How To Toss Their Monkeys: The 3 Things You Can Control

How To Toss Their Monkeys: The 3 Things You Can Control

Much of coaching involves directing the client to work on what he or she can control.

Because we all spend an inordinate amount of time and energy focusing on things outside our control. In fact, humans have an obsession with controlling the things outside their control.

We worry about what is going to happen. Anxiety arises. Humans have this strange proclivity to believe in telekinesis or mind control. Clients want the magic to force others’ opinions - or to change reality with the swipe of smoking sage. You cannot pray another into submission or agreement. Consider the time and attention people give to astrology or other occult future-reading practices? Barring a few science-fact-based evaluating weather conditions to determine future conditions, we really have no control.

Just like you cannot change the weather, you cannot control what another person thinks about you. I know that’s a difficult reality. We so desperately want to inspire or motivate others to feel a certain way - to see us in a particular way. Social scientists even have labels for the proclivity - like the concept of “face” - “the positive consistent self-image or ‘personality’ (crucially including the desire that this self-image be appreciated and approved of) claimed by interactants."

Yet, the obsession with attempting to control another’s opinion is unhealthy. How often does it result in being inauthentic? Even a simple pretending to be a sports fan or acting more extroverted than one prefers are essentially lies to manipulate another.

How exhausting.

And certainly fodder for anxiety.

No one knows what the future holds. Things are - almost guaranteed - to not go as planned! Tragedies will occur. Injustices will be perpetuated. People will behave badly. Mistakes will be made.

It’s called life.

And the living of it is a challenge - unless you decide to accept - and even celebrate - what is and is not in one’s control.

I advise my clients to understand that some things are within his or her control - and the rest is “not my monkeys, not my circus.” Often, I will have the client practice a pushing hand gesture to signify what he or she is rejecting as not in his or her control.

I admit, my proffered mantra is a take on the Stoic advice to find peace in recognizing the lack of control for the things outside oneself. With the adoption of that approach, you will find power.

You cannot control when your neighbor has an all-day, music-blasting, barbequing-something-vile-smelling, party. You cannot choose when it snows. You are not in control of the economy of the price of gas - or the value of your stock portfolio.

But you can choose your reaction to life’s little quirks.

So, when your sister-in-law calls with complaints about her job - and you feel yourself insisting on solutions or wracking your brain to fix her life... Hand gesture away and say, “not my monkeys, not my circus.”

When your boss says something that triggers you. Again. Because you decide she's a callous person and you want to correct her, report her, or slap her silly: Hand gesture away and say, “not my monkeys, not my circus.”

When your friend or significant other takes a job you think is not a good fit - and you have this need to tell him or her what to do... Hand gesture away and say, “not my monkeys, not my circus.”

What is not in your control when it comes to other people? Practically everything.

  • Others’ opinions.

  • Others’ attitudes.

  • Others’ words.

  • Others’ reactions.

  • Others’ behaviors.

Just as others will lift you up, surprise you, adore you, impress you - others will trigger you, dislike you no matter what you do, make mistakes, lie, let you down.

So what is in your control? Just three things. But, I argue, the most impactful things:

  • Your emotions.

  • Your thoughts.

  • Your actions.

You only have control over three things in your life–the thoughts you think, the images you visualize, and the actions you take.” ― Jack Canfield


Maybe “not my monkeys, not my circus” won’t work for you. Perhaps, the Serenity Prayer, written it is believed in the 1930s, remains the perfect mantra to remind yourself every day of what is in your control - and what is not your monkey and not your circus.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

And there’s the rub. The trick. The challenge.

To have the COURAGE to change the things you can.

To change your emotions, your thoughts, and your actions takes the courage to rewire your unconscious brain patterns!

Even if you know the difference between what you can and cannot control - You probably can't effectively and consistently control your emotions, thoughts, and actions!

The fact is, you are more apt to read your astrology fortune and try to manipulate others’ feelings and actions than you are likely to dig deep and examine - and root out - your own issues, anxiety, and self-sabotaging patterns.

Most of us find we can’t do it. You know you are in an emotional quagmire - but can’t seem to stop. And the emotions bring the uncontrolled thoughts. And then… well, you know what then. You react in a way you do not intend. In a manner that self-sabotages.

No matter the coaching. Or the therapy. Or the meditation. Or the meds.

The uncomfortable truth: Your unhealthy, life-tanking emotional patterns and thought patterns are hard-wired in your brain. Your brain formed these self-defense mechanisms to keep you safe.

You’re Not Crazy. Your Brain is Working Against You.

And until you take steps to rewire those patterns, you won’t be in control of your emotions, thoughts - or actions.

Ben Franklin opined: “While we may not be able to control all that happens to us, we can control what happens inside us.”

Which means until you rewire your negative brain patterns, you are not in control of anything, not even yourself.

Not a positive perspective, to be sure.

So, you can return to trying to get everyone else to do what you want - to love you or like you. To change the weather and the economy with candles.

Or you can take action.


Break Method is an industry-disruptive approach to rapid emotional re-patterning that helps you achieve sustainable results in a set period with individualized strategy to change your life - FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

Book your FREE 15-minute session with our top Break Method Advisor, Gordon McKay.


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