How to Stop Living Life on Autopilot


When was the last time you questioned the factory settings on any single device or app that you use? In my quest to change my relationship to social media, I recently noticed that an artist friend of mine turned off the comments on all of his Instagram posts, and I was surprised. Yes, it’s election season and the amount of hate, trolling, and negativity is at an all-time high, but my pal’s Instagram feed is filled with nothing but beautiful images of his photography and often with little to no context in the caption. In my mind, it would be shocking for anyone to comment anything other than “wow,” “beautiful,” “you’re so talented,” etc. on these images.

Then it hit me: he’s only allowing love in his online space. (This is where you’d insert the mind-blown emoji.)

It’s been five days since I first noticed this, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m left looking at how often I take the “factory settings” as the way things are supposed to be without ever questioning them or poking holes in my expectations.

image: ashley kane

Where else in my life could I metaphorically “edit the settings” so that whatever that things is could work for me versus against me? To go a step deeper — how can I edit the settings of my own thoughts rather than sit idle with what I’ve been programmed to believe as true?

My friend Ashley, host of the Modern Renegades podcast, always reminds her listeners to “recognize our thoughts and choose our response.” Just because we think something, doesn’t always mean it’s true.

For the sake of this conversation, let’s take a dating example. Recently I was chatting with my pal *Charlie (name changed to protect the innocent) about his ex-girlfriend who he missed dearly and wanted to get back together with. Charlie and his ex dated for 2+ years, and broke up due to lack of communication and his infidelity. While Charlie was in the process of trying to rebuild the relationship, he said she wasn’t acting the same — that she was cold, questioned his actions, and took longer than necessary to return his texts and calls. Rather than go directly to her to ask how she was feeling, he told me it was “because she was probably seeing someone else and didn’t want anything more with him.” He had built a whole narrative in his mind about this without once asking her if it was true. So, based on the story he believed, Charlie pulled away, stopped contacting his ex, and focused on other women.

You can likely guess how this story ends. Charlie’s story wasn’t true at all — his ex had requested space to determine what she wanted, and Charlie took that to mean something entirely different. Because he chose to believe his thoughts, he ended up creating more work and strain on himself and their future relationship.

Can you think of a recent time you left the “factory settings” on your own thoughts, rather than turning off autopilot and questioning whether your assumptions were true?

Like my artist friend who turned off all comments, how are you protecting your own energy or vibe? Does it feel aggressive or harsh to block someone’s number or mute/unfollow on social media? Could you ever turn your social media comments off? And, why do you need the comments in the first place?

This isn’t a matter of watching The Social Dilemma and completely deleting the apps. It comes down to cultivating an entirely new relationship and routine with how I engage and show up in the world everyday. I’m left contemplating what is consuming my time, what I’m allowing into my world, and where I can continue to poke holes in the status quo, asking “is that actually true?”

I’ll leave you with this: a boss once told me that I’m interested in too many things, my curiosity is all over the place, and I should narrow my focus. A few weeks later, I interviewed with a company that said “we love that you have so much experience from cycling to running, to planning global events, and writing — how cool to use your talents across several different industries.”

Readers, what “factory settings” are you rethinking? Has anyone told you that something must be a certain way? Consider this your permission to question everything.



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