A good friend of mine recently completed a 3 day, 283.5-mile cycle to Paris. It’s not Tour De France, but to the uninitiated it can be a quite a challenge.  He has been cycling for years, but for the past 5 months, since he made the decision to cycle to Paris on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Society, he has been in training for the big day – which was on the 6th May.

Fast forward 3 weeks before the ride and he had to go to India on a business trip. This meant the daily routine of cycling every day was disrupted. When he returned, only 1 week remained before the ride to Paris. I called him the day before to wish him well and he said Mort, “the monkey is busy, I am nervous, and not sure if I am ready.”

We talked about it and I said something to the effect, just start and see what happens. 24 hours later I received a text, which said, “Mort, we arrived at Dover, the monkey has been tamed.” I smiled from ear-to-ear.

Sometime later I was thinking about that achievement and how busy and pervasive the monkey can be in our lives and in business.  The monkey steals dreams by seeping into our doubts and insecurities. Like a thief in the night, he lays silently in wait for a vulnerable moment.  We set goals and targets of what we want to achieve, but this can be distracted by the little chatter in between our ears.  From the moment we wake up to when we go to bed, millions of thoughts are running through our head and they can range from good to bad.

What the monkey says is directly linked to our sense of self-worth and confidence in our own value.  The monkey can be present during re-negotiation of contracts; it can be present when you sit down to go through an appraisal, increase your fees or talk to a prospective client about your services.

If you can imagine a time when you have to speak to a client about a late payment and the anxiety associated with it; you can probably remember an argument going on inside your head, perhaps one part of you wanted to leave it a little longer and hope that they pay and not jeopardise the relationship, and the other part felt you needed to deal with the matter. All of these are our monkeys in one way or another.

Tim Kelly in True Purpose, says our personality is composed of different sub-personalities, which is usually referred to as ‘voices’; these are like little people living inside our head. They take the form of the critic, image protector, sceptic and the wounded child. Each of them are playing a role of keeping you safe.

The protector is the safety observer that tells you to calculate everything fully before taking risks. The critic constantly tells you that you are not good enough, and that you should keep your fees low because the market is quiet at the moment, or that you need to read another book, attend another course, or gain more experience before you can market your services to a particular client group. The image protector wants to be liked and so at crucial moments may defer from being fully honest with a client because of their need to be liked.

The sceptic is difficult to convince of anything and may suffer from a lack of faith. They assume the worst about people, customers, and suppliers and believe that everyone is trying to take advantage of them. The wounded child is nursing trauma from childhood, whose sole purpose is to keep you small to prevent any kind of trauma happing again. You may see this demonstrated in sabotaging behaviour just before signing a deal, not completing a proposal even though you almost have the contract or poor follow up after a networking event – with typical comments like  it’s a waste of time anyway.

In your business, you will see these behaviours in your team, business partners and in yourself. For instance, you may want to increase fees, or launch a new service and if there is any resistance from within as to why this is not a good time, it is the monkey having his way. It can be represented by the strategy you adapt and therefore the language you use. Allowing the monkey to have his way prevents you and your business from growing.

I don’t think you can ever get rid of it because to some extent it is there to protect and keep you safe.  Having said that, how do you manage the monkey? I think firstly you acknowledge its presence- but like Sean, you press on anyway. What does your monkey say?