Are you ready to use your brain for a change?


We’ve all been there. You’re driving a familiar route – perhaps the daily commute – and suddenly you realise that you’ve reached a point along the way and can’t remember how you got there. 
 
It happened to me on a journey with my dad. We were driving a route we both knew well, we passed at least 10 road signs telling us where we needed to be, and yet we still missed our turnoff. 
 
We call it ‘being on autopilot’, but do you realise just how often your brain is working on autopilot? Don’t get me wrong: sometimes, it can be incredibly useful. You don’t want to have to consciously think about every single step of your car journey – unlock the car, climb in, seatbelt on, key in the ignition, foot on the clutch, start the engine, car in gear, and so on – for the entire drive. 
 
But sometimes, it isn’t quite as useful. Sometimes, when we take our eyes off the road and stop being aware of what’s going on around us, life can become very routine. We can start to feel ‘stuck’. We stop noticing signs and there’s a higher chance of us ‘missing turnoffs’, heading in a direction we no longer want to be travelling or making mistakes.
 
The work of Stamford University professor Carol Dweck highlights how, if we don’t stop and pause before we do something, it’s the brain that is in charge. And the brain’s default position is to do something the way it has always done it. Automatic pathways take over, and we find ourselves falling back into the same routine. Sound familiar?
 
To overcome this, we need to find ways of shifting from automatic pilot so that we are in charge. Doing this opens us up to new possibilities. It allows us to notice what’s happening around us, see signs and take different turnoffs that help us develop, grow and do things differently. 
 
I’m not a lawyer, but I can see parallels here with what I know of the collaborative process.  It would be easy to fall into the same old ways of approaching a first meeting with a client, and default to the form-filling, box-ticking approach. But by pausing, asking different questions and reading the signs, that first meeting becomes much more of a conversation and suddenly new possibilities and directions might emerge.    
 
So if you feel you’re stuck in a rut, ask yourself how much are you bringing conscious thinking to everyday activities, and how much are you operating on autopilot? Are you ready to start using your brain for a change?

 
Jules Wyman is a coach, speaker and author specialising in confidence and self-belief. See her in action at the Northern Lights conference in York on 5 October. 
    
 
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