Ravikant: A big habit the I’m working on... I’m trying to turn off my monkey mind. I think, when we’re born as children, we’re pretty blank slates. We’re living very much in the moment. We’re essentially just reacting to our environment through our instincts. We’re living in, what I would call the “real world.” When puberty comes along, that’s the onset of desire, it’s the first time you really, really want something and you start long-range planning for it. Because of that, you start thinking a lot and start building an identity and an ego to go and get what you want.
This is all normal and healthy. It’s part of being the human animal. I think at some point it gets out of control and then we are constantly talking to ourselves in our head. We’re playing little movies in our heads, walking down the street, but no one’s actually there. Of course, if we started voicing this thought in your head that you’re always having, you’d be a madman and they’d lock you up.
The reality is if you walk down the street and there are a thousand people in the street, I think all thousand are talking to themselves in their head at any given point. They’re constantly judging everything that they see. They’re playing back movies of things that happened to them yesterday. They’re living in fantasy worlds of what’s going to happen tomorrow. They’re just pulled out of base reality.
That could be good when you’re doing long-range planning. It can be good when you’re solving problems. It’s good for the survival and replication machines that we are. I think it’s actually very bad for your happiness... The mind should be a servant and a tool, not a master. It’s not something that should be controlling me and driving me 24/7.
I’ve taken on this idea that I want to break the habit of uncontrolled thinking, which is hard. If I say to you, “Don’t think of a pink elephant”, I just put a pink elephant in your head. It’s an almost impossible problem. It’s more something that has to be guided by feel, than guided by actual thinking or thought process. I’m deliberately cultivating experiences, states of mind, locations, activities, that will help me get out of my mind.
All of society does that to some extent. In some sense, the people chasing thrills in action sports or flow states or orgasm or any of these states that people really strive to get to, a lot of these are basically just trying to get out of your own head. They’re trying to get away from that voice in your head and this overdeveloped sense of self.
At the very least, I don't want my sense of self to continue to develop and become stronger as I get older. I want it to be weaker and more muted so that I can live much more in present every day reality and accept nature and the world for what it is and appreciate it very much as a child would. Then not have to seek happiness through external circumstances, chasing the fits of preconceived notion that I have.
Parrish: Do you think there’s a difference between turning off versus suppressing your monkey mind?
Ravikant: Absolutely. Suppression doesn’t work. When you try to suppress, that’s the mind suppressing the mind. That’s just you playing games with yourself. I think it’s a very hard problem.