Dr. Brad Elphinstone Talks About How to Stop Living Your Life On Autopilot Through Self-Determination, Equanimity, and Non-Attachment, Episode 100

Have you been feeling like your life is on auto-pilot? Then consider this conversation a stop sign. Or if you’ve ever struggled with FOMO, then be sure to listen to this episode as Dr. Brad Elphinstone shares how his brain surgery at the age of 18 helped him appreciate the risks we all face of feeling like we missed out on our own lives. 

Based in Melbourne, Dr. Brad Elphinstone shares his insights that will help you better understand how varied our interpretation of human experiences can be no matter how common they are.

Our discussion today focuses on three main topics – self-determination, equanimity, and non-attachment, which all can have life-long implications that will allow you to stop living on auto-pilot and never miss out on the things that truly matter to you. 

Be sure to take this episode to heart and get some actionable guidance by picking up your free copy of my Courage Makerspace (™) Playbook on www.melissallarena.com/courage. It will help you boost your courage in 7 days’ time. If you currently find yourself in a rut then take the plunge. I’ve paired up some of my best podcast episodes with personal development tools to help you reflect on your intrinsic ambitions. You have the personal autonomy necessary to change your life!

Share this with someone who could use more self-compassion.  Whilst many of us are portraying an Instagram life, the reality is that a lot of us have similar insecurities that may have surfaced, particularly during this pandemic.  

About Dr. Brad Elphinstone 

Dr. Brad Elphinstone is a lecturer in Psychology at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. Since 2018, his research has focused on mindfulness and related concepts such as nonattachment and equanimity. This research fits within and extends on the rapidly growing psychological literature on mindfulness, showing that being able to ‘let go’ and maintain a balanced approach to all things in life – whether good or bad – is an important part of being adaptable, and supports the psychological conditions needed for optimal motivation and wellbeing. 


  • Creativity: Applying the notion of equanimity to your life, be creative and think beyond possible reasons for someone’s actions or words. What else might that person be grappling with? Could there be other ways of looking at a particular statement that was said to you? 
  • Curiosity: Bringing in the concept of non-attachment, be curious about your intentions. Are you just being driven by your ego in pursuit of some end goal? What happens if you don’t meet an end goal? How might you define success in another way? 
  • Courage: By becoming more mindful, you will feel more secure about yourself. But it requires bravery to be vulnerable enough to confront your insecurities.
  • Self-determination: This theory suggests there are three basic psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness with others. When these are satisfied, we feel motivated and we’re at an optimal level of well-being.
  • Autonomy: Autonomy means having a certain level of freedom. But living in civilization, we can’t always be free to do whatever we want whenever we feel like it. There are rules, laws, and social norms that dictate civil behavior. 
  • Relatedness: We’ve lost that freedom that provides autonomy because we were stuck at home in front of computers all the time. 
  • Nature: People just across the board have really been struggling. But there’s research showing that being out in nature helps people score higher on these three basic needs. 
  • Aspire: Focus more on intrinsic aspirations, self-acceptance, and what you think is important, rather than getting caught up with extrinsic aspirations and the materialistic stuff such as image, wealth status.
  • Internal shift: We can help support autonomy, competence, and relatedness just by shifting what you choose to focus on and why you choose to focus on it. 
  • Harm: Social media is notorious and part of the problem, especially with young people. There’s a big increase in hospitalizations for self-harm and suicide attempts that correspond with this increase in social media use, partly out of the insecurity it can create. 
  • Insecurity: People are cultivating this ideal life that they’re projecting through social media, and people look at it and think they’re missing out or something is wrong with them.
  • Social connection: Get yourself embedded in a community, a family, a group of friends, or whatever feels right for you.
  • Freedom: There’s no one way to say to someone what you have to do to be more autonomous. But that general principle of autonomy is that at the surface level, it’s about having freedom of choice.
  • Authenticity: You might think you have to do something because other people will approve of you more if you do it. But if it doesn’t speak to you, just get rid of it. 
  • Motivation: The deeper level of autonomy is trying to find meaning in things. At one end of the spectrum, there’s motivation, where there’s nothing driving what you’re doing. The other end is intrinsic motivation, where things are just inherently motivating.
  • Meditation: Meditation is a microcosm for this ever-changing, uncontrollable flow of life. When you’re meditating, your mind could wander off and you think about work or what needs to be done. But don’t judge yourself negatively for it or criticize yourself. 
  • Non-attachment: This is a related skill where you’re not trying to cling to or push away any aspect of your experience. That could be ideas, memories, objects, relationships. And you’re not putting an undue level of emotional weight onto anything.
  • Insecurity: People who are more mindful and more non-attached are less materialistic because they are less insecure. Insecurity is a sign of low self-esteem. It’s the fear of missing out and judging yourself negatively.
  • Detachment: If you’re not clinging on to certain goals and you’re not aspiring to certain things, then what’s the point of doing anything? Then you get into that nihilistic abyss of nothing matters and nothing is important. This is a fine line to walk.
  • Suffering: The Buddhist theory suggests that attachments lead to suffering, when what we want fails to align with what actually happens. 
  • Failure: When you’re non-attached, failure is not a bad thing. It doesn’t mean you’re giving up or that nothing matters. It’s just that you don’t have to cling so tightly to a particular outcome that it becomes the only thing that matters.
  • Equanimity: It’s a balanced reaction to anything that happens, whether it’s positive, negative, or neutral. Equanimity is measured in terms of experiential acceptance. 
  • Mindfulness: Everyone has the capacity to be mindful. Different people just require more training than others. The first step is to just be in the present moment.

Links to continue to learn from:


Want to grab your free copy of the Courage Makerspace (™) Playbook?

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  • Figure out what makes you tick
  • Be more accountable and not procrastinate
  • Overcome imposter syndrome
  • Stop caring about what others think
  • Progress despite self-doubt
  • Manage anxiety
  • Ask for help

You will have a step-by-step playbook to help you finally fulfill your life purpose! Do not miss out on this free opportunity as it will not be available for long.

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Want to continue the conversation?

Find me on Instagram! You can read my daily mini-blogs centered on the same three topics that my podcast features: creativity, courage, and curiosity. I believe that without all three it would be impossible to solve the challenges we were each uniquely made to solve. Wouldn’t you agree? I’m easy to find on Instagram @melissallarena

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Melissa Llarena

Melissa Llarena is an author, imagination coach, consultant, speaker, and contributor to ForbesWomen articles that have garnered 4 million + views. She is also the host of Unimaginable Wellness, the podcast for entrepreneurs, founders, and creators who are also moms. Featured guests include GaryVee and Beth Comstock. Melissa holds a psychology degree from New York University, an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and a Transformational Coaching Academy certificate. She is training to become a meditation practitioner. Melissa lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and three sons. Visit www.fertileideas.com.

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