Mode

What might you be trying to distract yourself from by engaging in aimless and unproductive activities on autopilot?

Have you ever found yourself in the driver’s seat of your car parked at your house with no recollection of how you got home? That’s pretty alarming, am I right?! You know where you came from, but you literally have no visual or mental recollection of anything that you passed on the way home. How is it even possible to drive safely with no conscious recollection of driving or navigating your way to your destination?

Scientific investigation has revealed that our Default Mode Network (DMN) takes over when we participate in familiar activities like tying our shoelaces, playing a musical instrument, or driving a familiar route. This research shows that once our brains are familiar with an activity, they switch off and go into autopilot mode, which allows us to perform tasks without actually thinking about them. 

Our brains can go to DMN with many everyday tasks like cooking, washing dishes, folding laundry, taking a shower, taking out the garbage, or mowing the lawn. Acting without thinking or feeling—living in autopilot mode—may be helpful for some routine chores, but it’s not the best way to regularly live in the world as God’s beloved child.

Autopilot mode can invade all of our lives throughout each day. Let’s examine what autopilot mode looks like and what we can do to fully engage in life as a child of God.

1. You Function without Thinking, Feeling, or Being Aware

We all know life is busy. In fact, busyness is one of Satan’s greatest weapons against Christians. If we stay busy, it’s harder to be intentional about using our gifts to make an impact on others or to lead others to have a relationship with Jesus. It’s hard to think, to feel, and to be fully engaged with what you are doing when there’s no margin or space to reflect, to process, or to actively participate in your daily life. 

At the end of your day, have you tried to name what you accomplished or reflect on what you did during the day? How well were you able to recall the events of your day?

What about special times with old friends, family members, children, or grandchildren? Have you paused for a moment to reflect on how you feel when you are with these special people in your life?

Have you ever gotten together with extended family members, traveled home, and then tried to remember what color shirt one of them was wearing? Or if they were wearing shorts or jeans? Could you remember?

This lack of engagement in your day-to-day experiences can eventually leave you feeling like you merely exist and are not really living. This is not God’s plan for your life. Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came to bring life to His children.

What would it look like to slow down, step back, and really notice the faces of those you spend time with and those you encounter throughout your day? What would you see? What would you feel?

2. You Spend Time in Aimless or Unproductive Activities

While social media can be a great way to stay connected with others, it can also be used to “zone out” or be in autopilot mode. How often do you scroll through Facebook, Instagram, or your favorite news app? What about playing games on your phone? 

Have you ever picked up your phone to check email and text messages, and before you know it, an hour has passed? How long have you mindlessly sat in front of the television watching sitcoms or movies?

All of these distractions can lead to hours of wasted time when you could be doing something meaningful, learning something new, reading a book that engages your mind, or spending time with someone in a meaningful conversation. 

What might you be trying to distract yourself from by engaging in aimless and unproductive activities on autopilot?

3. Your Life Lacks Depth

When you live a surface-level life, you go through the motions. It’s all superficial. Because there’s no depth, just like the foolish man who built his house on the sand, you won’t be able to stand when the adversities of life come. (Matthew 7:24-26)

Spiritually, you may be attending church services, but if you aren’t studying God’s Word individually and growing in your knowledge and understanding, your faith will be shallow. If your faith lacks depth, you will be “tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming.” (Ephesians 4:14)

When you aren’t aware of what’s going on internally with your emotions, what motivates you or what’s going on externally with your physical body, there is no personal growth visible in your life. 

Meanwhile, you may feel like life is quickly passing you by. Have you celebrated another birthday and questioned, “How can one year have gone by already?”

I wonder if time seems to go by so fast (starting in our twenties and continuing to get faster the older we get) because we generally live in autopilot mode? We’re going through the motions and not engaging with life, so nothing sticks. There aren’t any standout moments.

When we regularly live life on autopilot mode, we forfeit opportunities to:

–Learn something new

–Experience personal growth

–Have purpose and fulfillment

–Experience life on a deeper level

–Be self-aware

–Focus on what’s important

–Have big-picture vision

What’s the remedy for being in autopilot mode? 

It’s so simple, yet most of us aren’t intentional about it. All you have to do is pause and notice—notice what you think, what you feel, what you see, what’s going on in your body, what you hear. 

The Bible gives us numerous examples of how God notices His beloved children and His creation. There’s nothing too small or insignificant in our lives that God does not notice. God notices our thoughts and our feelings. (Psalm 94:11; Psalm 56:8

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus directed our attention to notice the birds and the flowers—things that we often overlook in our busy, hurried lives. (Matthew 6:26-29)

Charles Stone, the author of Holy Noticing, says that “When we pause it helps us to engage the present moment and experience what God has given us at that moment as we pay attention to our inner and outer world and to our responses to both.”

Holy noticing is a spiritual discipline that Christians have practiced since the first century. It can help you grow spiritually and bring awareness to the present moment when you pause and notice what is happening and who is around you, along with what you’re thinking, feeling, and doing—all from God’s perspective.

Dr. Stone defines holy noticing as “noticing with a holy purpose, God and His handiwork, our relationships and our inner world of thoughts and feelings.” Holy Noticing is a great resource to help you become more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and environment and recognize God’s presence in the moment.

Another resource to help you pause and notice God’s presence and provision in your day can be found here

Questions to consider:

What would your life look like if you ran less on autopilot and lived with greater awareness?

What would it look like if you engaged life at a deeper level?

What would your life look like if you were more present for yourself, for your spouse, for your children and/or grandchildren, and for God?

“... ‘Wake up, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’ Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:14-16

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/deberarr

Renee Bethel, author of Finding Me: A Woman’s Guide to Learning More About Herself is a Professional Christian Life Coach and a Gospel Centered Certified Enneagram Coach. She helps Christian women explore what’s possible and live in alignment with their identity in Christ and their personality so that they have purpose in their second half of life. Renee would love to connect with you on Instagram.