How to tame your monkey mind so you avoid sabotaging your success
Last summer, my partner and I went in search of a new martial art to learn. We had our eye on Bagua; it’s like Tai Chi but more kapow and there’s lots of walking in circles. It literally means “eight trigram palm” and like all martial arts, it begins with strengthening the mind. This particular martial art is based on continuously changing response and overcoming opponents with skill rather than brute force.
We took a class from an instructor my wife had identified. Now, my idea of a martial arts instructor is calm, disciplined, exuding an aura of quiet strength. But this guy had a nervous energy and after class, he talked for at least ten minutes, adding irrelevant details and often repeating himself. You see, he’d just set up his school and he was anxious to get his first clients.
A scared monkey is a scary monkey
While explaining his classes, his monkey mind was jumping up and down, waving its arms in the air, screeching, “oo oo ah ah eee eee gimme new clients, oo ee I desperately need clients!”
Your brain takes instruction from your thoughts. These instructions command your body and actions to comply. In the instructor’s case, he was anxious about landing teaching clients so he was acting from the amygdala, the fear centre of the brain. When you’re fearful, your brain tells your body to tense up, shorten your breath, and get ready to run. But in the process, it also shuts down unnecessary brain functions, like empathy, intuition, insight and short-term memory.
As a result, you’re not as eloquent as your usual self; you’re stilted and you’re inadvertently pushy. Your desperation becomes palpable. Not the best company, much less a convincing martial arts master.
Animals smell fear, and so do people
The problem begins in the mind, from those festering thoughts eating away at your self-worth. It’s that incessant chatter telling you to “get clients”, or panicking, “don’t let them get away!” Those thoughts cause you to act a certain way; you end up exuding an energy vibration that repels people and making them feel like they’re being sold to. Who likes being sold to?
That martial arts instructor said things like, “I can host a class anytime, yes, I can host a class anytime.” When asked who his master was, he said, “he’s from the family of the original founder of the martial art, I can host a class anytime.”
He kept repeating himself. Clearly he was unaware of this.
If you can’t hear it, you can’t fix it
Throughout my training in public speaking, people kept telling me I repeated the filler “you see”. But I didn’t realise it until I heard it for myself in recordings. When I heard it, I did something about it.
You can’t change what you don’t hear or see. If you can’t hear those loud angry thoughts swimming around your head and notice how they affect your behaviour, you can’t begin to “fix” them. So you continue acting from a space of fear, greed and negativity.
Martin Seligman, professor of psychology and founder of the positive psychology movement, said, “One of the most significant findings in psychology in the last 20 years is that individuals can choose the way they think.” However, in order to change they way you think, you first need to listen to your thoughts.
It’s not so hard. Just stop and ask yourself, what am I thinking right now? Keep repeating this until the answer comes to you. Often I find myself surprised at the thought and wonder how on earth I got there!
Throw the monkey a banana
If a monkey sitting in front of you makes noise, you won’t keep it quiet by shushing it. You have to distract it. Make a face. Point to something and run away. Throw it a banana.
I teach my coaching clients, at Mindful Sales Training, ways to distract the negative thoughts by asking specific questions because questions steer your focus.
When you recognise your thoughts, you have the power to change them, to pick a different thought. You can do this by asking yourself, how can I help this prospective customer? What are they looking for?
Changing your thoughts from you to your customers tames the monkey mind and eases the feelings of fear. This instructs your body to relax, giving you access to your intuition and creativity. As a result, your prospects won’t feel that icky feeling of desperation oozing from you. Instead, they’ll feel looked after, understood and appreciated. And more likely to do business with you.