Getting Off Auto-Pilot

Have you been living the same life over and over again?  Now, dealing with cancer in your life, are you still trying to live the same, do the same thing, eat the same way? You might at first think no, but are you sure?

When We Were Young…

When we are young, our lives are dynamic and full of change. We are making plans, learning, trying new things and new ideas. We are finding our way in the world and figuring out what works for us and what doesn’t. This time of our lives is often accompanied by feelings of both excitement and angst.

As the years go by we get more settled in our job or career, get married and have a family. Our lives become more routine; less life altering decisions to be made, less ideas to try on. Before we know it, we find ourselves living out the decisions of our past and never even thinking to question them. We surround ourselves with purchases we once made, we eat the same way year after year, our daily routines don’t vary much, even how we think becomes routine. We end up living our lives on auto-pilot.

The Cancer Disruption

And then cancer comes into our lives. It causes a major disruption to our routine. If can feel like our life gets off kilter. This can be very unsettling for many.  But what if we welcome this disruption with open arms? What if you view this as an opportunity to re-decide how you live your life?

Being Efficient

Living our lives on auto-pilot does not happen by accident. Our brains like to be efficient. When it learns something, over time it will become ingrained so it requires less and less energy each time. This is a wonderful thing.  Can you imagine if you had to stop and think of all the steps required to drive a car before you drove it? Our brain learns something and then gets so efficient that the thing learned no longer require thought.

Being Effective

Being efficient and being effective are not the same thing.  Just because you’ve always done something, doesn’t mean you should keep doing it.  When cancer enters your life, it’s like a not so subtle coded message that says: time to re-evaluate!  Cancer has a way of forcing most of us to re-look at our health. But health doesn’t just mean diet and exercise. All aspects of your life, your husband’s life, and your family’s life all contribute to “health”. How you eat, how you relax, how busy you are, what you surround yourself with, and how you think all contribute to your health.  

Living Out Past Decisions?

It’s time to re-look at all the things in your life and instead of just living out the results of your past decisions, re-decide if they are serving you. There are no rules to this process other than to be completely open and willing to question everything. What is considered normal in our culture is not necessarily right or healthy or good.  Moreover, it might not be serving you and your family. You need to do things that serve you.

For example, you should only have things in your home you still love, need or want. If you loved it once, but no longer do, get rid of it! It’s not serving you and only adding to the clutter in your home. Look at your relationships the same way, do the people in your life serve you or do they detract from you and your family’s health? Look at how you relax? Does it serve you in the long run? Eating pizza, drinking beer and watching a movie may be enjoyable in the short term, but does it serve your health in the long run? I’m not judging, just asking. Remember, be willing to question everything.

Question Everything

1) Pick one area of your life to re-evaluate:

  • the food you eat and how you eat it
  • the things in your home
  • your daily routines
  • your relationships

2) Ask yourself these questions:

Is it serving me?

Does it promote my health goals and my family’s health goals for the long run?

Am I open to changing or trying something different?

3) Then decide on purpose what you want to do instead. Or re-decide to keep doing what your doing.  Either way, you are taking a fresh look and getting off auto-pilot so you can make sure you’re headed in the right direction.  Remember, our brains like to be efficient, so getting auto-pilot will require that you first become aware or your current habit and then practice the new habit.

Cancer is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing part comes in the form of waking us up to the life we were just living over and over without questioning. Now is the time to re-decide how you want to live in a way that best serves you.  Remember that this option is always available to you. You can decide on something now, and if its not working out, then re-decide. It’s your life – live it on purpose!

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One thought on “Getting Off Auto-Pilot

  1. I love this Marika. . .”living out our past decisions”. . . I’m definitely going to try to be a little bit more thoughtful about daily life!

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