A GROUP of scientists placed five monkeys in a cage that had a ladder with a bunch of bananas at the top.

Each time a monkey went up the ladder to get the bananas, the scientists would shower the rest of the monkeys with cold water.


Monkey see, monkey do.

After a while, every time a monkey went up the ladder, the others would beat up the one on the ladder.

After some time, no monkey dared to go up the ladder, regardless of the tempting bunch of bananas.

The scientists then decided to substitute one of the monkeys with a new one.

Obviously, the first thing the new monkey did was to go up the ladder to get the bananas.

Immediately, the rest of the monkeys started to beat it up.

After several beatings, the new monkey learnt not to climb the ladder even though it never knew why.

A second monkey was then substituted and the same beating scenario was repeated.

The first new monkey also participated in the beating of the second monkey.

The scientists continued the sequential substitution of the third monkey, the fourth and finally the last monkey.

Each time a new monkey was put into the cage, the same beating incident was repeated when it started to climb the ladder.

What was left in the cage now was a group of five new monkeys, and even though they had never received a cold shower before, they would continue to beat up any monkey that attempted to climb the ladder.


‘That’s the way things are done’

If it were possible to ask the monkeys why they would beat up any monkey that attempted to go up the ladder, the answer would probably be: “I don’t know, but that’s how things are done around here.”

Does this sound familiar to you?

This is exactly the way most of us will behave when we change jobs and enter into a new work environment.

Very often, we do not ask “why” but just follow the crowd.

Even if you do ask why things must be done this way or that way, your new colleagues will simply reply that it is their system, so “just do it!”

Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov (1849–1936) discovered a type of learned behaviour called classical conditioning, in which the mind can be conditioned, over a period of time, to act, react and behave in a particular way.

Because our minds can be influenced, either in a positive or a negative way, we have to be prudent in choosing our peer company.

As the saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together”, so we have to first find out what these birds are.

In life, it is estimated that 10 per cent of the things that happen to us are beyond our control. The remaining 90 per cent of events are within our capability to control and occur due to what action we take or don’t take.

Reacting to an event emotionally may be natural but not always logical.

It is our inner mindset that drives and influences our decisions most of the time, subconsciously triggering our actions and behaviours, and impacting our overall output and ability.

This inner self can change for the better or worse by our responses to experiences and encounters in our daily life.

In other words, every one of us has an inner script that has been unconsciously written by our life experiences as well as peer influence.

This inner script will programme who you are and what you are capable of achieving.

You become what you think: If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you can’t.

So do not follow blindly what other people do but use emotional intelligence to make better decisions.

Emotional intelligence is your ability to monitor your and other people’s emotions, and to use emotional information to guide your thinking and behaviour.

When you can communicate well with the people in your workplace to earn their trust and influence them, you are creating conditions that are conducive for your success.


Cultivate positive behaviours

Strive to cultivate these five positive behaviours:

•   Increase your emotional intelligence;

•   Convert all the “can’ts” to “cans”;

•   Delete all self-limiting beliefs;

•   Model yourself after people who are successful; and

•   Trust your judgment, regularly challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone and try something new — that in itself will give you a sense of achievement.

Having the right mindset and attitude will put you on track to greater success in your work and personal life.


Article by Dr Candice Chia, a research writer and an associate trainer with over 25 years of training experience. She has a doctorate in adult psychology and conducts training in customer service, understanding body language and cultivating a winning mindset. For more information, visit www.riaschool.com.sg, call 6339-6000 or e-mail ccsy0606@gmail.com