Avoiding Autopilot

Out of necessity we learn to run on autopilot, paying attention

mechanically and passively most of the time. Daniel Goleman

The fact that my title is a question shows that it is a choice. This means that you can consciously choose to be self-aware or not to be. Most people just don’t make the decision. But as Harvey Cox pointed out: Not to decide is to decide. Because most of us are deficient in self-awareness, I am writing to encourage readers to consciously decide to be self-aware.

Paying attention deliberately and voluntarily liberates our awareness from robotic activity and self-awareness becomes, what Daniel Goleman calls, an inner ruder, an inner guide. Since beliefs and thoughts become behavior, we do not know the causes of our behavior while on autopilot attention.

Being on autopilot is easy, self-awareness takes conscious effort. I believe that self-awareness is one of the most important, maybe the most important, individual mental resource. Self-awareness is your inner guide, it shows you how your past experience, knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and biases are guiding your behavior. By deliberately and voluntarily paying attention to your inner guide, you are avoiding auto-pilot. Not to decide about being self-aware is to decide not to be aware.

Of course, self-awareness isn’t the only awareness needed. Awareness of other’s thoughts and behavior, of the interconnectedness of the context of the environment are also important. But self-awareness is a good beginning.

To become efficient in self-awareness, you need to practice paying attention. Your brain/mind has the ability to make choices, but a limited capacity for attention. This means it needs to be trained what to attend to and how.

Do you ask yourself: Why did I do that?  What is guiding my behavior today? Am I open-minded? Am I seeing the big picture? Do I think about my thinking?

If your answers are NO — you are probably on autopilot.

I’ve found that I can only change how I act if I stay aware of

my beliefs and assumptions. Margaret Wheatley



This entry was posted in Beliefs. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Eugene Unger says:

    Good writing H ! It is a shame whole generations are only aware of their electronic screens and have substituted selfish for self-aware. From geno blob



  2. says:

    Good reminder to practice being in the moment to help the self-awareness.  We might use this as a conversation in our Seeker’s group.

    Hope you have had good times in the mountains and that there is snow.


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