Zombies at Work: Are You Living on Autopilot?

More than two-thirds of us are living and working on autopilot, according to even the most conservative estimates. You’ve probably noticed a few zombies at work in your office.

A pattern of behavior can become so habitual that one barely notices anymore what it prompts one to do. One feels automatically, thinks automatically and acts automatically. ~ Martine Batchelor, Let Go: A Buddhist Guide to Breaking Free of Habits (Wisdom Publications, 2007)

I’m reminded of all the old zombie movies… not unlike some of the offices I’ve worked in! But this may have to do with the way our brains are built to seek out habits and routines.

Neuroscientists attribute this phenomenon to the brain’s ability to conserve energy. To avoid depleting valuable reserves, the brain chooses the path of least resistance. It essentially tries to avoid thinking, which leads us to form ingrained habits and routines.

So there’s danger here if we don’t pay attention. Don’t allow this physiological wiring to lull you into a state of complacency or ennui. Here’s how to wake up the zombies at work.

Decades of research on achievement suggest that successful people reach their goals because of what they do, not because of who they are. They differentiate themselves from their always-struggling counterparts by learning how to “wake up,” when necessary. They raise their level of awareness and seize moments of opportunity.

Here are three strategies for turning off your brain’s autopilot and taking an active role in achieving your goals:

  1. Know what you want. You’ll overlook important opportunities if you don’t know what you’d like to achieve. Make a list of three areas you’d like to improve. Next, write down three action steps for accomplishing each goal. Prioritize these nine steps, and vigorously pursue three of them.
  2. Become more mindful. As you go about your day, take time to breathe deeply. Mindful breathing alerts your brain to what’s going on around you, thus taking it off autopilot. Take breaks from your tasks every 90 minutes and ask yourself if you’re doing what truly matters.
  3. Be specific. Goals can’t be vague if you want to make progress. Break them down into baby steps. The more concrete and action-based they are, the easier it is to carry them out.

If you’ve become so automated you’re becoming complacent and bored, try waking yourself up. Check to see if you’re going in the right direction. A trusted mentor or executive coach can revitalize your life plan, and help you get more joy from day-to-day moments.

In the work I do as a coach, you’d be surprised at how many of us slide into a life of routine and habits. While habits can certainly help, they also create boredom, and then we sabotage our best efforts. Sound familiar? Let’s talk! (704-827-4474)

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