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I am always surprised by the vast majority of people who are content operating in an autopilot mode; you know what I mean, people who are more content following the tedium of routine as opposed to thinking for themselves. We see it everyday as we commute to/from work where people stare blankly into space, we see it in the workplace where people want to go on automatic as opposed to thinking for themselves, we see it when people watch television like zombies, and we readily saw it in the last election where people willfully embraced the gospel according to the press as opposed to thinking for themselves. It's amazing we can accomplish anything since people do not wish to exercise their minds and exceed the status quo. Let me give you an example.
I belong to a nonprofit organization which has been suffering from a decline in membership over the last ten years. Year after year, the officers of the association point out the problems with membership, yet offer no leadership in terms of solving the problem. Year after year they whine about it, but never do anything to solve the problem; nothing, nada, zip. Instead of looking for new and imaginative solutions, they concentrate on the status quo and build an unbearable bureaucracy that impedes progress. Bottom-line, they are more interested in squeezing their membership for more money as opposed to growing their base. This is like our tax problem in this country, whereby some people want to raise tax rates, while others want to reduce regulations thereby allowing companies to conduct more business, make more money, and consequently pay more taxes. Bottom-line, the leaders of the nonprofit organization prefer operating on autopilot as opposed to challenging the status quo and introducing new ideas to solve the problem.
I am the type of person who abhors the idea of falling into a rut. As an old systems man, I appreciate the need for performing certain processes in a routine and predictable manner, but I also realize progress is arrested when we surrender to the status quo. This is why I have a natural curiosity to learn and improve how business is performed. Unfortunately, not everyone shares my perspective and prefers to be told what to do. As much as I criticize the concept of micromanagement, I can understand its deployment as many people will go on autopilot unless someone tells them what to do otherwise.
As we should all know, changing the status quo must be handled carefully, as it may ruffle the feathers of those in charge and cause people to break from the comfort of their autopilot mode. As Machiavelli wrote in "The Prince" (1513), "It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones."
Deviating from the status quo means implementing change, and we should change when there is good reason to do so, not simply for the sake of it alone. Whether we like it or not, we live in a world of change. For example, consider how our technology has changed over the last ten years; e.g., smart phones, High Def-TV, tablet computers, etc. Then consider how our music has changed, fashions, speech, politics, even our humor is different than just ten short years ago. Such changes were implemented in small increments over time, seemingly transparent to us, yet they are there. The reality is we live in a world of change yet people steadfastly resist adapting to it, which brings us back to operating in an autopilot mode.
Most of us want little turmoil, we just want to go about our lives and make a living. As I mentioned in my article, "Increasing Brain Power," most people only actively engage their brains for no more than three hours each day, if that. The reason this number is so low is because thinking requires work, something people seem to have an aversion to these days. As such, most people resist "making waves." The reality though is we live in a world of change which we must learn to embrace in order to make progress. By definition, this means to steadily improve our station in life, to exceed the status quo. By operating in an autopilot mode, you are resisting progress and not truly addressing the problems at hand, such as membership at the nonprofit organization I mentioned earlier.
I guess what I'm getting at, remaining in an autopilot mode does yourself a disservice as well as the people around you. It means you are resisting change, and by doing so, you are resisting progress. This is why it is important to change our patterns now and then and get out of the rut we may fall into. Try a different restaurant or type of food, read a book, take a class, wear something different, go on a vacation, or try howling at the moon, whatever. In other words, turn off the autopilot switch now and then and try driving manually. I think you'll enjoy the view.
Keep the Faith!
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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.