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Much of our lives are spent on autopilot. What I mean is we tend to develop habits and routines, and pretty much stick to them. For most of us, we tend to do the same kinds of things, read the same kinds of books, and socialize with the same kinds of people.

Change is Difficult

Our tendency to get into habits and routines is part of the reason why changing ANYTHING is incredibly difficult. You’re not only trying to develop something new (which is hard), you’re having to work against the power of your entrenched habits and routines (which lead you toward engaging in the same kinds of activities you have always done). It’s like you are a farmer who is driving a tractor along a path. If you take the same route over and over again, you develop grooves in the path, which helps the tractor stay on track. This is good if you want to keep going the same way over and over again, but bad if you want to change. In the same way, our habits and routines can either work for us or against us.

Awareness is the First Step

A first step to help us shift our habits and routines is to become more aware when we are operating on autopilot. In other words, it’s important to wake up and become mindful of what we are doing moment to moment. This is hard because our brains work to automatize various functions. Our brains try to spend less mental resources on activities that can become ritualized. This is a good thing most of the time, but it works against us when we are trying to change something.

3 Suggestions to Live on Purpose

So how can we become more aware of our habits and routines? My main suggestion is to set up something automatic that can remind you to check in with yourself and live on purpose. Here are 3 suggestions:

  1. Set awareness reminders. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to be aware of what you are doing in the present moment. When the alarm sounds, ask yourself the following questions:
    1. What am I doing right now?
    2. What do I want to be doing right now?
    3. Am I on autopilot, or am I living on purpose?
  2. Hold a physical reminder. Carry or hold an object that will remind you to be aware of what you are doing in the present moment. For example, carry a rock or a symbolic object in your pocket. Put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror or desk. When you notice the physical reminder, ask yourself the following questions:
    1. What am I doing right now?
    2. What do I want to be doing right now?
    3. Am I on autopilot, or am I living on purpose?
  3. Change something you wear. Change something you wear every day. For example, put your wedding ring on a different finger, shift your watch to your other wrist, or paint one fingernail a different color. When you notice the change, ask yourself the following questions:
    1. What am I doing right now?
    2. What do I want to be doing right now?
    3. Am I on autopilot, or am I living on purpose?

Take Home Point: Simply reminding yourself to live on purpose won’t fix your problem, but it is an important first step. Most of the time in life, you can’t change what you aren’t aware of. By waking up, noticing when you go on autopilot, and living on purpose, you can begin to make more conscious choices that will improve your life.

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