79. Six signs you are living your life on autopilot (and what to do about it)

Feeling rushed, overwhelmed, unproductive can all be signs you are living your life on autopilot. That is, living life by default, without intention. 

The outcome is an inner sense of lack, but we might not notice it. BECAUSE Our life might look ‘nice’ enough on the surface, and we have done all the things that people told us would make us successful and happy – but we really don’t feel it. So we think something is wrong with us, and with our lives. 

Autopilot living leaves you feeling ineffective and like you aren’t stepping into your purpose and passions for your life. 

I have six ways that auto-pilot living can be showing up in your life and give you some direction on what you can do about it. 

I write this all to you as someone who lived on autopilot for about 30 years before waking up to it and deciding to take control of my life.

I had let complacency seep through my whole life. My health, my motherhood, my marriage, my home, my relationships. They were all operating without any intention or direction from me and what I truly craved in those areas of my life. 

(full episode transcript is at the bottom of this post)


  1. You are putting out fires all-day
  2. You are feeling overwhelmed
  3. You feel restless….or apathetic
  4. You feel unproductive at the end of the day
  5. You feel like something is missing
  6. You are distracted

And in motherhood, we can see we are on autopilot when

  1. We’ve turned on the ‘no switch’ and not turned it off
  2. We are short with our kids (then shame ourselves for it)
  3. We are just ‘trying to get through the day’



What is subconscious thinking  and how it impacts your life (episode 76)

Productivity needs purpose (blog post)

I stopped enjoying my kids (episode 16) (blog post)

My husband’s take on setting goals and LIFE ON PURPOSE together (episode 47)

Small things that can change your whole life (episode 78)

The Live Your Vision worksheets (get them here)

The Live your Values worksheets (get them here)

The Life on Purpose Workbook (find it here)

A one on one Strategy Session (book it here)

The Simple Christmas Planner (get yours here)

The Facebook Simple on Purpose community group (join it here)

Want to be part of the Simple Saturdays email? (sign up here)

six signs you are living your life on autopilot, couple in bed on their cell phones



Welcome to this podcast. If you are new here, I’m so glad you’re joining us to let you know a bit about me. I am living in small town Canada, and I am here every week to help you think of ways that you can simplify,slow down and show up for your actual life.


So I hope you guys have all had a good Halloween holiday, if that’s something you celebrate, if you were in the simple Saturday’s email, then you saw a picture I sent out of my kids costumes. And I think it’s so fascinating to have more than one kid and see how different they are. 


My oldest was kind of true to himself in wearing a costume that he loved. It’s a black panther costume, but no mask because that’s how he rolls. It’s just not practical. 


My second I got her draft from the thrift store, she jazzed it up, she put on a vest, she colored the hair, she put on earmuffs, and she called herself a DJ giraffe. 


And my third was just like, I’m gonna be a ninja, I got this Mom, don’t worry about me. I’m going to tie a shirt on my head wear all black, I got it. And they’re just all totally themselves shining through those Halloween costumes. 


Also, I was just so super relieved. I didn’t have to deal with making or creating or helping with costumes in any way this year. They just all kind of took control of it and made it happen for themselves. We did a candy hunt in our yards for the kids. And then we watched a movie we watched on the moon above on Netflix. And it was cute. 

But now we’re listening to the soundtrack multiple times a day. My kids know all the words they’re singing. It’s my own fault. I brought Alexa into our life. And only because we got this speaker for the house that we bought with credit card points, which I don’t recommend going into debt to get a free speaker. But here we are, we have a speaker, and you can put the Alexa app on it.


 So we’ve got Alexa. And it’s fun. I’m actually using it quite often for a lot of things. My kids are putting on music, though. And so I’m listening to whatever they feel like in that moment. And there’s a lot of shouting at Alexa.


It’s really fascinating that we have this technology that we have a robot in our house like we call her the house robot. And recently an Instagram friend told me that she calls her Roomba vacuum their house robot.


Doesn’t it feel like the Jetsons is happening guys, like we’re living the Jetsons. I know I’m aging myself here. But remember Rosie the robot and how you’re like imagine my life with a robot. We have them. How is our life better? I don’t know. Alexa can do a lot of cool things, though. This is not a sponsorship for Alexa, by the way, because she is listening, always listening, sending us ads tailored to whatever we talk about. So make sure you tell Alexa to delete what you told her all day. That’s important.


