You know the drill:
At times, when we’re just a heartbeat away from a major breakthrough… we f*ck it up.
Why? Because the conductor of our primitive instincts goads us into doing what’s fun & easy. Not reasonable and logical.
If we want to rise above the “instant gratification rabble,” we need to tame the inner chimp.
What’s Your Inner Chimp?
Our internal chimp is the part of your brain that persuades you to follow your primitive desires, disregarding rationality, and long term consequences.
Its objective is to fulfill your primal human needs: sexual companionship, survival, enjoyment of food, keeping up with the neighbors, shelter, protection of the loved ones, and social approval.
It seduces you to overthrow foresight and future planning. Commitments and new year resolutions evaporate under the inner chimpanzee’s tutelage.
You may know its hideous suggestions like, “Another beer won’t harm you!” or “Forget your spouse; have some fun!” or “Who cares about fulfilling your future dreams? Let’s watch binge-watch another season of that TV-series.”
He who reigns within himself and rules passions, desires, and fears is more than a king.
Is Your Mental Ape Corrupting Your Life?
Now you may wonder, are you still in control of your life? Or has the monkey taken over?
With little effort, you can tell if your decision-making process is being hijacked by the chimp.
An honest look in the mirror, devoid of distractions, is all it takes. If accusation and guilt snarl back at you, you know you’ve betrayed your integrity. Loss of self-respect and soul corrupting decadence will reflect back at you sardonically.
What Causes The Inner Chimp To Take Over Control?
Our rationality is under constant siege of its primitive archenemy: the indwelling beast. It’s an eternal battle.
Every once in a while, we need to open our rigid gates-of-sanity, invite the monkey inside, let it frolic around, and wipe off that “life is so serious” attitude from our foreheads. But before it seduces our mental gatekeepers to abandon their post, we need to kick him out again.
While we all need instant gratification to stay balanced, overdosing pleasure causes self-loathing. Every minute spent on meaningless activities is one minute spent less on purpose-driven activities.
Indulging too much in entertainment empowers the inner chimp’s dominion over you. Conversely, ignoring his attention-craving tirades puts him on a diet and toughens up the gatekeepers of your rational mind.
After all, what are actionable strategies to tame that rebellious savage?
Manage Your Inner Chimp – How To Stay In The Driver’s Seat
(1.) Freedom From Alcohol
I know, most people don’t wanna hear this. But hey, I say it anyway:
Drinking alcohol (or consuming any other drug) is like feeding your ape with rocket fuel.
Because we all (at least subconsciously) know that alcohol is, in fact, liquid poison, we cause a cognitive dissonance — our actions collide with what we believe to be right. Hence, each glass of poison comes with a few drops of guilt, stabbing a hot finger at your integrity.
Aside from the hefty bundle of toxic effects on our bodies, there’s one particular chimp-enforcing effect that results from drinking. That is, frequently drenching our brains in alcohol, shrinks our frontal lobe which is, among other things, responsible for rational decision making. Consequently, drinking frequently reduces our ability to make sound decisions, to act in alignment with our goals, and solve problems. The only one who profits from the dulling of your mind is… again… that nasty monkey.
So, if your integrity cringes at the thought of mutilating your rational mind any further, consider cutting back, or even better, go against the mainstream and quit boozing for good.
Personally, stopping to soak my body in alcohol (after 25 years of weekly boozing), felt like I’m releasing a handbrake.
You’ll find a great deal of encouragement in Annie Grace’s “This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life.”
After reading that book, I promise, your life won’t be the same anymore.
Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness.
(2.) Meditation – Lulling The Inner Chimp To Sleep
If alcohol is chimp rocket-fuel, meditation is its sedative.
Your inner savage is akin to the schoolyard bully. The more attention you bestow on him, the more he’s encouraged to push you around. He gets a kick out of rocking your boat and feasts on your responsiveness.
However, stoic tranquility robs it of its spotlight.
When we practice tranquility in its purest form (deep meditation), irrational urges lapse into silence. The inner chimp loses interest, fades into the background, and your reasonable mind expands.
The effect of meditation is cumulative. Retreat once in a while to give the chimp a slap on its wrist. Practice 10 minutes daily, for 3-4 weeks straight, to reduce that tantrum-throwing primate to a whispering squirrel monkey.
If you’ve always wanted to get into meditation, or even tried it a few times, but you couldn’t let go, find stillness, have a look at this mediation course on Udemy. It’s called: Learn Meditation with Certification to Guide + 10 MP3 Audios.
Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.
(3.) Journaling – Tracing the Chimp’s Territory of Influence
Journaling, similar to an unflinching look into the mirror, is an act of self-reflection that takes cojones.
It’s kinda like lifting an imaginary rug where you’ve been sweeping your mental dirt under. After the dust settles, trace your inner chimp’s territory and take inventory of:
- aspirations you’ve been trampling on
- blind spots you chose to overlook
- self-deceit you’ve tolerated
If you stay inquisitive, you’ll unearth some dark secrets that’ll lose their grip on you once they’re exposed to daylight. It’s a shift from deceptive ignorance to conscious inspection.
