The Power of a Compliment: Deflating Autopilot

We can break out of the autopilot type of gliding and begin living with awareness. However, we must choose to do so. And it is not easy. It takes a great deal to make the conscious choice to become aware of all things around us, even in the most trying of circumstances.
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Many of us live on a default setting running like clockwork. There are chunks of our adult lives that we allow to stream along on autopilot. Wake up. Check email. Shower. Grab a bite if possible. Get the kids ready for school. Make breakfast. Get the kids on the bus. Sit in traffic. Become annoyed. Scream at strangers. Make it to work late. Work. Sit in traffic again. Stop by Target to buy one item. The line is long. Why won't they call another cashier up? Toddlers scream. It's crabby hour. Feel annoyed again. Waste $100.00 on items we don't need. Try and hit the gym (or make a promise to go early in the morning). Run home and make dinner. Maybe watch TV. Check email again. Homework with kids, another shower and hopefully a peaceful slumber. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

A few months ago I was in a long drive-thru line at the top of the lunch hour. I wanted my autopilot lunch of salad and ice water. The speaker for placing an order wasn't working. Those in front of me and in back were seemingly annoyed. I could see their hands up in the air as they were yelling into empty space while sitting on their car horns. The situation in the air was tense.

The cashier was quite flustered and overwhelmed by the time I reached the window to pay. She was on her own autopilot echoing with unnecessary apologies.

I ordered my salad and began to pay. As she was ringing up the order, I noticed her nails. They were the perfect color, size and shape for her hands and complexion.

And so began the conversation, without my default setting.
Me: "Your nails look really pretty."
Cashier: "What, can you please repeat that again? Did I miss something? I'm sorry the speakers weren't working back there."
Me: "Your nails look really pretty. I love the color on you. It's a great fit."

The cashier froze with a smile that lit up the store. The manager came running through the kitchen and popped her head through the window. They were staring at me as if I were some foreign being.

Manager: "Did you just give her a compliment about her nails?"
Me: (I was worried she was going to get in trouble at this point for chatting too long with me). "Yes, I did."
Manager: "We don't receive those type of compliments here. I mean we never, ever hear things like that. Next time you come back, your salad is on us."

The kitchen seemingly stood still for about three minutes in time. The manager and cashier were both giggling. I was happy to make a difference during that stressful moment in time.

I realized I had the ability to change the course and tone of the situation with one compliment. As I moved my car up, I could still hear them laughing with customers behind me.

This was an unusual moment in time, as I unintentionally disconnected from my own autopilot. This is a space I will try to partake in daily, as it brought great self-reflection about my own ability and influence for positive change. We can all make a great difference quite easily. And our world would be a better place if we simply tried.

Would life be different if...
We turned off autopilot?
We took the chance to practice conscious living?
We changed our perception of those seemingly dull moments and turned them into moments of beauty, awareness and connection?
We became aware for our own mental and physical health?
We realized that most of those around us are experiencing similar feelings?

What if we realized that we are not the epitome of all the power and energy present in the macrocosm, but rather, we are a microcosm among millions of others? As we may play this small part, our influence can bring substantial change in our own lives and to the lives of others.

We can break out of this autopilot type of gliding and begin living with awareness. However, we must choose to do so. And it is not easy. It takes a great deal to make the conscious choice to become aware of all things around us, even in the most trying of circumstances.

Where can we start?
We can start with ourselves. We can choose to be conscience. We can decide to change our perceptions. We can practice empathy and compassion. We can use this gift in many ways. We don't have to travel around the world to change our days or bring light to others. A smile here, a word of encouragement there and a simple compliment; they all add up toward greater pathways.

My awareness came through as a compliment to another person. How many times have you thought of something nice to say, but felt reserved? How often have you quietly wished someone noticed a job well done, a change in your look or the way you made another person feel?

I was meant to meet those hard-working women at the drive-thru this week. All three of us became a little better due to a broken drive-thru speaker, a rushed lunch hour and a great manicure.

Do you want to turn off your autopilot setting? Is this something you have done in the past? Please share your stories and ideas here.

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