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.

My terrible phone, the matrix and the ultimate upgrade

I.O.S Infinity- What my phone taught me about personal development.
Last week, I tried to download a new app for my phone. It looked really interesting and I was looking forward to using it. The download failed. Usually this happens because I have no memory left on my phone but this time it was down to the fact that my operating system (O.S) wasn’t up to date. Frustrated at my phone’s need of an upgrade I abandoned downloading the app. Although I had the capacity to download the app, I did not have the operating system needed to run the programme needed effectively.
This then got me to thinking about the mind. I have read and heard of the brain being compared to a computer several times. Maxwell Maltz describes the brain in this way in his great book Psycho Cybernetics. He refers to the way that the mind acts completely in accordance with your image of yourself. Steve Peters refers to one part of the mind as the computer in his book The Chimp Paradox. He describes how we store patterns of thought and behaviour in this area of the brain that are stored for later use.
Peter Diamandis, creator of the Xprize and a full time bad ass, shared an analogy on Tim Ferriss’ podcast that I wanted to share and expand with you.
He described the mind as the operating system and apps as the skills that we go away and learn. A bit like how Neo has skills downloaded onto his brain during the film ‘The Matrix’ but in reality it takes a lot longer obviously.
Neo sits in a chair and has a giant cable stuck into the back of his head. He then has different martial arts downloaded directly to his brain. If only it were that simple. It is a powerful metaphor though that helps us to see the brain as a mechanism that can be changed, programmed and developed. Here’s the scene for those who have never seen the film. There is bad language in the clip. So if that offends you in any way, just skip it and keep reading.

Now here’s where the analogy gets interesting. Peter made a really interesting point. He said that people are always thinking that they need to go and learn a new skill or tactic to make progress. The thinking is that downloading the new app is going to solve everything and make things better. People believe this leads to happiness, progress and everything else in life. But how often do we look at the O.S? Until the operating system changes, the way you operate in the world will not change. Think back to my phone. That app was available to me as it is to everyone else, but the limitations of the phone blocked my ability to have it.
One of the most dramatic O.S upgrades I had was when I became a father. In an instant, the way I saw the world had changed. The choices I make, the actions I take and my level of focus were all permanently altered.
We have all had moments like this when life can never go back to the way it was. Some experiences would have been good, bus some may have been very traumatic. Another O.S upgrade that I received was when my father died. It was so painful, and I did not come to terms with it until five years later. Therefore, the growth I received from that experience only came when I was ready to receive it.
When we think about our minds, the operating system is the most important aspect of our ability to make progress and be successful in life. What parts of the mind make up our operating system?
Our experiences.
We learn from our experiences all the time. Our mind is constantly linking our experiences to pleasure and pain and has a library of reactions stored and ready to roll out when needed. Our O.S is designed to keep us moving towards pleasure and moving away from pain. Therefore, if you want to make progress in any area, you need to make that thing seem appealing and pleasurable. In this way we can change the meaning of our experiences in order to empower us.
I used this insight taken from Tony Robbins and Marisa Peer. You need to frame whatever you want to do and have in a pleasurable way. You need to explain to yourself how those things give you pleasure.
For example, I love exercising. It allows me to stay fit and play with my kids. It also allows me to stay in good shape and fit into my clothes.
I love staying up late to write. It allows me to create awesome blogs and work on my book that will one day be read by thousands of people. I enjoy reading the comments and feedback I receive and always look for ways to improve what I have written.
Linking these things to pain means that the mind will stop you from developing these things. This is a great way of thinking about the world and the only way to expand your comfort zone and capabilities. By positively framing actions that we don’t always want to do, our chances of performing them is massively increased.
Our self talk
What you say to yourself is like the programming for your computer. I mentioned this in my last post, and it is amazing how differently you feel when you speak to yourself differently. The bottom line is that you will be speaking to yourself all day anyway. So you might as well become aware of what you are saying and use it to your advantage. In Nichiren Buddhism, chanting is used to invite wisdom to the mind.
SGI President Daisaku Ikeda on chanting daimoku:
“Being human, it’s quite natural for our minds to wander, for all sorts of thoughts and memories to surface. [. . .] There is no set form or pattern for how we should pray. Buddhism emphasises being natural. Therefore, simply chant earnestly without pretence or artifice, just as you are. In time, as your faith develops, you’ll naturally find it easier to focus your mind when you chant.
“It’s natural for prayers to centre on your own desires and dreams. [. . .] By chanting very naturally, without affectation or reservation, for what you seek most of all you’ll gradually come to develop a higher and more expansive life-condition. Of course, it’s perfectly fine as well to chant with the resolve to become a bigger-hearted person or for the welfare of your friends and for kosen-rufu – the happiness and flourishing of all humankind.”

