Monday Motivation: The Five Monkeys Experiment


Good Morning- it is Monday! What is your mindset this morning? Are you ready to go after your dreams, goals and aspirations? Achieving your goals not only takes the right mindset, but also the conditions (people, environment, culture) you surround yourself with are very important to support you in achieving your outcomes. Have you taken the time to contemplate the following questions?

What kind of environment (culture) am I exposing myself to each day? What are the mindsets of the people with whom I interact with daily? Am I with people who support and encourage me? Is it ok to take risks? Do I support others and encourage them? Do I create/enable a healthy environment?

As I thought about these questions, I recalled the Five Monkey Experiment. The experiment goes like this:

Researchers placed five monkeys in a room with a ladder and some bananas at the top of it. It didn’t take long before one of the monkeys saw the bananas and decided to climb the ladder to get a banana. As soon as the monkey reached the banana, all five monkeys were sprayed with cold water. This frustrated the monkeys, but shortly after the spraying ended a second monkey braved climbing the ladder; and once again all five monkeys were sprayed with cold water.  The monkeys were starting to see a pattern and learned not to run to the banana.

So, the researchers decided to change the scenario.  They replaced one of the monkeys who had been sprayed with water with a new monkey who had not been sprayed with water. The new monkey comes into the room and notices the banana sitting safely on the ladder.  He sees an easy snack and approaches the ladder. As soon as he starts to climb the ladder to get the banana, the other four monkeys attack him.  The new monkey doesn’t understand what he did wrong, but no longer approaches the ladder to get a banana.

The researchers continue the new pattern by replacing another monkey into the room who had never been sprayed with water and take out a monkey who had been sprayed with water.  This new monkey sees the banana and does the same thing as the last (new) monkey who entered the room.  The new monkey starts to climb the ladder for a banana and upon climbing the ladder, the original three monkeys and the first new monkey attack once again.

A third, fourth, and eventually fifth monkey is replaced.  Now, all the monkeys in the room are new, have never been sprayed by water, but still attack each new monkey that tries to get the banana. They have learned that “the banana is taboo”.

If you asked the monkeys why they do not go to the banana, they would tell you, “it is just the way things are done around here.”

A great question for each of us to contemplate this week is, “how am I like these monkeys?” and “how are the examples below analogous to not going for the bananas or keeping others from going for the bananas?”

  • Have I given up on a dream, a goal, or aspiration because I was told that it could not be done?  Have I resigned myself to the fact that it is “out of reach”?

  • Have I wanted to try a new approach in solving a problem but was encouraged not to because I was told , “we’ve tried that before here, and it did not work.”


  • Have I been quick to jump on what others are doing wrong without ever giving them a chance to see the results?

  • Have I predicted others’ potential outcomes based on my own experiences, what I’ve heard others say, or judging based on too narrow of an understanding?

Moral of the story…don’t fear the ladder…don’t scare others from taking the ladder.

Reach for your goals; help others reach for their goals. Try something new; take risks and encourage others to do the same 😊!

Have a GREAT day; Have a GREAT week!

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