Automation is Overrated Anyway

“So when do I get the part where the eating and exercise is automatic, like it is for you?”

Someone asked me that this past weekend, and I think my answer disappointed her. I don’t like to do that to people.

For me, there’s sometimes a feeling of being on auto-pilot. I’m eating the same rotation of healthy(ish) foods every day. I exercise right on schedule. I’m in a positive sleep pattern. And so on, with all of it seeming to happen without much thought.

But that’s not true. I don’t set the cruise control on my car and then take a nap. I still have a job to do, namely keeping my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road. (One would hope the same thing is happening with other drivers. And with airplane pilots.)

Maybe a better analogy is that of the automatic coffee maker. Unless I set the timer, position the carafe, and add the water, filter, and–oh, yeah–the coffee, I’m going to get freshly-brewed air the next morning.

It’s the same with this quest for healthier living. I have to have the ingredients on hand and in their proper places for it to work. For me, this translates to having healthy foods in the house and having a specific time set for exercise. And also a good Plan B, Plan C, etc. for when Plan A has a wrinkle, because not every day is perfect.

What IS automatic is that I wake up each day and start. I mentally run through the day ahead and commit to following through. Most days I do, but sometimes I don’t. It really doesn’t matter as long as I start again. Or I start over, depending on which is required at that moment.

In How to Never Give Up, writer Stephen Guise assures us that as long we keep starting, we’ll finish:

Your brain has no idea how to “finish,” because it’s a multi-step process to get to the point of finishing something. But the brain does know how to start the first step.

The mind is a magnificent machine and will either power our efforts or blow them to smithereens. Taking that first step–a commitment to start–each and every day can become automatic. What follows can become routine, but it won’t happen automatically. Darn it.

brain: warning this machine starts automatically

18 thoughts on “Automation is Overrated Anyway

  1. I find that I have to always keep my head in the game for my good habits. If it isn’t I get derailed easily. I do have good new habits, but the pathways to the old ones are still there, buried, and I sometimes find myself following them.

    • It’s so easy to get distracted and before you know it, the wrong kind of autopilot has kicked in. I do find it’s easier to jump back into the good habits now, but I know it’s not a permanent stay. :)

  2. Yep, yep, yep! And its reassuring this morning to read that as long as I keep starting I’ll finish. That’s after a few days out of town where I tried that auto pilot thing…

  3. I needed this today! And the article on “How To Never Give Up” was equally needed.Thank you!

  4. This is one of those “I wish I’d written that.” posts. Really great analogies.

    When you related that a person had asked the question and was disappointed in your answer, I immediately thought of the people who have asked me how I lost weight. So many of them cut me off with a statement along the line of “That’s too hard.”

    You are so right about this. Last week I tried to make coffee without putting the coffee into the maker. Imagine my surprise when I went back and found I only had hot water. Bummer. :(

    • I’ll confess, I was a tiny bit disappointed when I realized that autopilot wasn’t going to work 100% of the time, and it’s possible I projected that onto the woman with whom I was speaking. :)

  5. I love the comparison to the coffee maker. Every night, Chris goes through the same routine – water, coffee,….(I don’t know all the steps because I don’t drink coffee so I don’t make it!) – if he doesn’t fill the coffee maker and turn it on, the coffee won’t start brewing at 5:10 am. Working out and living a healthy lifestyle is the same – gotta do the prep work (every single day!!!) or it won’t happen – for beginners, life-long exercises and all in between!!!

    • I rarely make or drink coffee at home, so those steps are definitely not routine for me either. :)

      I think there are people in this world whose natural instincts lead them to make all the decisions I have to think about. I’m more like them than I used to be, but I’ll always have to think about it.

  6. I agree with you! So many people are disappointed when I tell them of my daily routine to lose and now to maintain my weight. They want to hear there is a quick and easy way…

    • I don’t think this woman was looking for ‘quick and easy’ as much as she was wondering if there’d come a point when she would instinctively make the right choices as opposed to having to make a conscious decision. I hope she finds it and then shares it with me. LOL (I’ll definitely share it with y’all if she does!)

  7. YES! Love the analogies Cammy! RIGHT ON! Even after all my years, I still have to set up the coffee maker & still have to pay attention even if cruise control is on – as you wrote! :) For me, it is always being aware & always moving on even if I slip up – just keep moving forward…

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