Who's Running the Show, You or the Chimp?
Updated: May 10, 2019
Last week I wrote a blog post about procrastination and in it I mentioned how I needed to get my inner chimp in check.
'The Chimp Paradox' is a mind management programme which was developed by Professor Steve Peters, the psychiatrist who Sir Chris Hoy merits his Olympic Golds to.
The model looks at management tools to manage self sabotage, self doubt, fear, procrastination, anxiety and more, in order to programme yourself for success, confidence and happiness. Sounds good right!?
The model explains how the mind can be seen as three teams, the first two being 'The Chimp' and 'The Human'.
The Chimp, can be impulsive, driven by feelings and impressions and responds on gut feeling. The Chimp can work independently from 'The Human', and it's behaviour can be irrational and emotive. I don't know about you but I sometimes feel like I stand on the side lines whilst screaming 'Noooo, what are you doing?!' to my out of control chimp.
The Human (you), is associated with rational thinking and balanced judgement. The Human is driven by self-fulfilment and having purpose in life rather than the moment-to-moment survival instinct of the chimp, which is neither 'good' or 'bad', it's just a chimp, a cute little destructive chimp that also helps to keep us alive from time to time.
The third 'team' is The Computer. When we are born The Computer is like a blank hard drive and over time it gets filled with information. It's a storage unit for our past experiences, emotions, thoughts and beliefs.
The Human and The Chimp both have access to The Computer and use it to find and input information.
The trick is to fill the computer with helpful information and avoid inputting gremlins.
One of my gremlins used to be about networking, the word used to scare me a bit. I'd imagine walking into a room filled with people in suits and wearing name badges. It would be super formal and everyone would be more experienced than me and I'd feel out of my depth with nothing to say. I then came to realise that networking is really just talking to people, making friends, making connections. My initial thoughts were a gremlin input by my little rascal of a chimp.
Whilst we (The Human) are not responsible for the nature of The Chimp, we are responsible for managing it.
Occasionally The Chimp might hijack the computer. Clues that it is running the show could be sentences that start with, 'But I feel...' or 'But I don't feel...'
The Chimp loves to run on feelings and this is where I noticed mine had taken the reigns... 'But I don't feel like going to the gym, I'll go next week', 'But I feel tired, I will work on my blog post tomorrow...or the next day...' Clearly these kinds of thoughts aren't helpful and were holding me back.
In the book 'The Chimp Paradox' a key point is:
'... Chimps like to go on how they feel to decide on future actions, whereas humans tend to go on what needs to be done and also how they will feel at the end of the day when they look back on how they have spent their time. These are two very different approaches.'
Information will always reach the The Chimp first. The Chimp will then decide if there is anything to worry about. If not it will hand the information over the The Human and go to sleep. If The Chimp is concerned about the information it will hold on to it and start to make its own decisions about what to do with it.
Another way to identify whether The Chimp is in control is by asking whether you want the feelings/ thoughts you are experiencing. If the answer is 'no' then it is probably The Chimp at the helm.
Going back to my 'networking gremlin', I didn't want to have that fear. It was holding me back and considering I work in the music industry which heavily relies on building your network it was becoming a massive pain in more ways than one.
The Chimp and the The Human can work effectively together, The Chimp with its instincts and drive, which help to keep us alive and The Human with its logical thinking and balanced approaches.
It is normal to run on emotion throughout the day, the problems arise when The Chimp gives a suggestion that is inappropriate and The Human doesn't know how to control it.
Here's a few steps to help:
Know your chimp and learn to recognise when it is reacting
Slow down your thinking to allow the Human to get involved
Try to gain some perspective on the situation
Have an action plan so that you can move forward
'The Chimp Paradox'
can be helpful to separate our sometimes negative emotions from who we feel we really are. That way we can give ourselves a break and be more objective in our thinking. I also quite like the idea of having a pet chimp (as imaginary as it might be).
Have fun getting to know your inner chimp!