Living on Autopilot Stops Us from Thinking (and Feeling)

Living on Autopilot Stops Us from Thinking (and Feeling)

My mum is unable to drive at the moment. I had to take her somewhere the other day, and she had problems getting into my car because it is a little low to the ground.

“No problem,” I thought, “I’ll just drive hers.”

I got in and proceeded to reverse out of the parking space, only for her to shout: “Stop Alex, Stop!” I had nearly backed into a parked car that was slightly hidden from view. My habit of looking behind me when I reverse had changed as my car has (very loud) reversing sensors.

In my absentmindedness, I had forgotten that her car does not have these sensors.

This shook me a little. And it made me wonder.

When I ride my bike, I am acutely aware of what is around me. This heightened awareness might save my life one day – it is this same sense of self-preservation that still makes us look both ways when we see the green man flashing at some traffic lights. The sensors might be telling us that it is safe, but we should really check anyway.

In my mum’s car, I had entirely forgotten to look behind me when I started to reverse.

In business, I can think of many situations where our situational awareness is dampened because all of the “sensors” are telling us that things are fine.

I might have been working with a long-term recruitment client for a while now. They keep giving me business, and I keep delivering suitable candidates, but is that really where the story ends? My bank balance is looking healthy enough, so why question things? However, if you choose to ignore all the pseudo-positive signs, you can always look that little bit deeper. Is the client truly happy? What more could I be doing to exceed expectations?

In this scenario, I am living on the autopilot of doing work and getting paid, but there is always an extra level of delivery and customer service that is possible. In any service industry, this extra level of human concern will stop us turning into delivery robots and help us to differentiate ourselves from the wave of automation that is on the way. We are all too special to take each other for granted.

Just ask someone how they are doing, and you will see what I mean.

Most people will say “fine thanks, and you?” If you know someone well, think carefully about leaving it at that. Do they look fine? Do they sound fine? If we just take people at their word (on autopilot), then it is easy to miss all sorts of things.

I nearly crashed my mum’s car because I was desensitised to the risks.

Don’t be desensitised to the needs of others because you are living life on autopilot.

Written by Alex Turner, Edited by Paul Drury

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