Affirmations are words and phrases you say to yourself repeatedly to impress them on your subconscious mind. You can use affirmations in order to speak directly to the subconscious. This can then lead to action in that direction. Now some people say that affirmations are not as powerful as actions. However, I see affirmation as an action in itself. It is an intentional act designed to help develop your mind. Therefore, it could be one way for you to bring about the things that you want in your life. The key is to say them repeatedly and very frequently. Daily affirmations work best.
You can also spot people’s self talk in how they speak to others. Try to become aware of your own self talk. If you speak words of life, then it helps you to create a positive life for yourself. If you speak words of loss and death, don’t be surprised to find your life experience as negative. The mind casts no judgement over the information you present to it, it just follows your commands. Your mind is the engine room of the ship, but you are the navigator and captain. You must steer your ship with confidence in the direction you want to send it.
I am making the consicious effort now to not make judgements on my ability before I try something. For example, the words I can’t can be very damaging, so I try to avoid saying it not. I also try to avoid wishy washy middle of the road expressions like ‘I’m doing o.k.’ ‘Not so bad’ and things like that. I used to say this all the time when people asked how I was. Now I say things like awesome, brilliant and words that have very energetic upbeat connotations. It makes a big difference to how I feel, but also has a similar effect on the person who I’ve said it to.
Our vision of ourselves
How we see ourselves is an enormous component of how our operating system works. If you believe that you are a happy, successful, positive person then you will act accordingly. If you see yourself negatively, maybe as someone who has no personal power, or somebody who has always been lazy, then you are again going to act accordingly.
You need to start to see yourself in accordance with what you want to achieve. You cannot wait for the evidence to present itself in the world. Thinking that way will have you waiting forever or pausing waiting for the perfect moment. I procrastinated in this way on certain things for years until I realised that the perfect moment is the moment you take action. You can change the way that you see yourself very quickly by deciding on the person that you want to be. If you want to see yourself as successful, then your O.S must be alignment with that. If your paradigm of the world is not able to see the things that you want clearly, then your chance of receiving them are slim to none. Remember, the operating system is the most important thing that you have. It allows you to take on new skills and change your life situation.
Your why.
Your purpose needs to be clear to you. Without it, it’s so easy to become a passive member of society without any need of personal or professional development. In today’s world, there are so many things we can be distracted with. I find it very difficult at times to make the decision to write these posts and do the things necessary to create the life I want for myself and my family.
What pulls me back to those things of importance is my purpose. The things that I believe are worth working and striving for. My purpose is to reach my full potential and inspire others to reach theirs. I want to achieve my personal freedom. To me that means every day I’m spending time doing things that are important and meaningful to me. This means that I need to be constantly upgrading my O.S so that I have the capacity to learn more, do more and become more. This is the life I have chosen to live, but it is very hard to remember this without constant reminders. My journal helps bring me back to this purpose, and whenever I do not remind myself of this, I find I start to get distracted.
My why came to me after days of thought and reflection. I also have the desire to live a long and happy life around the people I love the most. This compels me to exercise, and to finally find a strategy to reach my ideal weight. (Still working on this one ha)
My mindset is so much stronger than it was several years ago. The way I see myself has dramatically changed, and I no longer have as many barriers to progress as I did. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect and I still make loads of mistakes and fall down. However, I no longer define myself by these my mistakes and failures. I purely want to give the best example I can to as many people as possible in the time I have. I am now pursuing a state of being rather than a level of success. I want the ultimate upgrade.
O.S abundance!

Start upgrading today

I wish you the best
Shaun