Deactivate Your Autopilot by Living with Intention

autopilot intention life crisis transitions Jul 26, 2021

Is there a disconnect between how you look on paper - and what’s actually happening in your life?

Are you accomplishing everything you’re setting out to do, or do you often find yourself bounced around like a boat at sea among stormy waves? Does it feel like you’re living life on autopilot? If it’s the latter, you’re certainly not alone.

Living with intention is an essential step towards fostering positive wellbeing and improving the quality of life. It is the conscious choice to be more present and connected with the world that surrounds you.

An intention is a purposeful choice to construct a vision that guides your activities, thoughts, attitudes, and decisions. It creates a sense of purpose and motivation to live the type of life we desire.

It allows you to align yourself – congruently – and guides and shapes your thoughts, behaviors, and mindset. Without it, well, stormy seas > boat.

I often introduce to the guys I work with, the natural principle of ‘begin with the end in mind.

This principle, introduced by Stephen Covey in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, highlights the significance of starting things off with a clear image or idea of the destination that you want to reach. This allows you to take the right path from the onset.

However, as we’re all so very familiar with looking busy nowadays. So, if we are going to be active, let’s do the things that matter to us, and let’s have a clear image of why we’re doing something and how we’re going about doing it.

Most of us blokes start off with good intentions. However, if we don’t have the means to make them more than just a thought, we don’t get very far. Just like the old saying, ‘Make sure your ladder is leaning on the right wall before climbing.’

Here are some tools and tactics that you can adopt to cement your intentions.

1 - Catalog your priorities.

It’s way too easy to get distracted in our daily lives and not achieve our goals at the end of the day/week/month/year. Often, we’re not even aware that we’re allowing the insignificant to take precedence over our goals. We must place our priorities above all the daily reactiveness. Don’t hesitate to put your phone on “do not disturb” to set aside a particular time to respond to texts, phone calls, social media, emails, etc. Small steps taken every day will help you achieve your goal. Allowing daily distractions to derail you will not. Realize, not everything is of equal importance.

2 - Cultivate mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a skill that helps you immerse yourself in the present moment. It allows you to focus on just one thing at a time and enjoy it to the fullest (or at least tolerate it, knowing it will pass). Being mindful will help you realize when your mind is not focused on the task at hand, when you are thinking, sabotaging thoughts, or experiencing strong emotions. With mindfulness, we can be aware without judgment or the tendency to overreact. If we’re not overreactive, we don’t have a mess to clean up later.

Studies have shown that mindfulness can lead to greater job satisfaction, less stress, improved relationships, enhanced wellbeing, and reduced mind chatter. We can cultivate mindfulness through meditation - setting aside a few minutes a day to just sit with our eyes closed and breathe without thinking. Then, if the mind starts to wander, simply return to non-thinking. We can also do this through guided meditations. There are many good apps and books to assist beginners with this.

3 - Be yourself.

Stop comparing yourself to others. You never honestly know what someone’s life is like aside from the parts they choose to show you. Appreciate your uniqueness and be thankful for the things you have and the goals you’ve been able to accomplish thus far.

4 - Discover your purpose.

Find your passion. Do things that fulfill you daily. Even if you’re just working these small yet essential moments of it into your schedule. Take a moment to read my blog article, A Trail Guide to Tracking Down Your Unique Purpose.

When it sparks a flutter in your chest – when it feels right. That’s the thing you need to pursue exuberantly! - Simon Niblock

5 - Adjust and readjust your expectations.

Have reasonable expectations and reassess them when conditions change. Focus on the positive. Expectations are a funny thing – you’ll find whatever you expect to find, so it’s best to have positive thoughts.

6 - Take a minute.

Take a minute (or a few seconds, if that’s all you have) to just breathe before responding to something (or someone) challenging, or before saying yes to something. Then, choose your response carefully - if one is needed at all.

7 - Slay overthinking by delegating a time and a place.

Yeah, we all get burdened by thoughts about work, family, health, and other stressors. Overthinking isn’t healthy. When you find your mind thinking about work during your off-hours or family matters during your workday, just bring yourself back to the present moment and focus on that moment and the task at hand. You’ll have more clarity and less overwhelming if you can get overthinking in check.

Look, we all have good intentions. The tools here can help you achieve a life aligned with your goals. They’ll help you be the pilot of your destiny - choosing where to focus your efforts - instead of just being on autopilot.

A word of caution: sometimes, this can leave you a bit out of sync with others. As we catalog our priorities and apply mindfulness to the most essential things in our lives, some habits and relationships will naturally be discarded. Don’t allow other people’s opinions or displeasure over this to derail you from your path. Instead, focus your energy on your priorities and keep moving forward in the direction of your goals.


Debrief & digest

• A lot of men struggle with living a life that feels like it’s on autopilot.
• The antidote to this challenge is learning to live with intention. Living with intention is an essential step toward achieving emotional and relational wellbeing. I
• It is the conscious choice to be more present and connected with the world that surrounds you.

If you’d like more one-on-one therapeutic support to support you in overcome living life on autopilot, contact me to schedule a free 30-minute phone consultation.


Also, if you’re not already subscribed, be sure to sign up for MANifest Mondays, my free weekly email designed to offer more tools and tips for living well.


Simon G. Niblock, MA, LMFT, is a licensed psychotherapist, specializing in men’s mental health and wellness. He provides tailored, psychotherapy services and online programs for men and is the author of the Anxiety Workbook for Men, Evidence-based Exercises to Manage Anxiety, Depression, and Worry.