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.

Unleash your Power!

superman

One of my goals for the new year was to find an outlet for my singing. I was blessed to find a gospel choir in my local area  http://hcgchoir.org/   I have been attending the choir since February, and it has been an amazing source of spiritual energy in my life. What I love about it, is that when we sing songs about God and Jesus, the power of the belief and spirit shines through us all as a collective voice. I feel so inspired to sing my best and really bring through the emotions of the songs we are singing. To me, it feels like my weekly worship. I feel a connection to God when I sing these songs and a deep sense of satisfaction.

I also love the power the choir has when we sing in unison. During the very first week, when we started to sing in harmonies, I realised that it was the perfect place for me. Everybody there is so warm and friendly and I instantly felt at home in the choir’s atmosphere.

Doing this has reminded me that our lives are anything but 1 dimensional and we have to try and honour the parts of us that want to be expressed. If you are an musician at heart, you must find a way to express your musicality. It is part of who you are. Without honouring that part of your life, you will not feel complete. That completeness was missing from my life for years because I wasn’t using one of my gifts.

Sometimes, because something doesn’t pay the bills or is not a source of income, we can dismiss that passion as unimportant and not productive.  This is a mistake. Expressing who you really are is what gives life its true richness. Burying aspects of your character will never make you happy, even if you have all the money in the world. What is the point of chasing just the material form of success? It won’t make up for the joy you would have felt doing whatever it is that lights you up and awakens your power within. This is what inspires people the most and is a way you can give back to the world.  It also puts you in a better place psychologically which can only help when striving for success and building your personal empire!

It’s taken me years to realise that the people I admire the most don’t fit the mould of normal. They are all unique in their own way as everyone in life clearly is. The difference though was their willingness to embrace who they were fully without apology and without concern for popularity. This is still one of the biggest challenges I find in my life. It is challenging to be myself when it is so much easier to just put on a mask and embrace the rat race lifestyle.

I wouldn’t call myself an anti-conformist, as I’m not that extreme about it and this isn’t a black and white issue. I have taken the time to sit down and write what my values are, and I use these to make decisions and work out the path of my life. Without my own values, I would be relying on others to give me values and that is a scary proposition that I do not want to entertain. No government, boss, family member or friend is going to decide my values for me. This is my life, and I need to be responsible for my own decisions and actions. This, I believe, is a true expression of personal power.

Are there any goals, dreams or little actions that you have been holding back from doing?

What gains (financial, spiritual, intellectual, love, happiness, peace, health) could this action bring?

Isn’t it worth trying if it makes your life richer?

I tried just one, and it has made a world of difference.

Show the world who you really are and claim back your power!

I wish you the best

It’s been a while………………..

It’s been a long time, but I’m back and will hopefully be posting articles at least once a week for the foreseeable future.

I guess I needed some time away from the screen and felt like I wanted to think carefully about what to put out there through my blog. I have been doing a lot of introspective work over the past few months, and in the near future I will probably share some of the things I have been reading and doing, but I  felt mentally drained, and believed I didn’t have the energy to muster up blog posts for  a while. I’m back with the bit between my teeth and hoping to motivate and inspire at least one person to take action and make their lives better.

The subject of energy is a good one to start with as I think it is something that is regularly mis-understood.

People like to think of energy as something that can ebb and flow due to lifestyle factors, and I believe there is a large portion of truth to that. But I have a bit of a paradox from my own experience that does not correlate.

In theory I should have the least amount of energy now than in any other period in my life. I have two children under the age of four, and I work in one of the most stressful environments there is to work in (teaching and education) I should be destroyed every night.

But, it’s not working that way. In fact I would say that the opposite is true. The more I try to fit things in and tend to all my responsibilities, the more energy I have.

How is this possible when I a running on less than optimal sleep and have spent many nights praying to the God of sleep to come and sort it out?

I believe the answer lies in perception.

Do you see completing tasks as draining or empowering? Do you look at your work and feel overwhelmed or do you feel motivated?

One little trick I have learnt that seems to help change my perception of workload and increase my performance is to break down a difficult task into smaller chunks.

Take for example marking a set of books. If I think of the task as marking a whole set of books from start to finish, then I can’t muster up the energy to get going on the task. What I started doing instead was to think of the task of three sets of ten books. This seemed much more do-able. I would just start with ten books and see how I felt after that. Most times, I would then have the motivation and momentum to tackle the other 20 and get all the work done. The task was not any different, but my perception of the work load was greatly influenced by seeing the task in smaller chunks.

I got this idea of chunking from my workout regimen.

I was not having great success with my training programme. I seemed to be moving heaven and earth in my sessions but had nothing to show for it. This was discouraging and was really getting me down. I was close to giving up on my sessions, but I decided to not do that, but change my approach.

Using the format championed by Pavel Tsatsouline, I decided to reduce my workout to the bare essentials and really drill down on only the essential parts. He said something in his book “Simple and Sinister” that really resonated with me. “Training should give back to you and should never be taking away from you” I took that to mean that I should be benefitting from my workouts in my strength levels, fitness and in how I was feeling. I now use that rule of thumb with tasks in my life as well. Is what I am doing going to result in gains in my life, or is the activity literally a waste of energy.

With this approach, I almost treat my energy level like a budget to be spent wisely on activities that are an investment of my time.

Because I view most of the activities I take part in with this perception, I am usually highly motivated to perform tasks and activities to the best level that I can.

Where I can have energy dips is where this budget is not properly balanced. If I hammer one aspect of my life to the detriment of other areas, I then leak energy and feel less effective in my day to day life. Balancing all your responsibilities is difficult and challenging, but the pay-off is better than feeling overwhelmed and stressed because things are not as they should be.

Think carefully about how you are spending your time. It is the one resource you can never get back once you have spent it.

Have you thought carefully about the things you are doing and what impact they have on your energy level, mood and state of mind?

What is one simple change you could make today that could make a huge difference in your life?

Have you ever tried looking at a difficult task in smaller chunks and tackling them one chunk at a time? It could make all the difference when completing that challenging project.

I wish you the best

Shaun