A Coaching Power Tool By Annalisa Bracciante, Transformational Coach, ITALY
What Is Auto-Pilot MODE ON vs. Human Pilot
Living With the Auto-Pilot Mode on or Being Your Own Pilot? This Is the Dilemma!
Nowadays, we live in a very fast-paced world, it is not rare to hear from people that they are stressed out and squeezed into a life routine that is not very fulfilling to them. Some of us may be haunted by the feeling of lacking enough time to pursue our dreams or to express ourselves to the fullest of our potential.
However, on a closer look, the feeling of lacking time for ourselves and for the pursuit of our happiness and self-actualization stems from a specific perception of reality, time, life, and one’s agency. If one believes that there is not enough time for them and that they cannot do anything about it, they will keep living their life as it is, for how unhappy and unfulfilling it can be. On the other hand, if a person looks at their own life and considers what there is, what else there might be, and what they can do to make the most of their time on earth, they will be able to choose to manage their life differently and for the better.
Therefore, regardless of the specific living conditions of all of us, one may say that the belief of not having sufficient time and not having any power to change our life or to create a new course of action is some of the greatest obstacles to managing one’s life in a more rewarding manner and to express oneself to the fullest of their potential.
Somebody may be shocked to hear that even in ancient times philosophers such as Seneca debated about the perceived “lack of time” in people’s lives! Society changes but the human being in itself is always the same and that haunting feeling of scarcity is something that we may have in common with ancient Romans.
Let’s solve this evergreen dilemma by drawing inspiration from Seneca’s writings and let’s talk about a powerful tool that may help us solve our time-management issues and live a more uplifting life. This tool is designed to support people in switching their perspective of lack of time, powerlessness, and inability to a new point of view characterized by creativity and novelty. I named this specific coaching power tool: “Auto-Pilot MODE ON vs. Human Pilot”.
Auto-Pilot MODE ON vs. Human Pilot Definition
When a person lives with the autopilot mode on they believe not have enough time to live a satisfying life due to continuous and compelling duties to be discharged. If a person holds true that the time of their life is scarce, when will that person find enough time for self-reflection? When will one find some time to pursue their happiness? When will they find the right time for walking on the path of self-actualization? The prototypical answer of such a person would be: “Maybe on the weekend if there’ll be enough time”.
People living with the autopilot believe that the time of one’s life is not enough to live to the fullest of their own potential. Everybody knows that the time of a human being on earth is limited, but the idea that it is scarce is just a personal construct and as such is relative and it can be flipped and changed with an alternative belief more favorable to the person. For example, one may argue that we have all the time we need as long as we employ it wisely and we do not waste it on meaningless activities or pursuits, as Seneca claimed in his text De brevitate vitae.
What is a “wise” and “meaningful” use of one’s time, then? Seneca had his own philosophical theory about this topic; however, I would rather keep an open and flexible approach centered on the person, than recall Seneca’s frame of thought precisely. What a meaningful use of one’s time depends exclusively on one’s point of view and scale of values. For this reason, it is paramount to explore with the person what their thoughts and feelings about the topic area and what their values are.
People who live with the autopilot modality activated show to be very attached to their routine, since they deem their daily habits to be the best way to ensure no waste of time. In actuality, feelings of fear and anxiety might be hiding under the repetition of the old and “safe” ways of action, so much cherished by the person. Therefore, it is important for the coach to explore the negative feelings that may be dwelling under the surface and support the coachee in the exploration of their emotional realm.
Furthermore, it is likely that the client keeps out from their daily schedule precisely some of the most meaningful things to them. In fact, another characteristic feature of the autopilot modality is the difficulty in changing one’s automated and repetitive ways of living adapting them to the new, at the expense of one’s sense of contentment and personal power. To summarize, the main recurring beliefs of these folks are the idea of scarcity of time, the perceived inability to change their lives, and the consequent unconscious repetition of patterns of behavior not aligned with the client’s deepest desires.
Human Pilot Modality
When the human pilot guides the person, she or he is in command of themselves, they are aware of what is important to them, they understand that human existence is limited to an unpredictable amount of time but, nevertheless, they trust that they can make the most of it. These people are conscious that they have the power to change their schedule and routine by making choices and setting priorities, having an impact on their life.
A person that comes from the human pilot perspective knows that they are able to set up a schedule according to their own will, therefore they can change it if they want to do it. In a few words, such personal time management is not based on a sense of lack, repetition of old patterns, fear, or powerlessness, but on a sense of time availability, creativity, trust, and a strong sense of personal power.
