I have been told that the way they used to capture monkeys in Africa was by placing bananas in the bottoms of narrow-necked jars. When a monkey came upon the jar, in an effort to remove the banana, it would put its hand into the jar and grab on to the banana. Unwilling to let go of its food, the monkey was now stuck with a jar on its hand, which made it rather easy to catch. What does this have to do with improving the quality of your life? Everything!
When it comes to our lives, the majority of us tend to grab on to something or someone and refuse to let go. We then convince ourselves that we simply cannot survive without that person or thing, and we refuse to let go. In fact, we will even hold on to people, things, or habits that we consciously know are bad for us. It may be a bad relationship or job or a bad belief or physical habit. We cling to what we have--the safe, the secure, and the familiar--even when we know it’s unhealthy and preventing us from living a better life. And while we want to go beyond where we are in life, most of our actions indicate that we are willing to stay exactly where and how we are. We just will not let go of our bananas, our sameness, our habits, our comfort, or our past.
The monkey eventually learns that if it refuses to let go of the banana, the fruit will rot and start to stink, yet the monkey still holds on. The same is true for us. If we refuse to let go of the things or people that hold us back, life starts to rot and then stink. The only way to go beyond where you are in your life is by being willing to let go of the things, people, habits, and beliefs that keep you where you are instead of where you want to be.
Letting go of your bananas begins with the power of one: one bold action, one brave decision, one limitless vision, one great question, one new idea, one burning desire, or one act of kindness. As soon as you are willing to embrace the fact that you can change the quality of your life and act on that belief, your world changes for the better.
One of life’s biggest challenges is the challenge of letting go. While on an intellectual level I am certain you can understand and appreciate what I am referring to, each of us has been created with a built-in mechanism that wants us to maintain the status quo. Despite how much we want a better life, we do tend to stick with what we know to be safe and comfortable. Face it: keeping things the same, even if your life situation is awful, is safe compared with abandoning what you have and facing the unknown. The unknown is where all of your personal and professional potential lies. The known, on the other hand, is the life you are living right now. Your choices are few and simple: Keep things as they are and resent being limited or opt for the discomfort of change as you face the unknown. As long as these choices are just about the only two choices available to you, you get to choose your destiny. Choose sameness and you get more of what you have. Choose change and letting go and a whole new world of possibilities awaits you.
Rickey Henderson, the greatest base stealer in the history of baseball, had a decision to make each time he contemplated stealing a base. He could choose not to steal the base and remain exactly where he was, or he could run the risk of leaving safety and comfort for the possibility of something greater. Ricky understood that if he wanted to get to second base, the first thing that he had to do was take his foot off first base. First base represented Ricky’s banana; beyond first base lay the potential to help his team and set new standards of base-stealing excellence. The same can be said of a trapeze artist. To get from one side of the net to the other, he or she must be prepared to let go. To get to a better place in your life, a place beyond your barriers, a place without rotten bananas, you must be prepared to let go of the known. Letting go of the bananas in your life requires courage and the willingness to live with the consequences of your decisions. Only those of you who are prepared to face the risks associated with letting go of the existing and embarking on the quest for a better future will have the opportunity to bask in the glow of life overflowing with personal opportunity and professional victories.
If you have chosen to remain the same, clinging on to the bananas in your life, you may as well stop reading now and give this book to someone you know who is prepared to change his or her life. On the other hand, if you are the fearless warrior I believe you are, this is the time when you have to decide what and who stays in your life and what and who must go. It’s a tough choice. Most of your choices will involve how much you really want to bust out of your present life into a more rewarding one. The more you want to exchange your present for a more gratifying future, the more risk you will need to take. Letting go of the big bananas in your life will provide you with the opportunity for big change and big barrier busting. Or you can play it safer and let go of the smaller bananas in your life and experience smaller change. Regardless of the choice you make, the most important thing is that you have chosen to no longer settle for your present life circumstances, and you are moving consistently and intently in the direction of your dreams.
Life is a mirror, and what you see in your personal universe is an absolute mirror image of your feelings, thoughts, and actions. If you perceive that you have barriers, you’re right, and the only thing that really matters when you have obstacles or barriers is your level of resourcefulness. Those who want the most out of life can get it if they are highly energized and creatively resourceful. That’s right: everything that exists in your present state of life is a direct reflection of all of your feelings, thoughts, and actions. Change your feelings, thoughts, and actions and you change your life. Change your life and your rotten bananas disappear and your barriers begin to fall. Because your life is a mirror, what you are experiencing in your life right now is also a direct reflection of all the effort and energy you have invested in the quality of your life up to this point in time. If you want to enjoy a better and more gratifying life--a life without bananas--you must begin by altering what you see when you look at and analyze all the aspects of your life.
