Dazed at the Wheel

April 3, 2016 — 4 Comments

The other day I was driving home from work on a regular Tuesday evening. It was about 6:15pm and I was taking the “back roads” because the Tollway I usually take would’ve been jammed with others like me trying to find the fastest path, but collectively making it even slower. And I say “back roads” but it’s actually a six lane Dallas road!

Although I’d rather not have to drive 35 minutes to get home after work, but it has proven to be somewhat therapeutic as I switch between country stations and NPR, looking forward to hearing the daily market update. Today’s routine was different though as my main goal was to call the Toyota dealership and inquire about a repair on our 4runner.

I asked Siri to call Toyota of Richardson, but in true Siri fashion, the first three times “She did not get that” and the fourth time the number she dialed was incorrect. So at the next stop light I used to the old school smartphone method and searched it on Google – this time connecting. As I was getting transferred to the service department, I realized I’d need the make and model so they could thoroughly answer my questions. So I reached for the glove box (this time not at a stoplight) and grabbed it (this is why I can’t wait for self-driving cars, because idiots like me).

We talked for a while about the issue – this will be a future post as I’m still too emotional to talk about it – and set up a time to bring the car in. I also gave a call to another repair shop to talk to them about the issue. By the time I hung up on the second call, I was nearly home and a little bit scared as I couldn’t really remember the last 20 minutes of driving. Sure, I was definitely the one behind the wheel, following basic traffic rules and staying within the lane, but what the hell just happened the last 20 minutes?

I guess I went on auto-pilot. My mind was occupied with things that were less important than what I should’ve been focused on, but at least I got done what I needed to get done.


Oliver Wendell Holmes said “Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out”. I love that quote as I’m obsessed with time, but I don’t think that we even consciously make the decision to delay living. Instead, we just go on auto-pilot.

We go into survival mode to get through the week. We feel the heaviness in our hearts on Sunday when the weekend went by too fast and the next five days we’re going back to battle. We’re going back to the same mundane work that even though is not new, still manages to take up our whole week and most of our energy. We go on auto-pilot for survival. Routine is a welcome option that helps us get through the hard things.

But what happens when auto-pilot is no longer the 20 innocent minutes driving home from work? What happens when auto-pilot was the entire year of 2015? Or 2005-2015? Or the next 30 years?

Somethings are good to put on auto-pilot, like saving and investing. However, some things are not so good. Like living.

Are you purposefully driving the outcomes of life you inspire to? Are you making decisions that are leading you down the path you want to take? Or are you going on auto-pilot and spending so much damn time keeping up with the Jones’ that you’ll have no option but to continue the cycle you’re in? Is your spending on auto-pilot to the point you’re not saving or investing?

You’re smart and powerful, and with enough focus, you can make auto-pilot work for you. Don’t fall for the same marketing tricks that try to get us to spend every dollar we have on crap we don’t need. Make some decisions and focus your life.

I may not be in my “dream job” right now, but my wife and I are making the right financial moves so we will have options. Our two cars have a combined 312k miles on them because we refuse to pay car payments and when you’re buying with cash, it’s a heck of a lot harder to buy a fancy new car. We cut cable, haven’t had an electric bill over $30 for the last five months because we minimize our electric use (ok, a mild winter helps) and we focus on cutting our grocery bills. We don’t know what our next steps will be yet, but we know we’ll be able to have them.

Your life is too valuable to put on auto-pilot. Don’t live life dazed at the wheel.

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4 responses to Dazed at the Wheel

  1. Hi Dan. Good thought provoking post. I read one in similar topic recently. Both made me really stop to consider the priorities in my life and enjoying the here and now instead of auto piloting through life and missing all the little things.

    • Thanks Susan! I think you’re far ahead of most of us with your conscious life decisions! It’s amazing to see how you’ve set your path and have continued to work at it!

  2. Dan — it’s so easy to stay in your comfort zone and turn on auto-pilot. It’s good to shake things up on a regular basis. I did that when I moved to Florida. Right now I’m a first-time volunteer for the Sarasota Film Festival. Initially, I didn’t sign up to be a “tech,” a behind the scene job, because I’ve always been a bit of a technophobe. But I decided to give it a try and found it not only easy but fun.

    • Jeannette – it’s so great to hear that Florida is treating you well! It’s so hard to make that first step to try something new, but once you do you realize it’s not really that hard. That’s for setting a great example 🙂

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