The Autopilot Setting

Laces Close-up
Photo Credit: William Warby via Flickr (Creative Commons)


Thinking about my life as being an experiment is my strategy for coping (or surviving, depending on the day). The fact that I can’t know, much less control, the end result of projects that I undertake, relationships that I form, or goals that I set out to accomplish, is freeing. When I assume I know the end result, it’s easy to operate on auto-pilot and miss out on everything that leads up to the expected end result. Sometimes, this is a good thing. When you sit down to tie your shoelaces, do you think about each pass of the lace, the changing view of your sneaker through the loops as you form them, or whether to single or double knot? I don’t. Nor do I plan to.

But once upon a time, the process of tying your shoelaces was a mystery, and when you set out to do it, there was no guarantee you’d be successful. At the age of Five, before you could even spell the word experiment, tying your shoelaces was just that. A learning experiment. A process.

Although, I don’t remember learning to tie my shoes, I’m willing to bet that while I was learning, I noticed things: the texture of the laces, how dirty or clean they were, how skipping a step could cause me to have to start over, that I preferred one pair of shoes over another (probably the ones with the Velcro).

(And not to harp on the issue, but where were dual-colored laces when I was learning to tie my shoes?)

While I can’t return to those halcyon days of being five and learning to tie my shoes, it’s a classic example of how once we master something, we are eager to put it on autopilot. We stop thinking about what, how, and why we do it. Autopilot is useful. It frees us up to think about other things, like buying new shoes. Or how, one day, if we’re lucky, we’ll be old and get to wear Velcro shoes again.

But sometimes, it’s revelatory to forcibly switch off the autopilot setting and pay attention again. That’s what I’ve been attempting to do with this blog. Each month, I ask a question. Conduct an experiment. Repeat for the next 29 or 30 days.

A month is a great “container” for conducting an experiment. I’ve learned a lot in these 30 or 31 day experiments, regardless of whether or not they’ve been of long enough duration to affect long-term change in my life. But, logically, if I learn a lot within the framework of a month, I could learn loads by conducting a year-long experiment.

Which brings me to my latest experiment. The hypothesis: I can give up my car for a year without losing my composure, my sanity, or my social life. The time frame: July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2015.

Stay tuned for the deets.


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