Silencing Your Mind Monkey: How Mindfulness Can Help Entrepreneurs Thrive
There is a concept in Buddhism known as shin'en, which translates to “heart/mind-monkey” and refers to the restless, inconstant, and uncontrollable thoughts that run through our head.
These uncontrollable thoughts hold us hostage and lead us down the path of fear, anxiety, and negativity.
According to the Buddhists, developing the ability to calm your mind monkey is the most important step one can take to avoiding these negative effects and find inner peace.
Entrepreneurs, in my experience, are particularly susceptible to the dangers posed by the mind monkey. After all, we are constantly bombarded with new risks, opportunities, fears, and challenges. If left unchecked, these can take root in the mind, and lead to failure.
I’ve learned this the hard way. I often feel as though my personal mind monkey is more active than most. Throughout my life, I’ve been haunted by “what ifs” and general anxiety about what the future may hold. This only got worse once I started my company, BodeTree.
Fortunately, I’ve learned to embrace mindfulness techniques that help to tame my mind monkey and help me to thrive in uncertain situations.
Accept that your mind monkey is part of who you are
The first, and arguably most important, mindfulness technique I’ve learned is to recognize that the mind monkey is not the enemy; it’s a part of who you are.
The mind monkey is not something that needs to be vanquished or ignored. Instead, it’s something that we must learn to tame and live alongside.
The frenetic energy that defines the mind monkey is part of what drives entrepreneurs forward. This energy can be used to your advantage, provided it doesn’t spiral out of control.
Learning to accept the positives of the mind monkey (such as rapid-fire creativity), and reject the negatives (fear & anxiety) is key to finding balance.
Practice quiet meditation
It’s all too easy to lose track of yourself in our inter-connected and fast-paced world. Far too few of us manage to disconnect for a bit and quiet our minds for any period.
That’s why it’s so important for entrepreneurs to make time for quiet meditation. It is in the quiet moments of careful introspection that we recognize the truth about ourselves and our place in the world.
Meditation takes both practice and discipline. It’s not something that you can pick up at will. Instead, it’s something that you must make time for every day.
When you practice meditation and quiet the mind monkey, you begin to gain perspective about the fears and anxieties that go along with running a business. The clarity of mind that results can give focus to your day and lead to valuable new ideas.
Use cognitive behavior therapy
The mind monkey, if left unchecked, has the terrible ability to turn self against self, allowing unhelpful and damaging thoughts and ideas to take hold and wreak havoc.
One technique for overcoming such thoughts is known as cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. The core idea behind CBT is that an individual can change behavior, thinking, or emotions by understanding and reorganizing the way those three elements interact with each other.
When I’m thinking about CBT, I’m often reminded of a quote by the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, who said: “People are disturbed not by events, but by the view they take of them.”
If you can identify and understand not only what triggers the negative aspects of the mind monkey, but how you respond to it, you can start to deconstruct the situation.
Start by identifying your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and even physical reactions to the stimuli that cause stress. From there, try to figure out which element you’re dealing with at the moment, and work to change the situation.
If you’re having pervasive and unwanted thoughts, recognize them for what they are and don’t let them take hold. If you’re experiencing a physical reaction such as exhaustion or migraines, don’t try to ignore them.
If you commit to taking the situation head on, one step at a time, you’ll find that it becomes far more manageable.
Allow me to share a harsh truth with my fellow entrepreneurs. There will be times that your mind monkey runs wild. You’ll be miserable, frightened, and full of self-doubt. Your team will question your decisions, execution, and overall competence. And that’s ok.
The path to becoming an enlightened entrepreneur is full of twists and turns. Perfection is an unattainable goal, so stop chasing it.
Instead, put in the effort to try to tame your mind monkey and live alongside it. Sure, there will be good days, and there will be bad days, but that's just part of the journey.
As you learn to embrace mindfulness and live alongside the mind monkey, you’ll find that you’ll be able to begin to not only survive but thrive.