Figure with outstretched arm holding a banner for the seven day stretch your self-awareness challenge banner
Calendar blocks indicating day seven of the seven day stretch your self-awareness challenge

The Zombie Zap

Hand icon with finger producing a shock

Several studies show interesting effects of “zoning out” or running on autopilot during the day. Even if you don’t enjoy reading research, stick around because the results are worth consideration.

Psychology researchers hung dollar bills on tree branches that obstructed the walking path of students and professors on a college campus. How many people do you suppose noticed the money tree? Would it surprise you to know that less than 20% of walkers noticed money on the tree branch, even though they had to alter their course to avoid bumping into it?

The lesson in the story is simple: living on autopilot blinds you to life’s riches. Research shows that you’ll pass them by – not the other way around. Opportunities go unnoticed every day due to this phenomenon.

Inattentional blindness, the psychological term for this phenomenon, happens more often during mundane, recurring situations than novel ones. A pre-COVID survey of British residents indicated an average of 15 decisions a day made on autopilot. A bigger consequence revealed itself through the study: 62% of Brits surveyed felt unfulfilled in their lives.

When you make an effort to turn off autopilot mode by practicing mindfulness, or being present in the moment, you feel more in control of your life. You also appreciate life more, because you notice more to appreciate. And you reduce the time spent in worry and rumination.

Self-Awareness Challenge of the Day

Life repeats itself more often than not, so it’s easy to “go through the motions” without paying attention. You need a way to bring yourself back to the present moment. Allow me to introduce a technique I like to call “Zombie Zapping.”

The saying, “Pinch me – I must be dreaming,” implies that physical stimulation jolts you back to reality. There’s some substance to this tactic. Intense tactile input does gives you a momentary blast of focus.

As you go through your day today, anytime you feel yourself zoning out give yourself a poke, pinch, or tap. No need to cause pain, just awareness. Then re-approach what you were just doing with more intention.