All personal growth begins the moment you are willing to accept the truth about yourself. And the truth often hurts. We become so bogged down in denial that we often refuse to face or accept the truth and take personal responsibility for our lives. At one point when I was not satisfied with the condition of my life, I asked a person for whom I had tremendous admiration and respect to tell me the truth about what he thought my problem was. After making certain that I really wanted to hear it, he told me he thought I was “the most selfish person he had ever known.” His comment just blew me away, and my feelings were hurt. I didn’t see myself that way at all. Only after putting my ego and feelings aside was I willing to consider his comments. And when I was truly honest with myself, I saw that he was right. That one moment of truth and incredibly painful comment changed my life. You just have to face the truth about yourself if you want to tear down the barriers and let go of the stinking bananas in your life. Once you have faced and accepted the truth about who and what you are, as well as who and what you are not, you can make the decision to totally invest all of your physical and mental energy into ridding your life of all rotten bananas.
The truth for most of us is that over time it becomes increasingly easier to defend the sameness in our lives. We settle for the status quo and believe we are doomed to living the life that others have dealt us rather than taking control of our own destiny. In order to make ourselves okay with our day-to-day existence, we are capable of justifying, explaining, and defending how we managed to wind up where we are. Remember, taking personal responsibility for one’s life is the highest form of personal growth. In fact, I never did meet a person who couldn’t perfectly explain his or her situation in life. Barrier busting and letting go of life’s bad bananas is an ongoing tug of war between where you are and what you aspire to be. It’s the constant battle between clinging to the convenience of remaining exactly where you are versus the confrontation, chaos, and pain of changing the condition of your life. As I have always said, “You are in the pain or in the pain.” Cling to your bananas and not like the feeling, or let go of them and face the unknown. Either way you are going to be uncomfortable. My personal philosophy has always been that as long as you are going to be uncomfortable anyway, you may as well opt for the discomfort of change. Only then will you be able to fully enjoy all that life offers. Once you are willing and able to see the truth about your past you will be able to create a better present and future. Then you get to toss out all of your stale, rotten, and smelly life bananas.
As I had mentioned, getting rid of your stale, rotten, and smelly bananas requires courage and confidence. The reason we need so much courage is that we are literally addicted to our own lifestyles and situations. The best definition I have ever heard for an addiction is: “When you can never have enough of what you really don’t want.” As much as we complain and want a banana-free existence, there is a part of us that just loves our smelly, rotten, and stale lifestyle. Our approach to life is more about settling for the status quo than reaching for the stars.
To advance beyond where you are, you must be prepared to make some very tough decisions and willingly accept the consequences of those decisions. In life, decisions drive behavior, and altered behavior creates altered outcomes. Remember, people who take emotional ownership of their lives win.
Very often, the stale bananas in your life have to do with the quality of your relationships. If your relationship bananas are working for you, that’s great. On the other hand, if you are clinging to some stale, rotten, and smelly relationships, you have some decisions to make. Basically, when it comes to decision-making you have three choices: settle, fix, or flee. You can keep things exactly as they are and settle for the life you have, you can fix the situation and make things better, or you can flee the situation, remaining in a state of total denial. Of those choices, only you can determine what the best course of action is for your life. Just be prepared to live with the result of those choices.
I never could understand why some people opt to remain in destructive or abusive relationships. As a child I remember members of my family who would not speak to other members of the family. Children would not talk to parents or to their siblings. When I asked my father why his brother did not speak to his father, my dad had a list of reasons that made perfect sense, at least to my uncle. While I know this isn’t likely to happen in your family, these are the types of rotten bananas that can get in the way of experiencing a better life. People who choose to cling to their rotten bananas know that things are lousy, yet they just keep coming up with world-class excuses to stay where they are. Very often they are so immersed in their negative life condition that they cannot even see beyond their barriers and instead settle for a life of limitation and pain.
If that sounds like you, go get professional help now. Face it: Some bananas are so big and stinky that you need help. There are people and organizations that will support you in doing what is in your own best interest. Frightening? Of course. If it were easy to let go of all of life’s rotten bananas, we would live in a world that is perfect. Take a look around; life and the world are far from perfect, and that’s okay, because it provides us with a challenge. Your job is to give up looking for perfection and trade it for day-to-day improvement. Remember, letting go of all of your bananas is about the daily direction that each day of your life takes. As long as you are continually moving in the right direction each day, despite how difficult that may be at times, you become closer to living a life free of limitations.
Remember, improving the quality of your life takes work, focus, consistency, and a burning desire to maximize the positive moments of each day of your life. As with so many things in life, there is always a trade-off. You have the ability and power to choose consciously to rid yourself of all of your personal limitations. Take stock of every single thing that holds you back and exchange those limitations for a life of limitless potential, a life that is more personally and professionally rewarding.
Letting Go of Your Bananas
--What You Can Do--
- Make a list of your rotten bananas.
- Decide what or whom you are no longer willing to accept in your life.
- Be willing to get into the pain of changing your destiny.
- Make the tough decisions.
- Embrace the consequences of your decisions.
- Be totally honest with yourself and others.
- If you need help letting go of your bananas, get help.
- Remember, you only grow when you let go!
He who has a strong enough why can bear almost any how.
Copyright © 2006 by Dr. Daniel T. Drubin
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