What’s Your Monkey Trap?

In southeast Asia, a monkey trap is constructed from a hollow coconut with a single opening, just large enough for a monkey’s hand to fit in and out of. To load the trap, a hunter simply places a piece of bait in the coconut; a tempting slice of fruit works well. A curious and/or hungry monkey reaches into the tethered coconut and clenches the fruit, but when he tries to take his hand out, he finds that his fist is too big to get through the opening. He cannot remove his hand with the fruit clenched in it.

So what does a monkey do in this situation? If you think he drops the fruit and pulls his hand out and escapes, you’ve missed the essential point about the psychology of monkeys, and perhaps of human beings as well. The trap works because the monkey refuses to let go of the fruit, even if disaster is approaching.

Monkey TrapIn much the same way, metaphorically, we suffer the same plight. So often in life we mentally and emotionally hold onto things which trap and imprison us. And like the monkey, when we refuse to let go, we can face dire consequences.

How do you know if you are stuck in a monkey trap? Well, let’s see… Is there any area of your life that is not changing the way you would like it to? Are you stuck in some way? We can check our health and fitness for starters. Are you feeling lighter and stronger as time moves forward? Is your body becoming leaner, stronger and more energetic?

If so, keep up the good work!

If not, that could be a sign you’re stuck, or even trapped, by something your mind is holding onto. It could be a limiting belief such as, “I don’t have time to work out and eat healthy.” Or, “My body will never change; this is just the way I am.”

A couple years ago, the limiting belief that became a monkey trap for me was: “I’m too old to feel young and strong again.” I had to be openBillWorkingOutBicep and willing to let that false perception go in order to make the healthy changes I’ve made in my own life. By doing so, I can absolutely say that, at age 48, I feel as healthy and strong as I ever have. I know that no matter what your age, you can feel your best too!

It doesn’t make sense on the surface that we wouldn’t find it easy to let go of our unhealthy way of living, especially if it is causing us suffering; however, it happens all the time.

So often, we limit our progress and success by holding on to a ‘comfort zone’ (comfort trap is what it often really is). Until we let go of our old habits and thoughts (“Oh, I’ve always been out of shape… that is just who I am.”), we will prevent ourselves from making the decisions and taking the actions we need to in order for us to each create a better and brighter future. Anything that keeps us physically or psychologically stuck or trapped, you have to let go of. When you do, you give yourself new power and freedom to transform your health and life.

It’s imperative that we step back and look at the bigger picture. We need to see our situation with a fresh perspective. When we do, we often quite quickly see something very obvious. “Silly monkey… just let go of the fruit and pull your hand out of the trap.” I mean like that obvious.

So now I ask, “What is your monkey trap?”

What is one specific thing you are holding onto right now which you need to let go of in order to free yourself? Is it a belief? A perception? A resentment or regret? An unhealthy habit? Or is it an attitude or mindset which is keeping you from being healthier and happier as time moves forward?

Consider it for a few moments…

When something becomes clear to you, write it down. Then ask yourself if you are willing to let it go. What price will you pay emotionally and physically if you don’t release your grip on it?

If the spirit moves you, please share what comes to mind by leaving me a comment. Awareness is the first step of letting go and setting ourselves free so we can move forward and enjoy greater quality and quantity of life!


Here are some of my other blogs that can help you successfully transform:


  1. This is so true…….This is such an eye opener, I do the little devil on the right shoulder and the angel on the left. One second I think I’m going to get myself together and I’m really going to stick with it. Then the negativity kicks in. “You will never be good enough”, “Look at you, how could you let yourself do this”, “You will never be able to please your husband/family”!! The list goes on and on. Then you find your self caught up in everyone else drama and letting there life stress you out. We had a suicide in our family last year and I have never mentally been more stressed over a problem that wasn’t even my own. However, I have joined the Challenge this summer and I am hoping to see great accomplishments I am really wanting “ME” back.

  2. Diane Daly says:

    Hey thx BP….looking back at our wedding pics from 1982 wearing a size 8 dress, and at my current sizes that have run between 20 – 26, I’ve cried thinking, “Is that the best I’m ever gonna look? That’s it for me? A whole year out of my life. One year. That’s it?” ~ and, while fighting that thought, in the back door comes, “You are gonna look this way for – ever…” ~ this was a good word. Thank you – and I’ve prayed on your question just now…He will reveal what the ‘hold up’ is…However, working my plan every day…clean food except a few ‘free’ meals on the weekends, and my work out plan…I am feeling stronger and more energetic…it will happen. I know it. 🙂 thx for BFL!! God led me to you and your books….

  3. Thank you again for the insightful comments!
    How appropriate this message was for us. My husband and I have been looking over all of our monkey traps since we started the Challenge and are making good progress despite the fear that accompanying change. It is truly a word in due season for us!

  4. This is my *favorite* blog post, thanks for sharing! Hmmm. .every time I let go of that “fruit” (my limiting beliefs) I seem to pick it up again. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  5. clinton morin says:

    I really feel i have escaped my monkey trap by being in a marriage that just was not working. i tried for 14 years but the same resentments and habits just kept on repeating their was no connection anymore no love just anger and complacency. so i removed myself from that and unfortunately it will involve a divorce but i feel it is a positive step toward my transformation. as for my workouts i am getting stronger and the weight is coming off. my diet has some hiccups but i accept them and move on and focus on getting it right. thank you bill.

  6. Alcohol is my trap and has been since I was a teen. Now at 38 and a new father I know I need to stop i just can’t let go of that dam fruit. Signed up for the summer challenge still alcohol is plaguing me. Good luck everyone.

