Are You Living Your Life or Are You on Automatic Pilot?
by C.S. Clarke, Ph.D.
Last night I watched the movie Click. It is the story of a man (Michael) who is given a "universal remote control" that works on everything in his life. Naturally, he starts using the "fast forward" button to skip the awkward and unpleasant times by going through them on "automatic pilot." Unfortunately for him, the remote control has a preferences-learning function and takes control of his life experiences by skipping large chunks of his life -- sometimes an entire decade -- to give him consciousness of only a few golden moments of great success. He can use rewind to go back and see what he missed -- including his children growing up, his wife divorcing him for his inattention and neglect, and his loss of connection with his father prior to the father's death. He can only review the events; he cannot correct them. That is his lesson and his anguish.
He has a mentor along the fast-paced roller coaster ride -- Morty, who later turns out the be the Angel of Death. At one point, Morty tells the complaining Michael that he was fast-forwarding his life long before Morty gave him the remote.
There are several lessons to be learned from such a story. Here's my take on an important implication:
The only way you can manage what happens in your life is through conscious awareness of "the now" and active participation in the events of your life, down to the small details. When you live on automatic pilot, not only do you miss current experiences, you also miss opportunities to influence your future. Life just happens to you. You have no control, remote or otherwise. Indeed you live without a plan for your future. While it is true that the plans for battle usually don't survive the first encounter, the first encounter is where you get the most current information for accurate and effective replanning.
Do you spend your time ignoring the unpleasant details of life? Avoiding fulfilling responsibilities for the stuff you just don't want to do? Neglecting many people and activities you hold dear to take care of what seems urgent because others are demanding of you? Are the details of the life you really want slipping away, while you focus single-mindedly on one aspect -- no matter how important. Wake up. All parts of your life are for living.
Your commitment to your life should be similar to the old-fashioned marriage vows: for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till with death I depart. Regardless of what's happening in your life at any given time, as long as you are a conscious, active participant, you will be able to live through it (or have time to enjoy it as the case may be) and influence what comes next by your own choices.
(By the way, the movie was pretty well done, with plenty of laughs. And I don't think Charles Dickens would mind a bit the adaptation of one of his themes.)