Four minutes left on the exercise bike. 

What should I make for dinner? Should I have said less during that conference call? I should do something about the paint chipping in my garage. Where am I going with my career? How am I ever going to get everything done this week? Why am I at the gym? I should have spent the last hour tackling the things on my growing to-do list… 

Three minutes fifteen seconds remaining.   

This timer seems slow, maybe defective. I continue to pedal as my mind wanders with equal speed.

All finished. 

I hop off the bike and turn to grab the earphones still dangling on the handlebars but notice something. The pedals on the bike are still moving at quantum speed. Yet, I have completely disconnected from the movement and momentum I created. The powerful metaphor stops me in my tracks.

Nine months ago, I had new, bright, athletic shoes with energy to match. I happily indulged in each musical note that left my iPod, empowered as my muscles stretched to capacity. All physical and mental cylinders were in sync. So what happened?

Like many in this fast-paced culture, at times I simply disassociate from myself, my experiences, and my purpose. I’m not always aware it’s happening, and when I do (the telltale signs being sapped energy, lack of excitement, and helplessness) it seems as though I’m waiting for something or someone to motivate me to do something different. I tell myself a story – “I’ve got too much on my plate” which prevents me from moving towards what I want. The pedals in my life move — but they do so without me. I’m simply on autopilot, rather than being an active participant.

Contributing Factors to “Autopilot Mode”

The Wild Wanderer

Humans have a gift for mind-wandering that is unique to our species. Even though there is a range where our minds can go, we expend unnecessary time, energy, and focus second-guessing ourselves. We question the past and try to determine the future.

While reflection is helpful, we often ruminate and lose sight of the “bright spots” and opportunities that illuminate our journey and propel us forward. Indeed, our minds naturally wander – but we control where they wander.

The Cave of Comfort

Doesn’t sound so bad right? It’s secure, predictable, and lovely. There is nothing wrong with comfort – except when it blocks us from taking action in an unengaged journey.

In “Monday Morning Leadership”, David Cottrell describes vacations as the “someday isle”. Someday we will do that thing we talk about. Someday we will have less responsibility and “it” will be easier. Someday… (fill in the blank).

Minutes turn to years and we wonder where the time went and why we haven’t experienced what we hoped. We simply continue movement along a comfortable path that isn’t quite right.

Science has confirmed that objects continue moving at constant velocity until outside forces act upon it. What’s true for objects is the same for people. If we want to move from autopilot to action, we need to intervene in our own lives.

Will You Answer The Call to Take Charge?

I am a passionate leader. Earlier this year, I took a pause to reinvent my path. The process itself was counterintuitive but ultimately propelled me forward. I simply needed to answer my own call to action and stop ignoring the ring. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always hard. Sometimes it’s clean, and sometimes it’s messy. It’s a responsibility privilege for which I am grateful.

Overall, it’s exactly what I choose for it to be. I will never be able to check off every box nor do I expect myself to. Instead, I embrace my own journey of “someday isle” and all that it entails with courage, grace, and excitement.

Today, I am putting on my bright athletic shoes to remount that bike. I may be faster or slower than others in the room. I may still have ten things on my to-do list when I am finished. I may fall off. But, I will be present, in charge of my actions, and choose to enjoy each moment for what it is.

I may not even notice the timer.

Feeling Stuck?

If you feel like you’re wandering without direction or stuck in a Comfort Cave, we would be happy to talk to you about how the Birkman Assessment could help you get back on a path of fulfillment and purpose. Contact us to learn more.

Author: Jennifer Beals