X-raying your status quo is the bedrock to drafting meaningful blueprints for your future. Tinkering with long-term goals shoos the chimp away because “future planning” is the savage’s mind antagonist.
Journaling at sunrise and before going to bed may lead to unsuspected, even life-changing revelations. It’s a journey of self-discovery.
Janet Conner wrote a book all about Journaling and how to discover yourself in the process. It’s called “Writing Down Your Soul: How to Activate and Listen to the Extraordinary Voice from Within.”
Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up if thou wilt ever dig.Marcus Aurelius
(4.) Visualization – Rewiring Behavioral Patterns
Sometimes it’s daunting to commit to being a better person, to act on your goals, or to do what’s necessary so that you can approve of the person in the mirror.
Even though you’ve got a burning desire to silence the inner savage, you can’t bring yourself to adhere to your principles.
Although we all know how our ideal self would think, act, speak, and live, … most of us fall victim to the inner chimp’s seductive suggestions to betray our ideals.
Here’s where visualization is the perfect tool to bring our “physically expressed self” in alignment with the fragile, mental concept of our “internal ideal self.”
Why not take advantage of the fact that the mind can’t distinguish between what’s (vividly) imagined and what’s for real?
Say, from today on, you’d decide to turn your life around by tinkering with your business ventures instead of hitting the bars with buddies. Easier said than done because once you’ve got to make that choice, the chimp short-circuits your rationality.
You can overwrite your desire for instant gratification by igniting a passion for actions that’ll bear fruit in the far future. How? By rehearsing your ideal set of actions mentally.
Imagine your “ideal actions” once, and they’re like a near-transparent picture, with little to no effect on your self-image. Yet, repeated, add one rehearsal-layer on top of the other –flavored with gusto– and you’ll soon find yourself performing as imagined. Without fail.
What better book to managing your Inner chimp through visualization than Dr. Maltz’s bestseller “Psycho Cybernetics“?
Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.
(5.) Meaning & Purpose — Meaningful Goal Progression
There’s nothing more dismal than not having any meaning and purpose in life.
When purposelessness and emptiness settle in, the primitive mind takes over. It’ll urge you to indulge in instant gratification to kill the pain and to make you forget about reality.
I know, there’s nothing worse than this devastating vacuum in your soul. It’s a feeling of not being needed here. Of not having anything meaningful to contribute to society.
Your only remedy to endlessly drifting in emptiness and purposelessness is to establish meaningful goals and make consistent progress towards them. Ultimately, I believe, it boils down to honing a set of skills that help us to bundle and transform our personal energies into streams of value that we gladly distribute to other human beings in order to better their lives –in some meaningful shape of form.
In exchange for our contributions, we’re not only compensated in a monetary fashion but most critically, with a dose of soul-vacuum clearing sense of fulfillment.
If you’ve tried setting goals, to find meaning, and to come up with the motivation to get busy, but it just didn’t click for you, go with something nonetheless. Especially if your inner chimp tempts you to go for your “distraction & sedation grab bag”! Spiritless but goal-driven action will eventually become, first, tolerable, second, enjoyable, and third, a passion. Passion follows action.
In case you’re into practical step-by-step books, “P.R.I.M.E.R.” is a top-notch book about setting goals.
Then, there’s this special book that helped a great deal of people to find purpose in their lives. Some even claim, it saved their lives: 12 Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos.
A man’s worth is no greater than his ambitions.Marcus Aurelius
(6.) Meaningless Entertainment Diet
Like the occasional sweet dessert, entertainment, in small quantities, is refreshing and a highlight to look forward to. In larger quantities, it’s toxic.
Think about, for example, the last time you’ve been up till late binge-watching the heck out of your favorite TV show (or YouTube channel). Chances are, you’ve lost track of time and woke up the next morning resembling a hungover baboon. Content you’ve consumed that night before still reverberates through your brain occupying valuable thinking real estate. Your inner chimp will remind you to go with the flow, satisfy your curiosity, and go for another session, asap.
Anything that merely entertains your senses, that doesn’t contribute to your purpose, titillates the inner beast. Netflix, YouTube, video games, and so on.
I’m not saying entertainment is harmful. On the contrary. Just in overdoses it robs you of your resources, kindles guilt, and empowers the chimp to take your driver’s seat more often.
Keeping track of what’s done, that’s coherent with your long term perspective helps to strike a balance between mere entertainment and doing what’s ‘necessary.’
I’ve discovered, keeping a physical bullet journal helps to maintain a goal-orientated perspective and spend more time on activities that matter. You can find out more about keeping a bullet journal in this YouTube video here.
Clever gimmicks of mass distraction yield a cheap soulcraft of addicted and self-medicated narcissists.
What About YOU?
Now that I’ve told you about how I manage my inner chimp, I’d like to hear about your strategies and struggles to gain the upper hand.
Please leave me a comment below…
The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.