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Be the 100th Monkey in 2021

Have you heard of the 100th Monkey phenomenon? The theory is based on research with monkeys on a northern Japanese Island, and proposes that once a critical number of individuals in a group adopt a new idea or behavior, this new awareness will spread rapidly to others, even outside the original group, in a manner that can’t be logically explained. The idea was popularized by Ken Keyes Jr. in his 1982 book, “The Hundredth Monkey.”

Most people would agree that this is a nice myth at best, but it still provides a good model for inspiring widespread change. Do something positive, and spread the word, and change will happen as more and more people “catch on” and adopt positive behaviors.

What is it different from? It’s different from opposing and fighting the status quo. Not because that doesn’t ever work, but because it takes too long to work, and the price is generally too high. And also, the results are generally disappointing.

The reason why dysfunctional systems survive and thrive is because they are based on the pendulum model. The system is in a never-ending cycle of oscillation. When you fight something, you may win a battle here and there, but you won’t win the war – in the long run, the odds are stacked against you. The system is self sustaining, and is set up for you to lose. You lose and the ordinary people fighting on the other side also lose.

2020 has been quite a year. So much has happened during the last year, and I don’t believe there is a single person on the planet whose life has not been impacted by COVID-19. We have become increasingly aware of the fragility of our sense of security, our livelihood and even our basic freedoms, which we take for granted in democratic countries. And yet, something good may have emerged from all this. I hope this year has made us less naïve. I hope more and more of us realize that we have to be the change we want to see. We realize we have to step into the mythical role of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd monkey and change our choices. Every choice made by every person can make a difference. One person makes a difference, and the more people who make similar choices, the bigger the difference.

What are some different choices we can make? Here are the ones I consider important:

- Buy locally

- Eat ethically, simply and healthily

- Buy from ethical companies only

- Support small businesses over large corporations even if you have to pay more

- Live within your means and avoid debt

- Downsize and minimalize

- Reduce your carbon footprint

- Cut down on social media – today’s version of “bread and games”

- Protect yourself and your family from overdependence on technology

- Consume the news with a skeptically raised eyebrow

- Check the “facts” you’re presented with and draw your own conclusions

- Take time to cultivate a successful side hustle, even or maybe especially if you’re an SMB owner

- Vote in the elections, but with full knowledge that powerful forces and lobbyists make your vote almost irrelevant. Do not believe anyone’s pre-election promises, but vote based on past performance

- Put your loved ones at the top of the list of your priorities and act accordingly

- Live with compassion for self and others

- If you are blessed with abundance, share it with others less fortunate

We are all bombarded with messages that manipulate our thinking and choices to the point that we often act against our best interests and contribute to the destruction of the future world that we, our children and grandchildren will be stepping into. When we make choices, we have to lift our eyes beyond the here and now, beyond what’s easiest and most convenient at the moment, and consider the world we’re creating for those too young to make their own choices as yet.

However, as ordinary people with limited power, the answer does not lie in struggling against forces set in place to withstand opposition. The answer is in small changes made by many people. If enough people make similar small changes the system will eventually be impacted by bottom-up change, which in turn will affect policymakers, which hopefully will bring about systemic change. In any case, regardless of what happens, your choices will be part of the solution, and not part of the problem. So, what will you do differently in 2021?

Let’s stop fighting and struggling, especially against each other; let’s make an empowered choice or two; and let’s spread the word. Maybe we’re that mythical 100th Monkey.

Photo credit: Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash

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