How autopilot stops you from doing your best work

New things are exciting, but that excitement doesn’t always last. We need to find ways to keep it going to do our best work.

When you start a new project, fun comes naturally in the beginning. I’m sure you’ve felt it – there’s an inherent joy that comes with rolling up our sleeves and doing the work. 

Now, tell me if this sounds familiar. 

At first, you might have felt a contagious optimism and passion. But, over time, as you gained some reps, broke through the normal stresses and frustrations that come with getting something new off the ground, the natural high that comes with learning something fades, auto-pilot, complacency, and boredom start to creep in. Suddenly, something that gave you tremendous energy in the beginning, is now mundane, routine, and boring. 

That’s a problem for entrepreneurs like us, as we start or grow our business because our thoughts and feelings have a direct impact on our actions. If we’re on autopilot, we can’t produce innovative work is severely limited. 

It’s essential, therefore, that we find ways to inject play and variation into our routines, so we can see the world from a place of possibility and wonder, making our minds more fertile ground for new ideas.

Do Your Best Work
Do Your Best Work

First, a little neuroscience.  

In the brain, neural pathways are the circuitry that enable us to do everything we do. Importantly, our actions create and reinforce those pathways. When we take new actions, we create new pathways. And, the more we complete an action over time, the stronger the pathway gets. It strengthens so it can form a more efficient path, which conserves energy and enables the task to become routine and automatic – that frees up mental capacity for other tasks. 

But, when those pathways get stronger, they don’t necessarily preserve passion, creativity, joy, and fun. In other words, while curiosity and excitement are inherent to the learning process, over time, we need to make a mental shift from expecting it will happen naturally, to intentionally creating space for it. 

Critically, that requires a level of mental presence that’s just incompatible with going through the motions. 

Your best work starts here.

As always, it starts with awareness. If you find yourself drifting into boredom or a mundane routine, ask yourself the following questions (in order). 

  • What am I feeling, specifically?
  • What’s the thing, event, or task that’s triggering that feeling? 
  • What actions am I taking or not taking as a result of that feeling?
  • What’s the impact if things don’t change?
  • What would have to be true for me to re-engage?
  • How could you add a little spontaneity or fun to your routine? 
  • What would have to be true for you to fall in love with your work all over again?

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