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.

Fluid form.

I have been writing a journal now for a few months and it has brought up lots of lessons for me to go away and reflect on to help me lead a happier more effective life. One really damaging trait that I found was just how often I criticised myself. I have been aware of this for some time and I do better at times than at others. But I believe it is a vital aspect of my character that I want to change.

Let me describe what happens. Say for example, I want to stick to a diet to lose some fat. What I found I was doing was attaching my happiness and sense of success to whether I stuck to the diet or not. If something went wrong, which is inevitable because I am not perfect, I would attack myself and beat myself down. This thinking at it’s worst would spiral into a deep analysis of what I was doing wrong and lead to the conclusion that I will never be good enough to attain it. This would mean giving up or starting all over again. So I would get the first part right, because I was setting worthwhile goals for myself and that is important. However, I was emotionally attached to my goals so much that my self-worth was defined by attaining them. I was fixated on a future self and negatively comparing where I am to the future projection. Visualisation of the future is important, but I do not want to keep all my happiness waiting for me in the future as the future doesn’t physically exist. All we have and all we will ever have is the here and now. The present is where our attention should be.

 Letting go is an act of observation without emotional reaction or outburst. This allows you to be objective and see the truth behind your results.

Perception is everything. Should someone really be judged as a failure if they don’t reach a target?

The only person who can create the idea in your mind that you are a failure is you.  It is just an idea. Yet another story that we tell ourselves based on our interpretations of our circumstances. Imagine how empowering it is to go through your life with the belief that you are good enough in this present moment. You are good enough now and will always be. It’s a case of perspective.

I am a Manchester United fan, but I am passionate about all high performers in football. I like to study their philosophy and mentality. One person I studied was Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho. On the subject of failure he responded by saying I do not fail. On the surface, this seems to be an arrogant statement, but it is his reality. Therefore to him it is true. Our perceptions create our reality because there is no true ‘reality’. When someone says ‘the reality is’, what they should really say is ‘my reality is.’ Mourinho’s statement is empowering because it allows him to see every setback objectively and learn from it. He doesn’t get attached to it and carry it like a weight on his back. At the same time, this attitude would allow for someone to stay humble when things are going well and not attach their identity to their success or possessions.

Another powerful statement linked to this idea is the famous Bruce Lee quote where he describes the nature of water and the importance of replicating it:

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”

My interpretation of this is that water is a close reflection to our true nature in that we are a mixture of things that are transient. Our beings flow and have the ability to transform and evolve. Within any given moment, you can become whatever you want to be. When you let go of the stories you tell yourself in your mind, you can become a shape shifter.

You have the ability to become strong.

You have the ability to become love.

You have the ability to become excited.

You have the ability to be (insert here)

I am by no means an expert in this field as this idea is quite new to me. But I see the value in reducing my attachment to the external parts of my life so that I can have more control over my emotions.

The next time I set a goal, I’m going to set it, create a time frame, and then get to work on the process. I will track my results, but will in no way identify who I am with the results I get. This will help in all areas of my life and should lead to me being in much better control of my state on a day to day basis. If I am to truly be like water, I should have the ability to choose the best way of being to deal with all of life’s challenges.

Don’t be so rigid in life.

Let go and be like water.

I wish you the best.

Post 019: How to create momentum.

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I have been testing a new habit building technique in an attempt to finally drink enough water during the day. I came across a fantastic video by you tube strength expert Eliot Hulse where he describes the power of three technique.

The principle behind it is that you set yourself a goal and try to stick to it for three days only. Once you master that, you congratulate yourself for completing it and then try to stick to your habit change for three weeks. The momentum built during this three week period means that you are much more likely to stick with the habit once this period is over. After the success of going for three weeks, then you can start the process of maintaining the same habit for three months. Once that 3 month period is over, the habit will be fully formed.

I am three weeks into this technique with drinking at least three litres of water a day and I have found it to be a very successful technique. It has worked well because instead of thinking about having to maintain a habit forever, you focus on maintaining within phases of time. This has been easier for me to cope with mentally and feels much more likely to be a success. The three month phase that I have just started just feels like more of the same. I am already fully in the swing of keeping the habit going so it’s just a case of seeing it out to the end.

To help with this, I have used a calendar app called streaks that allows you to tract your consistency with your goals. When you achieve your goal for the day, you can put a red cross onto your calendar for that day. This is very satisfying and visual. More importantly, once you get a good run going, you feel more committed to not breaking the pattern you have started. I have found using these two techniques together has resulted in me being very consistent and I have not dropped a day since starting.

Every two weeks, I then set up a new habit to track and maintain. This means that I can get all of my goals up and running quite quickly without trying to do everything all at once. I tried that last year and felt overwhelmed with the task.

The snowball effect is working well for me so far. Hopefully it will allow me to create some excellent habits to take me forward during 2014. It might be a strategy you have never considered before that might help you find success.

Expect the best!