Watch out for the Should Monkey


By Eric Waisman, Jaunty’s Founder

“Vanity, definitely my favorite sin.” My favorite line in the movie The Devil’s Advocate was said by the devil himself, played by Al Pacino. It was basically the devil’s way to seduce humans.”

Today we are filled with vanity. Our favorite pastime now is, well it’s us. It’s all about us. It’s the next picture or video or branding of us. And it feels good sometimes, I’m not gonna lie. I like getting hundreds of likes and comments on my Instagram too.

Interestingly, vanity seems to get a lot of us stuck in “should thinking.” You know, the “I should have a perfect body,” or “I should be at Jimmy Hendrix’s level of guitar playing,” or “I should have a boyfriend/girlfriend by now.” This sort of thinking usually comes from comparing ourselves to others, something that’s super easy to do with social media.
Just looking at all those happy people in our Facebook feed makes a lot of us feel bad about ourselves. Of course we know they’re only posting the fun stuff, but it still can stir up the Should Monkey.

Imagine you’re out having a drink with a friend and learn about a mutual friend’s exciting news. Maybe she just bought a house, or ran a half marathon, or got an awesome new job, or had a baby, or invented a new kind of toothpaste. If you feel good about where you’re at in this particular aspect of your life, you’d probably think this was pretty cool. But if their new success happens to be in an area that you feel lacking in, you might feel jealous instead. Maybe she just got a new job and you hate your job. This might wake up the Should Monkey.

Picturelooking at you!, Hans Splinter, Flickr, CC by 2.0

“That bitch,” you might think. “Why’d she get that cool job? That should have been me. I should have a job like that. It’s not fair.” The Should Monkey is pissed off. He throws bananas and you throw back another drink. You leave the bar feeling annoyed and shitty about yourself.

Here’s the thing, questioning the status quo and working to make positive changes in your life is awesome. If voicing a want helps spur you into action to bring these desires to reality, that can be very powerful. But giving in to the Should Monkey rarely helps us make these changes and usually just leaves us feeling lousy. It can make us way too hard on ourselves, which can create sadness. It also makes us continuously worry and focus on a daydream of the future.

While it’s great to have a goal and a vision, it’s also so important to enjoy the present. After all, now is all we have. I recently learned a trick I want to share with you.

PictureYes at the Warfield, Charles Nadeau, Flickr, CC by 2.0.

Lately I’ve been devaluing and questioning my “should thinking”. I might walk by the Warfield and glance at the headliner posters. Before I know it, I’m thinking “I should be on stage playing on tour too.” But before the Should Monkey swings in on a vine, I’ll take a deep breath and ask myself: Really? If I was actually in that position how valuable would it be? Are there downsides to it?

If I was on tour all the time I wouldn’t get to spend time with my students and loved ones. And I couldn’t run Jaunty which is something I really love.

I like finding the awesome in the present moment, even when things are hard. Life isn’t a Facebook feed of perfect, happy experiences. There are some real challenges too. But I feel like I can find my way through those challenges better when I focus on doing my best and don’t compare myself to others.

Try playing devil’s advocate with your “should thinking” and let me know how it goes.

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