Your Little Monkey

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We’ve become so addicted to instant gratification that we’re blind to the impact it has on our lives.” – Frank Sonnenberg


I love the time living in this time where we have so many opportunities and modern conveniences available to us. I love that when I’m in a hurry I can reheat leftovers in the microwave and have dinner done in a matter of minutes. I love that I can whip out my phone and get the weather forecast in less than 10 seconds. I love that when I realize I’m out of something I can hit a button on my Amazon app and it gets delivered to my front porch!

We live in this amazing time and I’m so grateful for it but there is a downside to this way of life as well. We get so used to this way of life that we start feeling entitled to having everything fast, instant, and easy. The more we think this way and practice feeling that way, the more we invite our little “monkey” into our lives.

This monkey is a concept born of Tim Urban in a Ted talk (link HERE). He illustrates that we all have a portion of our brains that thinks rationally and knows the greater good. But then we also have this “monkey”, this “instant gratification monkey” that wants what it wants when it wants it!

This monkey only lives in the present moment. It has no concept of the greater good, of “later”, of working towards something or constraint by any means. This monkey is focused on fun and easy. This monkey shows up when we go to Target and we walk by that rack of cute tops and it screams, “WE MUST HAVE THAT NOW!” Our monkey is much louder than our rational thinker and is much more persistent so you reach out and grab that cute top, add it to your basket, and forget all about the plans you have to save up for that family vacation.

I should warn you that your monkey is a pretty amazing salesman too. When your rational brain starts planning out your day and telling you what needs to be done, your monkey pops up and says, “Let’s check social media instead. That’s much more fun. Yep, lets check it now.” And before you know it an hour (or more) has passed and you haven’t even begun what you had intended to do.

Do you remember the marshmallow study that was done several years ago? (Link here) They’d put a young child, around 4-6 years old and they gave them a marshmallow. They said something like, “You can eat this now or if you wait 15 minutes I’ll give you two marshmallows.” Two-thirds of the kids ate the marshmallow the moment the adult left the room while a meager one third waited and got double after the fifteen minutes was up.

We’re still kind of like these 4-6 year old kids. We can have something we think we want now (that candy bar, the cute top, spending extra time on the internet, etc) OR we can have something BETTER (A healthier body, more money in the bank, the satisfaction that comes when you got what you really wanted accpomplished).

There IS hope. We all have our own monkeys. There’s a portion of us that is going to want what it wants when it wants it but thankfully you ARE in control. You CAN override said monkey. You can exercise constraint and work through those urges.

David A. Bednar once said, “We are agents to act, and not be acted upon.”

It is up to us. Our thoughts hold a lot of power over what we do. If you hang on to the thoughts the monkey tries selling you on, the urge and desire is going to be much more challenging to overcome. But if you decide ahead of time what you really want and then focus on those thoughts, even during a monkey temper tantrum, the monkey will eventually get softer and your rational mind will win.

Be careful of your monkey this week. Notice what your monkey says to you. Notice how good of a salesman your monkey is. Then notice that you can feel the urge and still decide that it’s a no, still decide that you’re going to wait for second marshmallow, that you’re going to wait and work harder so you can enjoy that “something BETTER” in your life.

The Dalai Lama said, “remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” Or not letting your monkey get what it thinks it really wants NOW will be so much better for you.

It’s totally worth it. Make peace with your monkey. Practice telling your monkey, “I love you monkey. I hear you but it’s a NO.”

Then let me know how it goes for you!


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