Notes Principles

The Scientist and The Monkey

You may think you’re alone in your head. But there is a scientist and a monkey in your brain.

The scientist is your consciousness. It’s what allows you to form rational thoughts. The scientist is what sets you apart from other animals. It can plan for a better future for you.

Meanwhile, the monkey controls your emotions, urges, and desires. It only cares about right now. It is your tribal mind and is strengthed by millions of years of evolution. It cares only about survival, not about your dreams.

The scientist and the monkey are constantly fighting for control over your body.

The fun part is that you’re likely not aware of these two separate parts of your brain. You see them as one. If you’re not careful you’ll live your life by taking everything the monkey says as the truth.

If you’re a slave of your monkey mind life is hard. You’ll give in to your cravings. You identify with all your feelings as if they are you, instead of seeing them for what they are… feelings.

The monkey is the one that says “I want chocolate”. The scientist can take a step back and analyze what the monkey says. Do “I” want the chocolate or is it just a feeling I can choose to act upon?

You don’t have control over your monkey mind, it will scream at you and overload you with noise. The trick is not to try to make it stop but to accept it for what it is. It won’t go away but you can choose how you deal with it.

The trick is to detach what the monkey says from your identity. It’s funny, right at the time you start working on something you’ve been putting off. Something import to improve your future, not your survival. You feel the monkey coming up with excuses. Because the monkey only cares about now. You get the sudden urge to go to the toilet, right at the moment you want to start on a difficult task.


Monkey Mind: “You are nervous about writing, let’s just do it tomorrow. It doesn’t feel nice. You had a long day just watch some TV, there’s this show about mango farming on the Discovery Channel.“
Scientist Mind: “I notice that I feel nervous about writing today. I acknowledge the emotion. But I am not the emotion, the emotion is a feeling, not my identity. I can choose to do it anyway, the feeling is not the truth. Let’s sit my ass down and write.”

So accept what the monkey throws at you but choose not to identify with it. Act despite it.

It takes practice and a conscious effort to recognize these moments happening. However, developing awareness over your mind is one of the best things you can do for your focus and happiness.