10/31/2016 08:48 EDT | Updated 10/31/2016 08:49 EDT

Are You On Autopilot? Wake Up!

woman in bed awakening
franck camhi via Getty Images
woman in bed awakening

Did I wake you?

It's 2 a.m. and I'm driving through North Carolina. It's dark, the roads are empty and the radio is off. Fortunately, the moon is full so I have good visibility and I'm comfortably taking advantage of the lack of traffic at this time of night, to drive back home to Ottawa.

Until I see a few deer grazing at the side of the road.

My heart races, my eyes widen and adrenaline floods my system, making me realize that I had not been wide awake -- but I certainly am now.

Over the next five miles, I count 25 deer standing about three feet from the side of my car as I drive by at 70 mph.

I'd thought I was awake. I'd thought I was perfectly fine. Now I know that what I'd been was comfortable and not nearly attentive enough to what was going on around me.

That changed in a hurry because the deer scared the life out of me. Until that moment, I'd been driving on autopilot.

Over the course of the next several hours, I started applying this analogy to other areas of my life.

Have I started doing my job on autopilot?

Have I started taking my relationships for granted, not giving them my full attention?

I applied it to my eating habits, my exercise, my sleep... even the way I clean my house.

I realized that unless we get scared into paying attention to what we're doing, we often think we are committing 100 per cent to a task when we are not.

Many thousands of people got their wake-up call about a few years ago when the recession hit, costing them their job, potentially their house and even their relationships. Those in oil and gas in Canada were hit again just recently.

I hope that wasn't you. If you were one of the lucky ones, make sure you never put yourself in the position where you can be caught unawares like that. You could still lose your job, but would you be in a position to get another one?

Here are some things you can do to ensure you don't get caught asleep at the wheel:

- Dust off your resume. Not because you should be applying for a new job, but to see what skills you've picked up since the last time you updated it. Ask yourself if you've been cruising on autopilot.

- Go on a date with your partner. A real, planned, dress-up kind of date where you will be out for dinner and a movie (not just popcorn during the movie). Hold hands. Be spontaneous. Avoid talking about work or the kids. Don't bring another couple with you.

- Clean out a closet. Get rid of clothes you never wear. Go to the store and buy a new outfit (maybe wear it on your date). Are your clothes making you look frumpy without you realizing it? Adopt a more current look.

- Call your mother, your aunt, or a long-lost friend. Don't rely on Facebook for an update -- actually pick up the phone.

- Take a 30-minute walk. I don't care how cold it is. Can you do it? Will it make you sore the next day? I hope not -- otherwise you are clearly taking your health for granted.

- Take your car for a tune-up. Oil changes are not enough. Don't assume your vehicle will be able to save you -- it is up to you.

I have decided that this is the year I am going to wake up. I am going to start paying attention to those little things in life that I thought I didn't have time for.

The deer were beautiful, and I'm thankful that the experience was positive, picturesque and valuable to me being on-the-right-track for the next year. I hope you do the same.