All right off of house robots and on to living on purpose. 


What is living on purpose. It is living intentionally or intentional living as opposed to living by default, living without intention. And we call this autopilot living a lot. Living on autopilot. autopilot is just doing things without thinking. 


Well, we’re thinking but we’re not aware of what we’re thinking. It’s the first response. It’s reactions that have been programmed into us over the years, they just come up and they start running the show. And we don’t have to think about it. They’re our thinking habits. 


So it happens fast. But it affects how we’re showing up because it affects our thoughts which affect our feelings which affect our actions. And when we’re not actively paying attention to that and directing that we have autopilot thinking which leads to autopilot living. And if you want a little bit more about subconscious thinking and how we do it by habit and how it’s running in the background. Listen back to Episode 76. 


So I want to give you some signs that you might be living on autopilot. 


The first one is you feel like you’re putting out fires, like got to make dinner, got to do the errands, got to run the activities, you just feel behind Oh, I forgot about that damn thing tomorrow, I need to watch this stuff for it. Everything feels last minute. We’re in a state of paying attention to what is very urgent versus what is very important. That’s the Eisenhower matrix if you want to dig into that a little bit. 


But what’s also happening is we create a culture in our home where we are the firefighter, we are the one putting out fires. Fires can happen because there’s a firefighter in the house. 


The second sign is you feel overwhelmed. Like you’re not even sure where to start, not sure what to do next, you might find yourself standing in the kitchen, eating cold leftover waffles from breakfast and just being like what do I do with myself? I have 10 free minutes that the kids are actually quiet. What do I do or where to start with this Roomful? boxes in clutter, well, I would just shut the door that’s past shot. 

It feels hard to make decisions, which also causes us to move away from trusting ourselves to make decisions. 


A third sign is that you feel restless, you sense that there’s just something that would make you feel fulfilled. Maybe there’s this stirring in your heart, maybe there’s a dream in your heart, maybe there’s just something you want to be doing with your time, but you’re not doing it. And whether you can give that words or not what you’re experiencing there is cognitive dissonance. That tension you feel between what you believe, like I want to be the person who does these things and goes and feels fulfilled, versus how you behave. That tension in the middle. 


A few nights ago, we asked our kids questions at dinner, and one of them was Who do you not understand? That was the question and my oldest son who’s nine, he said, I don’t understand me, because I’m in class, and I want to listen, but I don’t want to listen. And I’m like, yeah, there’s cognitive dissonance, you want both things. And both of them could be helpful or fun in one way. But now you’re in the middle of feeling like this is confusing. And this is hard. That’s cognitive dissonance. 


So you might feel restless, or you might even have pushed beyond that boundary. And now you’re feeling apathetic, you’re just kind of like, well, this is what it is, you stop listening to that little voice deep inside, it starts to feel weird to want more, wanting more wanting different. You might even tell yourself it’s ungrateful or unreasonable. Or not worth it, you just kind of tuned all of that out. 


The fourth sign is you feel unproductive. At the end of the day, like when your head hits the pillow, and you feel like it was all a blur. And you got to just get up and do it again tomorrow. 


Feeling unproductive for me as a stay at home mom is one of the worst feelings ever. That makes me feel like I did it wrong. I was not doing my job, right? When I feel unproductive at the end of the day. And when we think we’re doing it wrong, that spirals us, we spiral into thinking something’s wrong with us, something’s wrong with our life. 


Most often, we blame ourselves and we start calling ourselves lazy and unmotivated. which turns us to solving this problem. Now let’s look for ways to be more disciplined. That’s what’s missing, I just need to tough talk myself into getting my ish done. 


But what we’re missing here is knowing exactly what would make us feel productive and purposeful. It needs to be both, it can’t just be productivity for the sake of being busy. It needs productivity with a purpose. And I’m going to link to a post about that in the show notes if you’re interested. 


