Reality Check: Auto-Pilot and Conscious Choices

The traffic light turns red. We stop. Well, most of us do, anyway.
Did the traffic light make us stop? Not really. We could have gone sailing through, possibly causing injury and mayhem. But we choose not to do that because we know the rule—Stop on a red light. We don’t even think about it; it’s as if we’re operating on auto-pilot.
In Choice Theory, Dr. Glasser writes about internal and external control. He makes the point that while we might think that external events control us, our control is internal. We choose to put our foot on the brake when we do.
External events and triggers do provide information, though. And there is a lot of information out there.
Thus, we use shortcuts to help us make choices, form opinions, and take actions. If we didn’t, we would have to gather all possible information before making a decision. Good grief! Even trivial decisions would become overwhelming.
Instead, even when we “research” or gather information to make informed decisions, we don’t look at everything. One shortcut we might use is to seek information from a trusted source. For example, if I’m looking for a plumber, I’ll call Harry. He knows a lot of people and I trust him to give me good information. I don’t try to look into the details of every single plumber. Essentially, Harry is my short-cut to a good plumbing experience.
While my shortcut to call on Harry is a conscious decision, some shortcuts are essentially automatic, like the stop light rule. What other shortcuts might we use?
One shortcut worth considering is our values. We could look at our values as a set of instructions for our personal auto-pilot. How might values act as a shortcut to decision-making?
Consider this question: What are your plans for the weekend? Maybe visiting friends or family? Catching up on work? Doing property maintenance? Gardening in your food plot? Helping someone out? Attending a church service? Hiking? Studying? Reading? Playing with your dog? Sitting on the couch?
Each of those activities may be a way of fulfilling your values and satisfying your basic needs. For example: Property maintenance and gardening could satisfy the security/survival need. Visiting, helping out, attending services could satisfy love/belonging. Working, learning, studying can satisfy our power need. Hiking and dog-play could satisfy freedom and fun needs.
When you are conscious of your values, you may find that you can use them to more directly and satisfyingly guide your activities. If you know that strong relationships are a value for you, then it may be easier to decide between work and visiting. Likewise, if security is a top-of-mind value for you, then you may choose to catch up on work and property maintenance, forgoing the fun and freedom of other activities to work on the value that’s more important to you.
Information from the outside world, like the red light, can suggest what to do. But even on auto-pilot, that information doesn’t force us to act. If you are feeling conflicted or dissatisfied, take a look at whether your actions are reflecting your values.
I think it’s more satisfying to be aware of our values and choose to honour them with our actions rather than relying on autopilot. What do you think?

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