In New York City, there’s this thing called the Long Island Rail Road, or LIRR for short. At the LIRR, people line up to buy a ticket. There’s this overhead board overhead that displays the times of the trains and the tracks they’re coming in on. People just stand there watching the board and all of its numbers, waiting for the silent announcement that their particular train is about to arrive.
As soon as the light blinks, visually declaring which train is approaching and at which platform it will arrive, the people waiting for that train all funnel towards those track doors. Once at their track, they wait for the train to arrive. It stops and the doors open, they all race to enter this little doorway where only like two people can fit through at a time. From there, they funnel inside to take their seat and continue on their journey.
After watching this, I found myself thinking that that is not a life I want. I don’t want to be like that, feeling like mice in a maze, moving absent-mindedly through the course at the thought of the piece of cheese waiting at the end.
This is what living on auto-pilot looks like and that isn’t where life happens. Life happens when we’re conscious, aware, and mindful of exactly where we are. Life happens most vividly when we’re taking deliberate steps to get wherever it is we want to go.
So many times in life we just go through the motions without thought, like the people at the LIRR…stand here, go here, stand here, go here, and repeat. We get so caught up in doing things out of habit, of focusing only on the things directly in our paths, that we miss out on everything else in life. The things that take it from black and white to color.
Do you ever feel like that? Like you’re just going through the motions? While that’s definitely one way to go through life, in the end, it results in merely survival. Where’s the joy? Where’s the passion? Where’s the excitement? It’s not on auto-pilot, that’s for sure.
Granted, not all habits are bad, like going to the gym every morning or eating meals with your family around the dinner table every night. However, that doesn’t mean that we have to engage in these activities mindlessly. In fact, the more intentional we are, the more we get from these actions, and the more they’ll add to our lives.
The same is true in business. If you’re just going through the motions, going to work, doing what you always do, and then going home, you’re not going to grow. You’re going to miss opportunities because you weren’t looking for them. Worst case scenario, you may even hit some of the super deep potholes because you’re so focused on what’s one foot in front of you that you couldn’t see the problem which exists three feet ahead.
The great thing about taking yourself off auto-pilot is that it has a way of renewing your passion. It does this because it causes you to better notice what’s working so you can do more of it. It also forces you to pay attention to what isn’t, a clear indicator that something needs to change.
Take an active role in your own life and you may just be surprised at what you find. It’s likely been in front of you all along, but this time you’ll actually see it. That’s when life will really happen. That’s when life becomes much more mindful and meaningful.