disable autopilot

How To Disable Autopilot And Focus On What Really Matters

“It’s more like starting a fire than opening a door.” – Professor Paul Barber

This is how I was introduced to Gestalt.

Before attending my first Gestalt workshop, I knew it was a kind of therapy but not much beyond that.

I also knew that a fire was much more dangerous a door. What I didn’t know was the affect the fire would have on me…

As I learned from the fearless workshop leader Paul:

“Gestalt neither accepts nor rejects anything; it widens our awareness and raises our consciousness so we might become everything we are.”

This got me thinking…

If I can’t reject parts of myself that I dislike, do I have to accept them?

A radical idea.

And so it is with Gestalt. Whatever answer you come up with, you base it on your own experience – whatever the truth looks and feels like to you.

One thing I learned early on is the MIND-BODY CONNECTION:


But what do the experts say? What would my coach say?

It does not matter.

What does your experience tell you? What does your gut say?

This is personal responsibility on a whole new level – whether in a therapy or coaching session.

Yes, eventually the ideas and principles of Gestalt transcended the world of therapy and entered the world of learning and development. My world.

In fact, in 2016 I became a ‘Gestalt Practitioner in Organizations’ – even though I wasn’t looking for a new job title.

After coming in, to contact with Gestalt theory and practice at that first workshop, I began a quest that led me to the accreditation.

A fire had been started inside of me.

Incidentally, one BIG CONCLUSION I’ve made after 20 years of helping people change and develop is that experience is the best teacher.

But do listen to the thoughts and opinions of people you like and trust.

However, their experience will look different from yours. Their truth might be different, too.

Sources of inspiration are many. The one source of truth is your own.

WARNING: If there is a part of yourself that you are hiding from, it will not stay hidden for long. Not if you embrace these ideas.


Breaking Patterns

Jane often butts heads with her boss and other authority figures. Conflict has always been a big part of her work reality.

This is an unhealthy pattern that keeps repeating itself – one that is preventing her from functioning as her Best Self. It has even cost her a job promotion or two.

To illuminate and break this pattern, a Gestalt intervention might facilitate a direct and open dialog between Jane and a problematic authority figure – either her current boss or even the first authority figure when the pattern began.

Rather than just talking about what she would say, she would tell the person directly what she thought and felt. In her unfiltered words.

Gestalt differs from other forms of therapy in that it looks into the past only if there is a relevant connection to the present – like Jane and a significant authority figure.

Through this authentic and intense exchange, she would deepen her awareness of this relationship and more importantly, this reccuring pattern.

The cathartic release that comes from expressing her true unfiltered feelings in her real words could break this pattern.

Action From Awareness

No matter if the issue is conflict, job dissatisfaction or something else that prevents you from feeling and performing at your best, here are two ways Gestalt facilitates change:

1. It clarifies what you need. 

By raising your awareness to what you need in the present moment, Gestalt cuts straight to the essence of what matters most. At least to you.

If you are unhappy in your job but you keep trying to push your feelings away, a Gestalt intervention could bring them to the surface and help clarify what you need to do to change your situation.

2. It moves you into action.

The clarity from raised awareness moves you into action and makes your actions deliberate. “Awakening” under a tree can be enlightening, but it might not move you to act. A Gestalt intervention moves you into action. Action facilitates change.

If you become aware that you are suffering from a deadly, but curable, disease, I am sure you would take swift and deliberate action to eradicate it.

Living life deliberately is the opposite of living life on autopilot. Once you’ve disabled autopilot, you start to focus on what really matters.

By focusing on “the wisdom inherent in direct experience”, Gestalt is much MORE PRACTICE THAN THEORY.

Wouldn’t you rather learn a language from someone who can speak the language? 

Change In Action

As a practitioner new to the field, I have much to learn about how Gestalt can support me in my work – and the people I work with.

However, I like to think that everything I do in my development work is informed by the empowering ideas and principles I have learned thus far.

Here are 6 Gestalt principles and how specifically they empower you (scroll down the webpage to access).

I take great comfort in knowing that any wisdom I acquire along the way will come from direct experience. I don’t need a professional title for that.

If you feel ready for a change but not exactly sure what or how, I’m confident these principles can light a fire under you.

For my FREE ADVICE on how to disable autopilot and focus on what matters, drop me a note and let’s chat.

This article originally appeared in BRAINZ Magazine in Oct. 2021.