How Choice Becomes Our Auto-Pilot

I might be the only kid in America who had to fight with her mom to stay in high school.  But a fight it was.  When I was a senior in high school, she repeatedly tried to first convince me to quit school and then to coerce me to quit.  It got to a boiling point where I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I got home from school:  would I still have a place to live?

My parents simply didn’t believe in formal education.  My dad had done well for himself and my mom believed that a girl should grow up, get married and have kids.  She wanted us to be self-sufficient but she didn’t think college was a necessary part of that. 

I stayed in school and I graduated with honors.  Shortly after graduation, I moved out to become “an adult,” which was what I was supposed to do.  At least that was the way things worked in my family.  I did well at all of the jobs I had, but the problem seemed to be that if you really wanted to advance, you needed a college degree.

When that happened, I simply thought to myself, “Well, I don’t have a college education, so I guess that that path isn’t for me.” 

And, just like that, a choice that I had made because it was what was expected of me, became my auto-pilot.  Without even really realizing it, I was continuing to make the same choice over and over again.

Until one day, when I was in my early 20s and someone said to me, “You are smart enough to go to college.”  That blew my mind!  And it disrupted my auto-pilot. 

It made me start thinking about the different ways that I might be able to make going to college happen. It became a driving force for me: I had to make it happen.  And I did and I became the first in my immediate family to get a college degree (let alone two degrees when I went back for my Masters).

This experience taught me one of the many ways that sometimes our choice becomes embedded in our lives and there it stays unless we do something to re-examine it and dissect it so that we can intentionally decide if we want to continue to make the same choice or if it is time for a new choice. 

I think that this is so important that I dedicated an entire podcast episode to the 5 ways that choice becomes embedded over time. 

Because the bottom line is this:  Our lives are too important to put them on auto-pilot and forget it!