There’s a story about an experiment involving five monkeys that has been floating around and is popular in management seminars. Basically it goes like this:
A scientist put five monkeys in a room and in the middle of the room was a ladder with bananas on the top of it. Every time a monkey went up the ladder to get a banana, the scientist sprayed the other monkeys with ice cold water. The monkeys didn’t like that. The monkeys learned that they would be sprayed if another monkey climbed the ladder so they would attack any monkey that got near the ladder. Eventually, none of the five monkeys dared to go up the ladder in spite of the covered bananas. Once the behavior was learned the scientist no longer sprayed the monkeys because none would go near the ladder.
One day the scientist replaced one of the monkeys with a new monkey. The first thing the new monkey did was head for the ladder to get the bananas. Immediately the other monkeys attacked. It didn’t take very long for the new guy to learn he didn’t want a banana that bad so he quit going near the ladder. After some time, a second monkey was substituted and the same thing occurred. Interestingly, first new monkey eagerly joined in the beating of the second monkey even though he had never been sprayed. Then a third monkey was exchanged and the same thing happened.. The fourth monkey was substituted, same result. Finally the fifth and final original monkey was replaced so none of the monkeys remaining had ever been sprayed with ice water. None would climb the ladder. When the scientist asked the monkeys why, they replied, “We don’t know. That’s just the way we’ve always done it around here.”
It’s a pretty dark story but I imagine the point resonates with most of us; that we all have some things we do in life and we aren’t sure why, What is that? It’s not even always about comfort or complacency. Hearing that story has me wondering what things I do that don’t make much sense. My weight is always a challenge and it’s possible that some of that is conditioned response. I have validation issues, just a little bit though. (wink) What is it that makes me crave approval? Or how about judgement? When I hear someone refer to liberals as elitists I want to thank them. Because I do see liberals as more evolved and deep down…I know that’s not right.
There are many things in a given day that rob me of my Zen. People with more than 15 items in the twelve or less checkout or the old man with a coin purse digging for the exact change shouldn’t bother me. Last second lane mergers, other people’s wild kids, mushy apples and reality TV aren’t worth a flash of negative thought. There’s no sense holding onto things because that’s what I’ve always done. It’s time to let some things go.
I’m glad it’s Friday. Let’s go enjoy some bananas.