If you feel like you’re sleepwalking through your life this article could be just the wake up call you need.

Are you a passenger, a pacer or a pleaser?

Are you a passenger, a pacer or a pleaser?

The UK is an “autopilot” nation according to a new cultural report released today by Marks & Spencer.  The average person makes 15 decisions on autopilot a day – that’s more than 250,000 in a lifetime – without truly thinking about them.

Some level of autopilot is essential for survival – the average adult makes around 35,000 decisions a day, many need to be second nature so our brains don’t overload.  But this necessary autopilot has creeped into more parts of our everyday lives without us even realising and has reached epidemic levels with 96% of Brits recognising they are making mindless decisions daily.

The trouble is that our hijacked autopilot is triggering negative habits with the majority of people allowing routine to dictate their decisions and defaulting to a yes mode when – if they gave themselves more time to make the right choice – their natural instinct would be to say no. 

“People recognise that the choices they are making don’t add up to the life they want to live. We can all do better at living more purposefully. The opposite of autopilot is purposeful living.” Dr. Mark Williamson, Action for Happiness.

Sound familiar? Don’t despair help is at hand as the Autopilot Britain study has identified the top three patterns of behaviour behind the problem.

What type of Autopilot are you?

“The first step is really recognising what is going on and encouraging people to notice what their autopilot behaviours are because then you’ve started the journey to changing that” says Dr Mark Williamson.


Problem: Pleasers find it so hard to say anything other than yes that obligations pile up and the internal voice pleading them to say “no” gets drowned out.  By trying to please everyone they end up resentful of their to-do list and not focussing on what matters.  


Problem: On a mission to always find “what’s next” the Pacers are so caught up in the pace of modern life that they pack as much as possible into their days - relentlessly busy “doing” rather than “being”.


Problem: The Passengers are overwhelmed with choice and information, like a rabbit caught in the headlights they sometimes struggle through life allowing the world around them to dictate their choices and following the crowd too often

Yet there is hope, as 81% of those we spoke to said if they could simply change one small thing every day, it would help to snap out of autopilot. M&S is encouraging the nation to focus on what is important to them by introducing Make it Matter Day on 1st June: a challenge to take control and get more out of life. Here are some simple tips to get you started:

Break the commute: get off the bus a stop early, find a fresh route to walk along, download a podcast to spark a different take on everyday routine and appreciate the diversity of life around you.                                                                                                                                                                            

Switch on to people: make more eye contact, big up the ‘thank yous’, say  hello to someone you normally take for granted, and add a slice of engagement into the mix.                                                                                                                                                                                     

Try something new each week: from a new lunch spot, to changing what you read, listening to a new playlist, or trying a different fitness class. One thing a week could change mundane routines for the better and inspire the everyday.                                                                                                                                                            

Plan one important thing each day and stick to doing it: watch out for distraction traps, don’t say yes to things that stop you doing what you want to do and don’t leave it until late in the day. Weird as it might sound, writing it on a ‘post it ‘makes a goal more solid.                                                                                                                                                                                  

Don’t keep the best things for later: Make every day feel special - wear what makes you feel great, crack out the food you really want to eat, use the best glasses to drink out of just because it feels good. Everyday should turn out to be one of the good ones.                            

Balance the tech: You know this one is coming right? It’s a brilliant enabler, but it can enslave us too. There is no one right model to finding downtime other than to work it out. But mealtimes are a good place to start so you can savour every mouthful, listen properly to friends and family and take time to laugh at real life.                                                                                                                      

Buy yourself thinking time: Avoid the ‘yes’ trap for questions when you really want to say ‘no’ by changing the responses: ‘I might be able to/ I’ll get back to you/Let me check and see…’ all give you decision making room and take you ‘off the spot’.                                                                                                                                     

Do something for others: Think about being more charitable and giving something back - from giving blood, to donating to food banks, to volunteering, or checking in on an elderly neighbour. You’ll find that there are great opportunities to meet new people and help out right on your doorstep.                                                                                                                                 

Sleep better: Start with charging the phone downstairs rather than in the bedroom for more ‘R&R’ time. Don’t skimp on great pillows. Keep things fresh with room scents and candles. Maybe pick wake up music rather than a harsh alarm to set the morning mood.                                                                                                                                        

Bond more: From cooking with your partner, to shopping together, or finding a new shared box set, we need to focus on what matters most for the everyday and sometimes make the mundane more memorable. This is the heart of the challenge - start with the basics and then build outwards…