A Mental Model to Serve Your Monkey Mind ​​​​​​​

Written By: Marin McCue

We need to feel safe, connected, and purposeful, and until we do, there is a constant flow of energy being invested in searching for ways to meet these needs.

Nothing new or groundbreaking here: we are programmed to compare and take notice when we perceive someone as bigger, bolder, or more of what we strive to be. This deeply ingrained impulse is an overactive survival mechanism. At one point in time it was extremely beneficial to get a surge of neurochemicals warning us when someone else did something that furthered their importance above our own. This status dance would motivate individuals to make themselves indispensable in the tribe to improve the chances of safety and procreation.  

The problem is, we now live in a society where the lives and successes of others are displayed second by second at our fingertips. We see others paving their way through life and we see a lot more of what is good rather than the not-so-good that we all struggle with yet few of us are open and willing to share.

As I continue to make bold moves and brave leaps to grow my business and create a larger platform for my message of mental health vulnerability and best practices to find balance, I see and feel the effects of comparison every single day. Whether in my own self-talk or in the struggles of my clients, we all have a tendency to lose track of the big picture and get fixated on the small-minded comparison of ourselves to the other.

IMAGE CREDIT: CONRADO

IMAGE CREDIT: CONRADO

I am here to remind you that although you can’t control your instinctual animalistic reactions, you do have control and power in your response after the fact. Know your mind, understand where your effort is best invested, and carve a new path of least resistance in your brain that brings you to gratitude and motivation for action. How? Keep reading.

One of my favorite reminders lately comes from a book titled, The Honeymoon Effect by Bruce Lipton. He says “there are four brains in every relationship.” We have our best-self, which comes out in the beginning of a new relationship as we are excited and we don’t have assumptions or baggage already attached to what the other person says or does. Over time, we get comfortable and our triggered state begins to show itself. The impulsive reactions, the emotional assumptions, the unfair expectations, the cruel jabs at the other. Where did that person come from?

We are programmed to seek safety, to seek companionship and a tribe that feeds our soul, and to carve out a unique impact and purpose that will leave a legacy. Along with these beautiful human wants comes the tendency to compare, judge, and constantly strive for more. We find pleasure in progress, and we feel pain at any sign of rejection or not being seen by someone we want attention from. We need to feel safe, connected, and purposeful, and until we do, there is a constant flow of energy being invested in searching for ways to meet these needs. Imagine a faucet attached to the back of your body, and while these basic primal needs are unmet, it is as though your tap is turned on and flowing energy out of your system until there is nothing left, leaving you exhausted and wondering why. There’s not much we can do about this deeply rooted operating system, other than notice when it is there and respond with words and actions that ground, support, and release the old patterns.

We tend to avoid our feelings out of confusion and shame. We tend to judge ourselves and make ourselves feel wrong for having the feelings in the first place. Yet our good intentions can lead us astray because what you resist, persists. You think you are being wise by brushing that problem under the rug, or avoiding the nagging feeling that something is wrong, or shaming yourself for not being able to “snap out of it.” Sorry to tell you my friends, you are sending more energy down that pathway that you are trying to avoid, strengthening it’s power and building a superhighway towards the very thing you are “ignoring.”

The only way through this internal struggle is to get to know it, love it, embrace it, get curious about it, notice your reactions and try out new responses. Open yourself up to the beauty and connections that arise from being a vulnerable and proud imperfectly perfect human being.

This is not the type of work you can rush. This is the epitome of slowing down to speed up. We need to reset our foundation and build strong roots so that we can grow and handle the waves of life with grace and resilience.

A "mental model" is a great way to begin the process of excavating and cultivating. Mental models are our unique perceptions and understanding of life. They generally help us navigate uncertainty by projecting past learnings and experiences onto the situation at hand. They provide a proven pathway towards success or a learned pattern to avoid pain or failure. We can’t do the same thing over and over and expect to get new results. We are all growing and learning in phases, and we need to continue the principle of self-study to ensure we are updating our belief system and feeding our mind and body the nourishment it needs.

So I ask you, What seeds are you planting? Consider the mental model that your mind is a garden and your thoughts and actions culminate as the gardener. Before you create the garden of your dreams, you must dig deep and remove the weeds and roots that suck the nutrients out of the dirt or strangle the progress of new growth. While we plant new seeds, we develop a rhythm of care to ensure time and attention are spent to tend the young and vulnerable plants. We need patience and mindfulness to allow the garden to manifest and to notice issues that could halt progress and take action to create a remedy. We need the resilience and trust in the process, so even if the garden is destroyed or is not in great shape, you know no failure is a final failure and every moment is practice for the next moment. It is important to find joy and develop a passion for the work so that it doesn’t become another mindless chore to check off your list. Surround yourself with other passionate gardeners and continue opening yourself up to new ideas and tips that could serve your journey.

Reflection Questions:

What change challenge are you facing in your life right now?
What is your mental model to approach this challenge with as much empowerment and trust in your ability as possible?
What are the key steps to take on this challenge?
What is your motivating reason WHY to take on this challenge?
What reminder do you need to repeat when the going gets tough?

A well timed and thought-provoking question can be the difference between standing proud in the face of your challenge rather than avoiding or hiding yourself from the possible pain of rejection. Know your mind. Know what you truly want. And set yourself up with the support, thoughts, mental models, and motivation you need to make the change. You are so much more capable than you realize. Tell yourself what you need to hear.