So, the human pilots take ownership of their actions and time management choices and they experiment with a greater sense of agency, freedom, and openness to the new than the “autopiloted people”. It is evident that the perspective of the first group of people allows more space for personal experimentation, self-expression, and life choices more aligned to the person’s values and goals.
How Can We Put These Thoughts Into Practice?
In order to reframe the person’s perspective from the autopilot modality to the human pilot modality, I suggest supporting the client in developing a greater sense of personal power, evoking awareness about their time availability and their time management skills, to explore the coachee’s unconscious spots and to challenge them to experiment new patterns of behavior. The coach will support the client in strengthening their personal power through powerful questions, acknowledgments, exploration of clients’ feelings, thoughts, values, and goals, and inviting the coachee to ponder on those moments in life where he or she felt successful and in a position of power. A memory of past positive events and visualization of future desired achievements will be used to inspire and enthuse the person into action.
When a retrieved sense of empowerment and self-agency will be confirmed by the coachee it might be the right time to check in with the client about what they are currently leaving out from their daily routine. Is there anything that they cherish and are not pursuing? Is there something that they would like to insert into their daily routine? In this moment of exploration of the client’s inner world, it will be paramount to leave enough space for the person to fully get in contact with themselves, being in the moment and listening to their inner self. At this point, a conflict between desires and old belief patterns may arise.
As I have already discussed above, one of the most critical limiting beliefs held by the autopiloted person is the idea of lacking time. Thus, this belief should be dealt with carefully by the coach in order to allow the widening of the client’s perspective. Specifically, the awareness of time availability will be evoked by inviting the client to reflect on the ways they usually manage their time, the methods they have in place and the structures they use to support their action planning and timetable. Moreover, a special focus should be placed on exploring discomfortable feelings that may be hiding behind a repetitive routine or usual behaviors. It is likely that some old limiting beliefs may be attached to those discomfortable feelings and if so, they should be brought to the clients’ attention.
Finally, when the person will have reflected on the actual use of their time and ability to operate changes in their life, they will be challenged by their coach to think of new and more creative courses of action, plan them, and act on them.
Down below, you can find some sample questions sorted by topic.
From Powerlessness to Empowerment
- What is one of the most precious things you have accomplished/achieved in your life?
- How do you feel when you envision your achievements?
- What does this episode of your life tell you about yourself?
- What does this success tell you about yourself?
- What would you like to acknowledge to yourself right now?
- If you had infinite personal and material resources, what would you like to do?
Setting up Goals and Life Priorities
- What is important to you right now?
- What does make your heart sing with joy at this moment in time?
- Where do you see yourself 1,3,5,10 years from now?
- What are you doing to make that vision come true?
- What is the time that you allot to pursue your goals?
- What is the time that you allot to the activities you value the most?
From Time Scarcity to Time Availability
- I hear that you mention a lack of time in your schedule, what do you do in your typical day?
- What do you usually do to manage your daily tasks and commitments?
- What do you usually do to keep a record of the time you need?
- What or Who supports you in your scheduling process/time management?
- If you had all the time you needed, what would you do?
From Unconscious Repetition to Conscious Choice
Negative Feelings and Self-Reflection
- What do you feel, when imagining changing your daily routine?
- What would happen in the worst-case scenario? How would you feel, if that (worst case scenario) happened?
- What could happen in the best-case scenario?
- What would you like to do with these disconformable feelings?
- How would you like to feel?
- What if you had enough time?
Challenging the Person to Experiment and Be Creative
- What have you not tried yet to have time to do action a,b,c, and d?
- What could help in changing positively your daily routine?
- What could you do differently?
- What would you like to do differently, if you were completely free?
- What could you do differently, starting from today?
- What would you do, if you had to choose right now with your gut feelings?
- What would you like/feel to do first?
- What would you do, if you could choose freely about the priority in your daily schedule?
- What would you do, if you had all the time you needed?
- What if you actually have all the time you need?
Grenville-Cleave, B (2016) Positive Psychology: a toolkit for happiness, purpose, and well-being, UK: Icon Books Ltd.
Seligman, M. E. P. (2012) Flourish a visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being, New York: Free Press.
Seneca, L. A. (1993)La brevità della vita, translated by Alfonso Traina, Milano:Rizzoli.
Eatough, E. (2022) Eat the frog: New ways to approach time management. (Accessed: 20 February 2022).
Coates, M. (2018) 3 Smart Ways To Improve Your Time Management Skills. (Accessed: 20 February 2022).