The more active, distracting, complexly-interconnected, and highspeed our lives become, the more essential and reflexive it becomes to develop behavioral patterns that simplify the otherwise tricky job of navigating through the bustling, modern, day-to-day grind. These behavioral patterns so many of us have come to rely on are so heavily are often time subliminal. Whether we're referring to the conscious or the subconscious patterns, it is safe to say that they are so essential to 21st century Americans, they are like an autopilot.
Despite being interconnected, enabling us to speak in real-time to almost anyone, almost anywhere on or off the planet. Despite being joined to social groups giving real-time visibility throughout impressively large peer groups via a single pane of glass. Despite having a global transportation infrastructure granting us the ability to travel almost anywhere on planet Earth within a 24 hour period for a lower cost than ever before. Despite all of these innovations created to bring us together, statistics show that unprecedented numbers of people today feel more lonely and disconnected than ever before due to the sudden infrastructural impacts of the new social and communication platforms.
Multitasking on the way to work, Texting while you're at the dinner table, spending family time with everyone's eye glued on a television screen instead of each other, are just a few. The problem is, these so-called "autopilot activities" we engage in on a daily basis may be jeopardizing more than just the moods of the ignored people around us. They have begun compromising our ability.
They may be turning into coping mechanisms for today's adjunct lifestyles which ostensibly, consists of hurrying between places where we sit and wait. They may also have roots in the fluidity of the early 21st century's "Bubble-Meet-Pin" Economies. Or perhaps it was the 24/7 inundation tactics the evolved Advertisers who found they had teeth as the world had never seen before when they gained the ability to deliver advertisements, which by then were called "content", directly to the consumer's hands via a medium which would actually stop the consumer from doing whatever they were doing to check it. To the point, most consumers, supposing they were in a conversation with another person when advertiser content delivered, most consumers would stop, many even mid-sentence, to review the advertiser's content. In other words, perhaps it was the creation of, and the existence of, for the first time in history, the never-out-of-reach, the consummate consumer.
Now, how often do we stop and notice the small things? I mean, how often do we intentionally interrupt our patterns and deliberately adopt an attitude of appreciation? Even for those who do this regularly, how likely are we to let the positions settle in and stay? The equally worthwhile question is, how often do these attitude adjusting interruptions happen unprompted or unbidden? In other words, how often are the beautiful things, the more nuanced stuff we randomly notice, like the sun setting above the highway we're on as we're driving home from work, registering?
So let's consider it for a moment. There we sit in traffic again. If you're anything like me, you're contemplating whether the level of frustration you're feeling over the unnatural level of traffic you find yourself in, yet again, is justifiable. So, what are the chances? What are the odds that at one of these moments, like the one brought on by merely noticing that intensely hot swirling inferno of a star, we call our "Sun," setting at the horizon in a direction that is probably in front of us, will impact us in any significant way? If so, what are the chances it could affect us so profoundly that it disrupts one or more of our patterns?
If you've had this happen before, you know that these types of disruptions can produce emotional transitions which can leave us feeling different things. The one I seem to encounter the most often is a sense of feeling humbled. They can leave us feeling like, although it was fleeting, for just a moment, we were aware of ourselves in a context more significant than ourselves. As if for just a moment, we tapped into something that matters in a much different, and probably more substantial way, than the three thousand fleeting, and perhaps two crucial, things we are going to do today will.
So let's say you're agreeing; hand raised, yes, this happens to me. That's great. So, how long does the experience typically last? How long do the emotions and the broader awareness you transition into, affect your attitudes? Do they last a few minutes? Are they still there once you arrive home? How about once you run through the rest of whichever routine you were trudging through when the disrupt happened? Have you ever had it still hanging around after you've climbed in bed for the night? Lingering even once everyone else is asleep? Because now, you're alone and your patterns have probably played out. These are the all-too-scarce unplugged moments that are just between you and your ceiling. Is it still there?
So, let's examine these disrupts a bit. It's a relatively small task to embrace a diminutive posture that frames yourself in a humbling context while gazing over the edge of the Grand Canyon. In the same way as its easier to accept how limited we are while we're lying outside at night contemplating the vastness of the stars we see spread out across the night sky and filling our periphery. It's a more disciplined thing, however, to keep this humility in mind while rushing to get the kids ready. It's more complicated to remember how fleeting life's subtle mysteries are when your boss is droning on about why your overtime is now elective because he's been told not to authorize additional overtime.
I've always appreciated the lessons these types of disrupts offer us. Learning to walk through your days, and yes, through your auto-pilot patterns, with the humility "life's pattern disrupts" provide you is the fastest way I've found to introduce more of them to your life. The beautiful thing about this is that focusing on attracting these disruptors in and of itself helps instill a broader sense of peace in and of itself. These types of goals are some of the easiest ways to increase your overall bandwidth helping you re-engage that level of inspired awe you wouldn't have realized you had become desensitized to had you not had a situation disrupt one of your routines in the first -place.
Meditation is an excellent way to learn to induce this type of mindfulness intentionally. With work, you can deliberately create new routines, and even tweak existing ones, intentionally incorporating attitudes and contexts that will help you keep the bigger picture in mind as you're running through your days.
So, as an example, let's say that your daily routine involves a pattern for getting ready in the morning and another one is once you get to my car you play your favorite music and sing as if no one can see you as you drive to work. By incorporating something as simple as looking for the sun on your way to work each morning, you can introduce an element to your mornings that reminds you of disrupting which in turn recognizes your desire to embrace a broader context, which encourages you to look until you find it.
You can even intentionally trigger these types of disrupts that help you center yourself and sort of "hotwire" you to consider your frame of context. A quick way is to find time to notice things around you. Take time to see the complexity of your environment. Whether you're examining the petals of the flowers and the bark on the trees or the even the details of the building you work in along with the various aspects of public infrastructure around you as you sit outside on your lunch break. Even seemingly small tweaks to our patterns can have tremendous results when incorporated as a new part of your routine each day.
At a minimum, this is a quick way to give yourself small pressure releases throughout the day to help you deal with the day-to-day onslaught that, if you're not careful, can easily desensitize you to these types of subtle, more nuanced emotional states. When we get caught up in ourselves and our patterns, the beautiful complexity and nuances of the world around us begin to slip by without being noticed. If you don't get it at first, don't give up. Adjusting your emotional state at will is a goal that could reasonably take a lifetime of honest endeavoring to master. However, understanding it and exploring it can also contribute a lifetime of benefits and rewards.