Hooked on Media? Blame Your Monkey Mind!

MG Thinkers 50 Blog

August 10, 2015

by Marshall Goldsmith

Nearly 20 years ago, I wrote an article titled “Global Communications and Communities of Choice” for The Community of the Future, a book I co-edited with Frances Hesselbein, Richard Beckhard, and Richard Schubert. It’s turned out to be a very prophetic writing on a topic about which, in this case, I wish I’d been wrong.

In the article, I wrote “Today television addiction is one of the most underrated problems in the United States (with the average child spending thousands of hours watching ‘junk’ TV). In the future, media addiction (which includes TV, the internet, and video games) may well pass drug addiction and alcohol addiction, combined, as a social problem.” It’s happened, unfortunately, and the reason is because media is like amphetamines to the monkey mind.

Mindfulness Is the Solution to Overcoming the Monkey Mind

All of us have a “monkey mind”. It’s when your mind jumps from place to place with very little consciousness about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. When this happens, you are experiencing your monkey mind.

The solution to controlling the monkey mind syndrome is to remind yourself as often as you can to be aware of the triggers that are impacting your thoughts, feelings and ultimately, your behavior. To the degree that you can, breathe and acknowledge when you feel an impulse from an internal or external trigger. Then ask yourself, “What is the trigger?” “How am I feeling at this moment?” “What am I thinking” “What am I doing?” “Why am I doing this?” This is called being mindful. What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is just the placement of awareness and reflection between the impulse that follows a trigger and the behavior that follows the impulse.

Like almost everything that I teach. Mindfulness is not hard to understand. It is just hard to do, even more so as we are continually being triggered by a barrage of outside influences, from emails, cell phones, tablets, On Demand TV, movies, games, and social media to name but a few bits and pieces of 21st Century monkey mind candy.

The impact of these triggers can be very difficult to anticipate or even to understand. When we experience a trigger, it may set off a chain reaction of seemingly random associated images from our past. These associated images from our past may then lead to projected images for our future that may change our originally intended behavior – and derail our plan for the day.

Unless we really work at ‘connecting the dots’, we may be totally unaware of why we are doing what we are doing. Our brief moments of mindfulness can easily vanish – and we won’t even know why.