How to master the mind.

The Chimp Paradox

Ever wondered why you sometimes do things that don’t make any sense?

Do you ever catch yourself saying “Why did I do that!”

I have just finished listening to the Chimp Paradox for the third time.  It is a phenomenal book that I would recommend to anyone who has ever  wondered how the mind works and how to get the best from it. Steve Peters has the fantastic ability to take a hugely complicated subject and transpose it onto a clear working model.

The characters that he created also make the model memorable and unique. The basic premise is that your psychological mind is split into three parts: The Human, The Chimp and the computer. The Human is who you really are. It is the logical, positive accepting part of your psychological make up. The Chimp is also part of your psychological make-up, but is not you. The Chimp is very emotionally driven with a tendency towards catastrophic thinking, black or white decision making, sabotaging your efforts and other unhelpful behaviours. The computer is where all your programmed reactions and behaviours are stored. Both the human and the Chimp can store things into the computer. These things then become your default reactions to certain environments and situations.

The most powerful parts of the book for me were the working model of the mind, creating my own stone of life, a new way to create goals, a powerful and true distinction between goals and dreams, and a new perspective on confidence that really resonated with me.  I will briefly share some insights from each part, but in order to get the full picture of your “psychological universe”, you really need to read the whole book for yourself.

*The working model of the mind

D.r Steve Peters describes the psychological mind as a universe with different planets. Some of the planets also have stabilising moons. This was so valuable because it allowed me to see all the aspects of the mind that D.r Steve Peters considers important. It allowed to highlight which planets I had been neglecting and some that I were never even aware of.

*The Stone of lIfe.

This document is so important that if you gain nothing else from the book, you will learn how to make your own Stone of life. I read mine every day and it allows me to really anchor my mind at the start of the day and keep in mind the thoughts and ideas that make managing your mind-set so much easier. Your stone of life consists of your truths of life, values, your understanding of your own mindset, what is truly important to you (60 sec deathbed activity) and who the members of your troop are.

  • Goal setting

I realised that my goal setting formula was fundamentally flawed after reading this book. I was only considering the human when I was setting goals and neglecting my chimp. This is almost guarantees sabotage and frustration. Learning how to get the Chimp onside was really powerful information that I will apply when I next review my goals. It also highlights the importance of using visuals and having something to measure and track.

Goals and Dreams.

This really made sense to me. You need to understand the difference between goals and dreams to ensure that you are not setting setting your dreams as goals. This is not very helpful for you or your chimp.

Dreams are defined as something that you want to make happen that is not totally in your control. It is something that you would love to have happen but other factors and circumstances can control the final outcome. A goal is something that you have complete control over. Goals make dreams more likely because they are the actions that get you closer to realising your dream.

Example: Dream : To win a race. This is a dream because you cannot control the performance of the other runners in the race. Therefore the end result is not 100 % in your control. What you can do is create goals to get you closer to your dream becoming a reality.

Dream: To win a race.

Goals to support the dream: Regular training, excellent diet, practice with a coach.

Focussing on what you can control, what is in your circle of influence as Steven Covey describes it in the ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, allows you to feel confident that you have prepared as best as you can, and allows you to accept the outcome a little easier as well. If the dream was also your goal, there is so much pressure to achieve, that the anxiety could hamper your performance.

  • Confidence

I really resonated with this section because my confidence was very Chimp based and this was very draining psychologically. The key to your confidence is your perception. How you perceive your efforts makes a huge difference to your confidence levels. What most people (including me) do is we link our confidence to being able to complete a task successfully. So if you were placed in a situation where we felt we could not successfully complete the task, then our confidence would be low. I had always based my confidence on this reasoning. It made sense to me. I couldn’t see any other way to measure confidence. However, there is an alternative.

D.r Peters recommends basing confidence on doing your best. It’s simple but a massive shift in thinking. In every situation, we can focus on doing our best on that day for that particular task. By taking your focus away from performance outcome, you allow the human to stay in control of the performance. If you feel anxious and pressured in a situation, the chimp takes over and this can sometimes lead to you not performing at your best. This thinking has allowed me to realise that there is a way to be more confident in all areas of life. By allowing yourself to focus on doing the best you can, you can get satisfaction even when the outcome was not exactly what you wanted or planned for.

There is so much more fantastic content in the book. I have found it to be amazing for my understanding of how my mind works, and how others can feel when facing their own challenges. I now understand that the Chimp is a part of me, but is not the real me. I now also understand that the Chimp isn’t good or bad it’s a chimp and will act accordingly.

Read the book, master your mind, understand and work with your Chimp.

smiling chimp

Mine is called Austin.

I wish you the best.

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