  7. I hold onto ideas about family traditions. My mom, and my husbands mom, used to cook dinner every nite- traditional meals. Like things from my childhood. You wouldn’t believe what a hold this has on me now, even though I KNOW this is contributing to my own weight problem, I still do it for my own family. For fear of them not being happy? I guess. It is so hard to try to keep things” the way they used to be” for my son. It is one thing we actually share every day, with busy lives and things always going on. I know I need to work on that meal being healthy. I work full time, and am so tired by the time I get home, I have lost the care to eat right. Really need help with this one.

  8. Kealoha Swineford says:

    I am not sure what my trap is. I just know that when I start to feel good and become lighter, I freeze and sabotage myself. This is something I will be thinking on.

  9. Hi Bill,

    Thank you for your help!
    Can you please send me a copy of the lower body workout.

    Thank you


    P.s Love your work

  10. I’ve contemplated this question many times over the years, but have been seriously meditating on it for several months now. I know what I need to do. I prefer nutritious meals, and actually enjoy exercising. Yet, as I approach 47 I am in the same exact space as I have been for several years on many levels. From personal experience I ‘know’ that I am not physically safe in the world. I need to figure out what I can do to make me feel safe and protected. Once I am able to figure out how to make myself feel safe and protected in an unsafe world, I am confident I will transcend this unfulfilling trap. Thank you for the visibility on this major issue of the monkey trap Bill, is very helpful to the process of ‘naming’ and ‘owning’ our sticking points so that we can break free…

  11. Great blog… thank you. My ‘monkey-trap’… well, that would be my self-defeating thoughts, especially, “You will never be successful long-term in losing weight”. I have failed so many times before, it’s easy to believe those hurtful thoughts. I just took my ‘before’ pictures for the summer challenge… and the thoughts screaming in my head right now are down right disgusting! So glad I went to your blog for some inspiration… and here it is! 🙂 The only thing holding my back, is ME… time to let go of that monkey trap…aka “I can’t do it”… and start living the life God intended me to live. Thank you for all you do! 🙂

  12. Thanks Bill for this thought provoking blog. I am so holding onto the “fruit” and this has been a wonderful reminder that I need to do the “big forgive” and LET IT GO! I find I grab for that fruit without really thinking which undermines my success. I have come a long way since I first began my first twelve weeks, now on my second each step I makes me stronger. This blog is just another tool to help me stay on track and keep me thinking and be aware.

  13. Joan Prigel says:

    My monkey trap is “I’ll start my Transformation tomorrow” . I let go of that fruit on July 4th. So good to be free of the trap. I expect the fruit of good health,strength,
    and size 6 jeans will be a greater, longer lasting treat.

  14. My monkey trap is fear and lack of safety in a thin body. Plain and simple. I know exactly how to eat and to move my body. I know how to take responsibility for myself and yet, I consistently and systematically sabotage myself. I will be looking into the whys deeply in this next leg of the journey. I have a lot of ‘rational’ answers and yet somehow it feels way deeper and I consistently fall into these old hurtful patterns. One part of the trap is that excess weight on my body keeps me feeling unattractive and protects me from unwanted negative attention. But I don’t want to be unattractive, I want to set healthy boundaries around myself to support me to create safety and health. I believe that is the biggest thing I have to unravel. Interestingly enough part two and three of my trap fit so well. Certain foods taste good and feel rewarding and exercise can be hard when I am feeling depressed. Enough of all that!
    I am just going to take the right action. My conscious mind and my emotional body are on different pages. I know unequivocally that being fat doesn’t make me safe, in fact it is killing me. I am going to be conscious in my behavior and get some support around the emotional body and unconscious thoughts, patterns and behaviors.

  15. trish smith says:

    My monkey trap is thinking that because I am 45 and in menopause that my body will not respond like it did in 2003, when I successfully completed and won the Hobby Lobby corporate Body for Life Challenge. That tiny, little, defeating voice in the back of my head tries to tell me it is no use to try. I’ve decided to disprove it and work out harder than ever to get the healthy body I once had BACK!!!

  16. Love this, I’m still holding on to the idea that I have to workout more to have success. Love the new app, so easy to plan meals for the week.

  17. michael liberty says:

    get out of work and to late to work out so i hang around and get BS

  18. Kimberli Joy says:

    Hi Bill and everyone,

    Great article. I have a huge monkey trap. I have this need, insecurity, feeling (what ever you want to call it) to please people. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or make them feel bad. So if people give me advice or do something that I know will derail my path to my goals, I have a hard time saying No. A few examples that happened this past week: Friday was my birthday and I shared with everyone my eating and exercise goals. At dinner although I ordered clean, good food, friends kept ordering me drinks and putting appetizers on my plate. For dessert my mom stated she knew I wouldn’t eat sweets so she baked me a banana bread cake made with butter, sugar, and chocolate chips. How do you not eat birthday cake your mom makes you with out hurting her feelings? I joined a new gym yesterday and the new trainer (really nice guy) informed me that my plan was all wrong and for my age & goals. He stated, I need to stop the weights and hit cardio 5 times a week for at least an hour. I took one small bite of b-day cake and tossed the rest when I got home. I thanked the trainer but I did my upper body 5/25 & hit my high point (all the while he was shaking his head). I do feel a little guilty but my hand is a little further out of that coconut! Thanks to every on this site for he support!!


  1. […] What’s Your Monkey Trap?. I have said a bazillion times that I heart Bill Phillips… this article from his blog is just another reason why. […]

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