Shift Out of Robot Mode and Engage with Life
By Kate Buckmeier
Some days can feel like a blur. Work, emails, appointments, kid activities, meal prep, exercise – the list goes on and the clock ticks as we continue to push through one item after another. These are the days when we can easily slip into “robot mode.”
When robot mode gets turned on the day revolves around production, and we can become very efficient and very determined, but robot mode feels very stiff. It can make us unable to flex with life’s curveballs. The clock and the to-do list are constantly on our mind, and when something unplanned gets introduced, we can get resentful and cranky.
It may be efficient, productive and keep the machine of family and work running, but robot mode doesn’t allow for joy, creativity and the wholehearted love that we need and crave.
In order to live a fulfilling life we need to take our time on things and be open to embrace moments of spontaneity. Don’t you long to enjoy beauty and feel the wonder and awe in everything that surrounds you, to be engaged and ready to connect with the people in front of you?
Here are a few simple strategies that can keep you from getting stuck in robot mode or pull you out when you are head down and your to-do list is running on overdrive.
CREATE A DAILY “ENOUGH” LIST
Each day, write down the three things that you really want to accomplish for the day. These are the items that feel the most essential to complete given all of the moving pieces of the day. Keeping a smaller daily list of tasks allows for a sense of completion and the freedom to invite spontaneity.
If you catch yourself trying to add more items to your daily list, stop, turn the page and instead write them on a separate list that captures ideas for the whole week. This practice eases the urgency. You haven’t forgotten about these ideas/projects, but can give yourself a break about getting to them right now.
SHIFT THE FOCUS
When your head is spinning and you can’t stop watching the clock, use a simple trick that I learned years ago on a yoga retreat – shift your focus to something far off, like the sunset or the top of a tree and allow your gaze to blur – zoom out. After a few minutes, turn your eyes toward something close by and focus on one tiny aspect of that thing – zoom in. This shift from grand to tiny is a simple practice that will bring you back to the present and keep the big picture in focus.
TAKE A DAILY DOSE OF NATURE
Each day make time for a few moments outside. You might spend it walking your dog, eating lunch in the sunshine, or stepping out to watch the trees in the breeze. The amount of time can vary, but this time in nature offers the expansion that will keep your focus from becoming narrow and rigid.
MAKE EYE CONTACT (but keep 6-foot distance!)
If you notice that you have stopped making eye contact with the people around you, then you know that you are in robot mode. Stop and look into the eyes of the person right in front of you, and there will be an immediate shift that awakens you. You will become open to whatever emotion is present in front of you.
BE MOVED BY MUSIC
You may find that you switch right out of robot mode when you turn on some good music. Engage with the words and melody and feel a lightness in your body when songs that you love are playing. I love to listen and sing along while I cook and find that music makes me feel flexible and light – no robot allowed unless I choose it as a dance move!
END THE DAY IN GRATITUDE
Keep a small dated journal by your bed and each night write three to five simple things that bring a sense of gratitude, contentment, or joy. This simple ritual doesn’t take long and can become a peaceful way to re-center and take stock at the end of the day.
On the days when robot mode is in full gear, it can require a little searching to find gratitude. Those are the days to remind yourself of immediate things like your warm bed or the ability to breathe in and out. This practice is simple, consistent and will become a habit that allows you to tune in to your heart each day.
It is easy to get stuck going through the motions, but life is so much more enjoyable when you are engaged, flexible, open and present to the people and things around you. You weren’t meant to be a robot.