The Chimp in You

When I was on the self-development course for work recently, we were each given a copy of ‘The Chimp Paradox‘ written by Dr Steve Peters.

No bananas!

My first thought was that I wasn’t going to bother reading it as (a) I only really read fiction and have a big to-read list, and (b) I wasn’t really sure about all this ‘mind management’ stuff.

However, flicking to the page about the author, I saw that various high profile sports people including the likes of Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins and Ronnie O’Sullivan all cited how Dr Peters’ “chimp model” had helped them improve their performance.  Dr Peters was also the England football team’s psychiatrist but I’m assuming that the players didn’t adopt any his ideas, unlike those other winning sports people!

The book promised to help improve the quality of my life, increasing my chances of being happy and successful in whatever I do. Sounded like something worth reading!

Human vs Chimp

Dr Peters’ model suggests that your brain includes two parts – the ‘Human’ and the ‘Chimp’.

The Human makes decisions based on logical thinking, facts, evidence and truth. It is rational and has balanced judgement.

The Chimp makes decisions based on emotional thinking, jumps to conclusions, is paranoid, irrational, instinctive and makes emotive judgements.

I’m sure you’ve all at some point become angry or upset about something without really knowing all the facts? That’s the Chimp in control, instead of the Human. When the facts come to light and you calm down, that’s the Human taking control.

Chimp Thoughts

The emotional Chimp can cause the Human to worry unnecessarily and stop you from doing what you really want to do.

A typical Chimp question starts with “But what if…”, as in “But what if such and such happens?”, making the Human worry about things that often can’t be controlled or which may not even happen.

However, the Chimp isn’t all bad, in fact it is a necessary part of your brain – it’s just that it needs to be managed. Managing your Chimp brain will help determine how successful you can be in life.

Quote from the back of the book:

Do you sabotage your own happiness and success?
Are you struggling to make sense of yourself?
Do your emotions sometimes dictate your life?

Managing the Chimp includes keeping it happy and one way to do this is to learn to live within your means – familiar advice for all you wannabe financially independent folks out there!

My Chimp 

Having read this book, I have to admit that my Chimp often makes an appearance at work, such as making me feel extremely annoyed and stressed by small and insignificant (in hindsight) things that people have or haven’t done, or about corporate policy (red tape) over which I have no control.

I have since consciously made an effort to stop or reduce these negative feelings, so by making me aware of my Chimp, the book has helped me be a lot calmer and less stressed at work already.

Outside of work, it rears it ugly little head mainly in the form of procrastination and stress about housework! I think I need to kick some major Chimp butt in this area, especially as I need to get my house ready (and child-friendly) for when my family come over for their visit.

Dreams vs Goals

Dr Peters highlights the difference between Dreams and Goals. I’ve just summarised a couple of points below as it’s quite a detailed section:

A Dream is something you want to happen but there are outside influences which mean there is no guarantee that it will happen – a dream is something that is possible.

Goals are things that you set and achieve as you have full control of them. Achieving goals increase the chance of dreams happening.

So in my case, the Dream is to be financially independent and be in a position to retire before 60 should I wish.  Whilst I’ve plotted on a spreadsheet of how I’m going to get there, there are factors (such as my investments not gaining as much as they should) that may stop this dream coming into fruition.

My Goals would include keeping my monthly spending to a minimum, saving regularly, investing, maximising my income, diversify and re-balance my investments,  to not panic when the shares crash (according to the ‘experts’, we’re due a crash), to see such a crash as an ‘opportunity’ and to keep this blog going as it helps to keep me on track!


The book goes into a lot more detail than I’ve mentioned here: it talks about other parts of your mind/brain, how the mind works, how you can interact with other people and their Chimps, how to deal with stress and suggests different ways of managing your Chimp to your advantage.

I can’t say that I identified with and accepted all of the ideas and information proposed by Dr Peters.  I found a couple of the chapters hard-going and at times, repetitive but I guess repetition is required to help you to remember.

However, some chapters I have book-marked as I would like to read again and I will certainly attempt to continue to adopt a few of the ideas, in particular how to deal with stress and ways to manage and diffuse it.

Ensuring I’m on track with my dream and goals tie in nicely with what I am trying to achieve with this blog.

10 thoughts on “The Chimp in You

  1. Hi UTMT,
    Yes, apparently he worked wonders for both Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, although personally, I couldn't see the connection with cycling but I guess I don't have a cyclist's mindset! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hi weenie, I hadn't heard of Dr Peter so I did a quick google and found out that he teaches at Sheffield Uni where my son is currently doing a PhD in a psychology-related subject. I'll have to ask him if he's come across him – his theory/program sounds very interesting. (Although I'm really sure I have an inner chimp – my emotional self could better be compared to a meerkat :-))

  3. Hi Cerridwen, what a coincidence that he teaches at the same uni! Anyway, I now have an image of you being a bit of a meerkat in my mind now and it makes me smile! 🙂

  4. Hey Weenie,

    How strange…… I finished that book at the end of last year. I thought it was a cracking read. Nice and easy to understand (Psychology of behavior made easy). I like the whole playful chimp analogy too.

    I would definitely recommend the book!


  5. Hi Huw, I agree that it was worth reading – me and my colleague who has also read the book now talk about 'chimps' daily to keep the lessons in mind! Perhaps it's just a coincidence (or not) but I've been a lot calmer since I've read it!

  6. Looks like an interesting read. The chimp analogy seems quite entertaining.
    Back in November I read a book called Clarity by Jamie Smart: discusses a similar principle – taking a step back and watching yourself experience emotion in order to effectively control it.

  7. Hi Joe, I tend to struggle reading non-fiction as they remind me too much of text books but the chimp analogy (plus illustrations) made this book an entertaining read. I'll check out Clarity, as I found the topic pretty interesting. Thanks!

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