Friday, August 21, 2015

Monkey Nuts

Don't be a monkey
Have you ever tried to catch a monkey? Apparently an effective way is to put some nuts in a container with a small opening. The monkey can reach its hand into the container, but as soon as it grabs hold of the nuts it can no longer withdraw its hand.

The logical thing for it to do is let go of the nuts, but the monkey won’t release what it now possesses and remains trapped.

I’ve never caught a monkey, so I can’t verify whether this is an effective method; however it does provide a good illustration for this week’s post.
"as soon as it grabs hold of the nuts it can no longer withdraw its hand"
How do we go through life open handed? It's a big question, when it's all too easy for us to hold tight to what we've got. In the end though, holding too tight can hold us back or hold us down like the monkey above.

I'm someone who likes to have a plan. I like to think I'm quite flexible and happy to change my plans, but the truth is that's not always the case. Sometimes it takes me a while to process different options before committing to a new plan - an expression of my "strategic" theme. Uncertainty can be a bit stressful, and for me at least, having a plan helps me feel a bit more certain about life.
"How do we go through life open handed?"
Are you risk averse?
Looking back over my life, there have definitely been times when I've chosen certainty over risk, even when the risk was positive and would have led to better things or more interesting life experiences.

I wasn't brave enough to go on a gap year before university, like many of my friends, instead choosing the somewhat more certain route of starting my degree - although even that was petrifying at the time.

I'm glad I took the risk though, because I had a fantastic time at University and my life has been enriched with friendships and skills I wouldn't have gained otherwise.

Tim Ferriss said this: "People will choose unhappiness over uncertainty" and I think there's something in that. Sometimes we hold so tight to the things we're certain about, even if they're not all that great, that we're unwilling to be open to new adventure and new opportunity.

A question I come back to time and time again is how can we be the best expression of who we're made to be? And I think a big part of the answer is being open to new ideas, new opportunities and new experience. Not holding tight to our monkey nuts but letting go - even if that's scary - and going beyond our comfort zone.
"Sometimes we hold so tight to the things we're certain about that we're unwilling to be open to new adventure and new opportunity."
It's a cliche, but we don't know what we're capable of until we try. When we stretch ourselves we might be suprised by the result - and it doesn't have to be an all or nothing leap into the unknown, but it could be more regular steps instead. Building a bridge, as Jeff Goins described it to me, or wedging the door to our dreams open a little bit at a time, in the metaphor Chris Whyley gave.

Are you stretching yourself?
Nelson Mandela said: “There’s no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you’re capable of living”, and yet I’m sure that many of us at times have been like the monkey – opting for the low risk and high certainty monkey nuts. 

I'm not suggesting you quit your job, sell your house, or move to Africa this very moment (although I'm not holding you back either!). But we would all do well to ask whether we're holding too tightly to anything, and whether we need to be more open minded towards anything - circumstances, locations, relationships, skills... what might it be for you?

Don't be a monkey, be the open minded, open hearted, best expression of who you're made to be. As Harold Whitman said: "Don't ask yourself what the world needs - ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive".
"we would all do well to ask whether we're holding too tightly to anything"


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