Think about the last time you had to learn something entirely new, which is now part of your daily routine. Maybe it was navigating the commute between home and work. Or coding, or maybe even learning to type.
Remember how long it took and how many mistakes you made? Remember how much thinking you had to do about it, and how tiring it was? But after lots of practice, it became easy and nowadays you don’t even have to think about it, it just happens.
Everyone has an “operating system”: a collection of habits and judgements created by the accumulation of experience which controls most of what you do most of the time. It’s what allows people get to familiar places without getting lost, how experts discern real antiques from fake, and why you’re able to get out of the way of an oncoming vehicle before you’ve even consciously registered what’s happening.
Your subconscious operating system is fast, efficient, and best of all: cheap. “OS tasks” such as driving, brushing your teeth, and surfing the internet require so little effort you can probably do several of them at once.
Conscious work, on the other hand, is slow and expensive. It requires much more effort. Imagine if you had to do everything you need to do at the level of someone who was just learning how to do them. It would take forever! You probably wouldn’t get much done.
So, out of necessity, we rely on our OS to handle most of our daily activity. But this also means that we spend most of our waking hours “on autopilot” – managed by a process that we are not aware of, nor have very much control over.
Everything that’s happened for you until now contributes to the creation of this system and it will continue to evolve for as long as you live. You can either let it grow on its own or you can craft it intentionally – but either way it will develop and determine most of your acts and decisions.