Assassinate your inner autopilot

This is a guest post by Diana D. Jarvis, a single professional currently located in Metro Atlanta, GA.When we’re in a miserable situation, the logical thing to do is to get out of it, right?  So why do many of us stay in jobs we despise?  Or maybe you have a friend who drives you crazy complaining about his job while making excuses for not sending out his resume.  Why not do something about it already?

In a word: energy.

Dragging yourself to a job you hate takes effort.  Being civil with a crazy boss and the lazy jerks called co-workers takes effort.  The job itself is boring and repetitive, so staying on task takes effort.  By the end of the day, you’re worn out, so you eat whatever’s handy and go to bed.  From here it’s a downward spiral because you’re not replenishing your energy.

The next day you get up and go through the same routine again.  Now what happens when you have a boring repetitive routine?  Your mind goes on autopilot.  Sometimes habit is a good thing.  If you had to relearn how to tie your shoelaces every morning, how much would you accomplish with your life?  In this case autopilot is dangerous because you’re locking into a self-destructive pattern.  Getting out of the rut is a classic catch-22 because you’re required to exert yourself when your personal energy gauge is pointing at empty.  The trick is to start small, taking one step at a time.

  • **First listen to yourself. ** Are you joining the gripe sessions on work breaks?  Are you whining to all your friends about how tired you are?  Positive affirmations work by programming your mind through repetition, and negative affirmations work the same way.  Every time you tell someone you’re tired, you actually make yourself feel more tired.  So stop.  If your co-workers won’t change the subject — apparently some people get an addictive adrenaline charge from complaining — find something else to do on your breaks.
  • **Then shake up your routine. ** If you normally wear dark colors, wear something in a lighter color.  Take a different route to work one morning.  Drink a different beverage on break.  Eat a decent supper, or at least pick up better quality fast food.  Little victories lead to bigger ones.  The more you stay off autopilot, the better you’ll feel.
  • **Make a plan. ** Time wasted on whining is better spent brainstorming ways to escape.  Make sure your friends understand you’re talking about a real life escape.  I’ve discovered the hard way that some people love to daydream out loud with you, but they have no intention of doing anything.  To them it’s just part of hanging out, sort of like playing Dungeons & Dragons without dice.  (If they’re happy with their own lives, they’re being ultra polite in not telling you that your dream of telecommuting is rather lame as fantasies go.)  You need someone who’ll hold you accountable.  If you can’t find a serious goal buddy, consider getting a life coach.
  • **Finally, carry out the plan. ** Where do you want to be?  What specifically do you need to do to get there?  Break it down into simple steps.  Take a step every day.  Even if you just send one networking email or make just one phone call, you’ll have moved forward.  Some days you’ll have more momentum.  Some days you’ll have less.

Just keep moving forward.