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Alexa, Turn Off Autopilot

Before a pilot sets out on a flight they plot the coordinates of their journey. They consider a number of factors including the weather, other flight conditions, estimated time of arrival, etc. They know where they are going and how they are going to get there. For most of the journey, given continued favourable weather conditions, pilots are able to press a single button and enter auto-pilot. This allows the vessel to fly itself essentially while they just supervise to ensure all systems are working appropriately. Take off and landing are a hands on affair of course, but the distance in between can be a relaxed journey across clear skies.


For most of us our job on planes are that of passengers. We get to decide if we would like to patronise the inflight entertainment (for longer flights), eat the snacks/food, get some work done, sleep, chat with a new neighbor or travelling companion or simply stare at the breathtaking views. We entrust our safety, our arrival time, the smoothness of our trip and the technicalities of the moving the vessel to the pilot(s). We do not worry about how well equipped they are, how alert they might be or even how high we might be ascending. We relinquish control and assume that we will arrive at our intended destination.


We cannot conduct our lives how we catch our flights. We are not passengers, we are pilots. Therefore we do not get to just pay the price for a degree, invest the time in the application, agree to then relationship and then enter auto-pilot. There is work to be done after departure. We must keep our eyes on the destination, remain aware of the existing conditions in which we are operating and keep determining whether we will be on schedule. If there are deviations that will affect our arrival time we must ensure that we devise a plan on what to do next and implement it, while in flight. Even when we get to our destination we need to figure things out – the air pressure of our tires, whether we need to refuel, how our crew (support system is doing) and ensure we are rested enough to commence the next journey. We must also decide where to next and plot coordinates for that trip.


We are pilots not passengers, therefore we do not just get to sleep, eat and chat with a neighbor continuously. We do not get to rest the entire journey. There are times when we must earn our wings, utilise the skills that got us to the levels we have qualified for and even guide others to safety. We must ensure safe take offs, smooth landings and remain cognisant of the conditions around us. We are allowed to fly on autopilot sometimes, after all – even pilots in planes filled with passengers do – but we need to know when to press the button and when to take back control of the aircraft. We need to nail our landings, account and adjust for turbulence and keep our eyes on the skies even when we are not actively operating the aircraft of our lives.


The year is coming to an end. We are approaching another landing. We need to nail it. We need to ensure that whatever goals and resolutions we set, revised or original, we find a way to advance them. You may have come to the realisation that you would like to take an alternate route, land in a different air field or even go to a completely different destination – this is okay. If you are making any changes or adjustments whatsoever – adjustments for new passengers, adjustments for new plans, adjustments for rekindled passions you have to turn off the auto-pilot. If you do not actively involve yourself in the flight of your life things will just continue to move according to your already set routine. Nothing will change unless you take control. You will not travel any faster, take in any additional scenery or even ascend to higher heights (if your journey requires it) unless you deactivate flight mode.


So let’s do just that. Stop going through the motions, stop observing from afar, stop passively let things run their course. Stop cruising at a certain altitude, stop being hands off in our approach to our own journey, stop failing to even appreciate our current view. Let’s deactivate auto-pilot, regain control of our aircrafts and fly in the direction of our dreams and destiny. Bon voyage!


Zeni St. John

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