M&S Study: 96% of UK Living Life on Autopilot

May 16, 2017

According to the ‘Autopilot Britain’ study conducted on behalf of Marks & Spencer, the average person in Britain makes 15 decisions on autopilot a day – that’s more than 250,000 autopilot decisions in a lifetime – without truly thinking about them.

96% of the 3,000 study particpants admit to living life on autopilot, resulting in an epidemic of non-engagement with the world and sub-conscious decision making. These autopilot decisions range from what to wear in the morning to what to have for lunch or dinner – and even extend to what to do at the weekend.

As a result, M&S is urging the UK to break out of autopilot and make every decision count on 1 June 2017, as the nation comes together for Make it Matter Day to focus on finding the time for the everyday things that really matter in life.

According to the study, we say ‘yes’ four times a day when we wish we hadn’t, resulting in 70,000 moments of being untrue to ourselves and drowning out our inner voice over the course of a lifetime.

When it comes to the top three situations where Brits are most likely to say ‘yes’ when they really wish they’d said ‘no’, more than a quarter (26 per cent) highlighted agreeing to work late, closely followed by saying ‘yes’ to a social event they know they won’t attend, and visiting people they don’t get on with. 

The study also found that being too busy to notice what decisions we make, the dominance of technology and spending too much time comparing ourselves unfavourably to others, means Britons are trapped in autopilot mode with 61 per cent sticking to the same, familiar patterns.

Dr Mark Williamson, Director of Action for Happiness and contributor to the study, highlights that this epidemic means:

  • Over a third (39%) say their autopilot is switched on while relaxing at home – exactly when they should be engaging with the people who matter most, while a quarter of people admit to being on autopilot while at work.
  • 76% of people feel they are not spending their time well, with one in five admitting to not properly listening to others when in autopilot mode.
  • Over two fifths of adults (44 per cent) have forgotten something whilst on autopilot including birthdays, paying an important bill, locking the front door and even picking the children up from school.

The study has identified a set of useful archetypes in order to help people recognise their own versions of autopilot:

Problem: They find it so hard to say anything other than yes that obligations pile up and the internal voice pleading them to say “no” gets drowned out. By trying to please everyone they end up resentful of their to-do list and not focussing on what matters.

Solution: Start with a calendar cull. Review your diary every Sunday evening and identify and cancel any engagements which aren’t necessary or you said yes to under pressure. And in the everyday, buy yourself time to say no by needing to ‘check and see.’

Problem: On a mission to always find “what’s next”, the Pacers are so caught up in the pace of modern life that they pack as much as possible into their days - relentlessly busy “doing” rather than “being”.

Solution: Live in the now, start to list the things that matter, think around pockets of time and how to use them, and pause to look around and see how small changes can improve your pace of life around what matters. The average phone is unlocked 80 times a day for example - finding tech downtime for conversation, listening and appreciating others might be a valuable starting point.

Problem: Overwhelmed with choice and information, like a rabbit caught in the headlights they sometimes struggle through life allowing the world around them to dictate their choices, and following the crowd too often.

Solution:  Pay less attention to the perception of others ideal lives, stop worrying about keeping up with what others might showcase as the norm, and start to make decisions on what spending it well looks like just for you. Maybe change your commute pattern, download a podcast that reinvigorates your walk, or break the mould and choose to use your best ‘things’ every day, rather than keep them for a special occasion.

For more information Download the full report PDF

Source: Marks and Spencer Press Release, 11 May 2017, http://corporate.marksandspencer.com/media/press-releases/2017/make-it-matter-day


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