Last night have me hours to draft this blog post. It was one of those nights that we experience after 50 when sleep comes hard to get. What happens when you are lying awake at night? The monkeys get out of their cages.

If I haven’t told you that story before, I was in a contemplative prayer group last year. We all agreed that the main reason we want to learn contemplative prayer is to slow down our minds, tame the monkeys in our heads that are constantly chirping at us. One day the instructor called to ask how it’s going. I said matter of factly, “The monkeys are out of their cages and pooping all over the living room.”

Some people call it the blooper reel – that motion picture that plays in our heads reminding us of every mistake, every failure, every lost friendship we’ve every had. It’s really not fair to let the blooper reel run at one o’clock in the morning. Dr. Caroline Leaf in Think and Eat Yourself Smart notes that 75-98 % of current mental, physical, emotional and behavioral illnesses and issues come from our thought life. This book talks about the multiple factors that influence brain health, but the one I’m focusing on here is the capacity to rewire our thinking so we can sleep and lead healthy lives.

Here’s how to tame the monkeys:

  1. Write down what the monkeys are saying.
  2. Get a 360º perspective. Observe your waking thoughts. What is your body doing in reaction to those thoughts? What are the messages playing inside your head? Ask yourself if those messages are true, or just an assumption you’ve made up?
  3. Put the monkeys back in their cages. Rewrite it right. Write that thought according to what you know to be true. For instance, if the thought is Nobody asked my opinion at the meeting. The don’t perceive me as a valuable player…rewrite the thought as Nobody asked my opinion at the meeting. I need to formulate a strong contribution next time before I go in.

I haven’t posted this before now because I thought I was the last one to find this out. Maybe I’m not the last one. Maybe you don’t struggle with monkeys, but you suspect a co-worker does. Don’t hesitate to pin this up in the break room. I wrote a few months ago about watching out for team members at risk – valuable players who are struggling and not likely to voice what’s going on. Don’t let them go down. Don’t let the monkeys win. They’re cute, for sure, but let’s keep them in their cages.

P.S. No actual animals were corralled or caged in the development of this blog post.

PP.SS. I have a great book for you if you battle the chatter of monkey. In fact I’ve even summarized it for you: Crash the Chatterbox.