The next one is you feel like something is missing. And this goes a little bit back to feeling restless. But you can start to see that your life has been built up by default. decluttering showed me that I had chased this modern version of success, which many people in my generation were raised to view at the same. You go to the right school, you get a stable job, you start doing the job, you buy the house, you get two cars, you get two kids, you get vacations. It’s a very North American cultural definition of success. 


But what we find out is it’s not always fulfilling, it’s not fulfilling to everyone. And it starts to almost feel insatiable, like I did all these things, shouldn’t I be happy now. But if I’m not happy, then maybe I just need more of these things. Maybe that’s what’s wrong. But what’s not fulfilling is that it doesn’t actually honor your personal definition of success. 


This was something I had to rewrite for myself. I left the job, I stayed home with the kids, I decluttered everything in my home, I started to really assess Is this what I want? Or is this what the world has told me? I want and I bought it, and I believe it. 


So it’s been years of looking at my daily decisions and my big life decisions that where I’m taking my life, and asking myself, does that feel like Success to me? Could I look at my kids in 30 years, and think, oh, they don’t need the job and the house and the two cars and the vacations to be successful, because success might look different for them. And I want to honor that. And I want to raise them up to be people who embrace their personal definition of a successful life. And that is based on your personal values and vision for your life, which are going to be different for everyone, which is the beauty of success is it looks a little bit different for everyone. 

Can you really embrace that? Can you embrace that your definition of success is going to be a little bit different than what your parents think what your friends think maybe even what your husband thinks because they think differently than us? And we have to find some common ground there.


Your version of success is not the one you’ve bought over the years and built your life upon by default.


A final sign that you’re on autopilot is You’re distracted. And we’re also distracted, aren’t we, we’ve got many distractions available to us. We have the phone, we have TV, we have food, we have drinking, we have all of these distractions available to us, they just numb us out. 

And we might sit in the tub with some TV and a bubble bath and a glass of whiskey. I’ve been known to do this from time to time and call it self care. But there’s a difference between just coping with what’s going on just doing something once in a while, because it’s fun, versus making this the way that you show up in your daily life. It can’t be sustainable, because it’s not moving you in any direction that you truly crave to go. 


And for me, I was noticing that I was piling up distractions all around me. Things piled up physically, and emotionally. I could zone out, I could keep filling the basement, I could just tune out and be distracted rather than dropping down and being engaged in everything because that is hard work. Right? That is hard work. 


And let me just say a little bit about being on autopilot in motherhood. In my experience, it looks like saying no. So often. And I call this the no switch. We generally turn it on when our kids are toddlers because they don’t know what danger is. And they are reckless and doing everything. And so we have to say no quite often to them and redirect them. Our first reaction is to say no, and that can just stay stuck on the no switch can stay on and maybe start showing up in other areas of our life where we’re just saying no all the time. 


Another sign with being in motherhood and being on autopilot is you’re short with your kids. And then you feel frustrated with yourself about it after like you have been on autopilot your first response, your first reaction, that is where you’re acting from in motherhood, and I still do this. It’s something that I have to pay attention to all the time every day. But beating yourself up over it will not make you better, it will not help you improve, use a little bit of it to remind you of what you truly want. But don’t stay there to make yourself feel guilty and punish yourself. 


Another sign in motherhood is that you’re just trying to get through the day just get to naptime like just Jesus, take the wheel and get these kids to bed so I can have a minute alone. If you want to dig a little bit more into that, check out the episode on how I didn’t enjoy my kids. And I spent a year actively enjoying my kids. Again, I’ll link that in the show notes. 


Ultimately, for me, the road I was headed down with autopilot living was a road of complacency. And I saw this most evident in taking care of my health. In my marriage. In my home. I mean, it was full of boxes in all these rooms that I could shove away. In my motherhood, I was definitely on autopilot. I just was like running like a blur trying to get through the day. And it was also starting to show up in other friendships and other relationships in the relationship with myself. And the weird thing, I think, is that autopilot life, it doesn’t seem like that big of a problem on the surface.


Because maybe you have a house that you maybe keep the the main parts of it nice enough. Maybe you have a family and you are all living under the same home and eating food together. Maybe you have a job. Or maybe you are able to stay at home. We’re taught that this is all we need to be happy. So we just keep going through the motions like Groundhog Day wondering when something will just happen that will light us up and get us motivated.


