There lives a powerful band of monkeys, and they are out to harm you. When you feed them, they become even stronger, rattling the bars of their cage, causing a distracting clatter. As they become more and more out of control they throw things – toys, bananas, and even a few rocks. So, whatever you do, don’t feed these monkeys.
The primates I’m referring to aren’t in some Stephen King novel or even at the zoo; these nefarious creatures live in the space between you ears. Like a troop of rabid monkeys, emotions, left unchecked, can create the mental equivalent of loud, unruly beasts.
Take a moment and think about an experience where your emotions felt out of control. Chances are it wasn’t a singular event that triggered an immediate, extreme emotional response. Instead, it’s highly likely that something happened that upset you and that’sÂ when your thinking kicked in. These thoughts may have been about the unfairness of the situation, the harm that was done, or fears about how this would impact the future. These were likely followed by more ruminating, fretting, or growing resentment. TheÂ emotions got stronger, feeling like the attack is no longer just from the outside; the battle was coming from inside your head as well.
Our emotions and thinking can be overfed, turning any situation into an even worse set of circumstances. Radical Accountability compels us to respond to issues instead of reacting emotionally to them. To do that, we have to employ concrete tools, such as the following four-step process, to counter the chatter and clatter of our thoughts and feelings:
Stop…and pause the moment you notice that your emotions are fueling a pattern of negative thoughts or reactions to a situation.
Breathe…and feed the brain with oxygen. Just a few breaths enriches the intellect, slows down any nervous energy, reduces emotional reactions, and increases presence and use of all of your faculties.
Think…about the desired outcome. Seek input from a trusted source, especially when dealing with an area outside your expertise or an issue that is cumbersome or complex. Use these insights and your own intellect to make a choice that is the most efficient and effective way to create the desired outcome.
Act…immediately once a decision has been made.
We can drive ourselves bananas when we let emotional reactions and the thinking that always follows them run the show. Better to use tools like Stop, Breathe, Think, and Act and leave the bananas to the real monkeys.