I lived like this for years even before kids. I shared in the last episode that I was reading through some old prayers over the past like 10 years. And I was reading prayers from that time before kids where I was living mostly alone, my husband was in camp work. And I realized I was depressed. When I read back on those I was asking God for motivation, and energy and direction. I just felt rather restless and exhausted. I was definitely on autopilot. And I didn’t see a way out.


So let’s talk a little bit about the way to living intentionally. How to Turn off the autopilot. I think the first thing always is to see it to see like, oh, I’ve actually just been doing this by default isn’t what I want. I’m not sure. For Connor and I, we sat down on New Year’s Eve. How many years ago I don’t even remember like six years ago. And we said what do we want in life? What do we want to do with our kids? We had never had these conversations before. What kind of values did we want to raise our kids with? What things do we want to teach them? We had never done that before. And it was so powerful to just put it in writing. It was so simple. I’m going to link to an episode I did with Connor on how we started doing this together every new years. That’s Episode 47 By the way


The other thing is starting to do small things, small things for your future self. And in the last episode number 78. I shared about some of the small things I had started doing over the years, that made me feel like I had changed my whole life that had an impact on my life as a whole. And I think one of the most important things you can do when you want to start living on purpose, turning off the autopilot, is getting to know where you want to go, setting some direction for yourself, and who you want to be along the way. I think this is something that we struggle with, we underestimate how important it will be. 

But once you start to do this work, and challenge the values that you’ve had for yourself over the years, the ones you’ve adopted from the people around you, versus the ones that are actually deeper in you deeper and truer to who you want to be and how you want to show up, then that work starts to really matter and make a difference in your life. 


So you can get the Live your vision, live your vision, live your values, have worksheets, and there’s a link in the show notes. Or you can use the life on purpose workbook. That’s what we use. Now. The life on purpose workbook guides you through the nine areas of your life setting vision and values, goals and habits for each of those areas. 


Of course, turning off the autopilot also requires a lot of prayer. If you want to shut all that down, shut off the habits and start getting intentional. You want to replace it and build it back up with something that is fruitful in your life. And for me that looked like prayer. 


And lots of practice is required. I’m going to share in the next episode about things I learned along this journey because it wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t always pretty. It wasn’t always balloons, and confetti and party dresses. It was also me curled up in a ball under a blanket after a traumatic road trip with my kids because I thought traveling with kids would be important in intentional living. So I’m going to share more about that in the next episode. 


I hope this has been helpful for you guys. If you see some of the ways that you are living on autopilot, get the vision and values worksheets, start just writing down start just brain dump, you don’t have to commit to anything, but just start putting something on paper, that’s going to give you a little bit more direction in your day.


Because we need more direction, we need more proactive productivity proactiveness I don’t know, we need to start making a plan for ourselves and start showing up in line with that plan we make. And if you want to get really unstuck with this, then you can book a strategy session with me on one hour, we talk about which area of your life you want to get started in right now. We talk about the ways that you are currently stuck and get clarity on where you want to go. And taking effective and gracefield action to start moving in that direction. I’m going to link to that in the show notes as well. 


And to wrap it all up as we’re going into November. Welcome November, the simple Christmas planner is out if you are interested in using that, that is a planner that takes you through all of the factors of having a great Christmas, all of the lists all of the planning all of the mindset shifts that you want to make getting intentional about the culture you want to create in your family Christmas


Because my goal for you in making this planner is so that you can understand what kind of Christmas you want. So then you can plan for that. So then you can show up for that. So then you can be present and actually enjoy it instead of feeling like it was a blur of cheese balls and wrapping paper because that’s happened to me and it’s not really the experience I want to have for my Christmas holidays. 


I am also going to hold a simple Christmas planner workshop this month, probably in the Facebook group. I’m not sure yet but if you’re on my email list, stay tuned for information on that. 


And as a final wrap up, it is the month of gratitude in the Facebook group. If you are in the Facebook group, come and stop by and share your questions hop on the lives I’d love to chat with you there more. I hope you guys have a great day. Have grace-filled day and the day where you can do one simple thing that your future self will thank you for you got this Mama. I hope you guys have a great week.






Leave a comment