Recently I've been sharing with a number of successful individuals I coach, the whole concept of "managing your chimp". This all comes from a book called 'The Chimp Paradox' by Dr Steve Peters. Dr Peters works in elite sport and has been the resident psychiatrist with the British Cycling team since 2001 and also the SKY ProCycling team. Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton, Craig Bellamy and Ronnie O'Sullivan have all spoken publicly about how Dr Peters' unique Chimp Model has helped improve their performance. He has also been involved in 12 other Olympic sports and has recently been hired by Brendan Rogers at Liverpool FC!
His theory is that everyone has two personalities - a human and a chimp. You the human thinks logically and works with facts and truth. You the chimp thinks emotionally and uses impressions and feelings. The Chimp is an emotional machine that will hijack you of you allow it to. It is not good or bad ; it is a Chimp. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy - this is the Chimp Paradox.
This book is well worth reading if you find yourself wondering why things are happening that you would like to change. It makes you think about how you react to situations.
Here is one excerpt that some of you might be able to identify with - it made me think for sure
In the middle of the night
Imagine that you have gone to sleep with something on your mind that is really concerning you. You wake up in the night and your mind starts racing. At this point, the Human is fast asleep and the Chimp is in total control. Therefore your thinking is irrational and emotional. The Chimp will think and see things catastrophically and worry you for however long you are "awake". Eventually you will fall back to sleep and come round again in the morning. You now get out of bed and wonder why you were thinking so emotionally during the night.
The answer is simple : during the night your brain changes its functioning and the human no longer gives any check to the chimp. In the morning the human is now rational and puts things back into perspective. Nothing seems as bad once you return to human functioning. There is a simple lesson to learn and a golden rule to follow.
The simple lesson is that, unless you are a night shift worker, between the hours of 11pm and 7am you are in Chimp mode with emotional and irrational thinking. You rarely think with perspective and this will only return after 7 in the morning (I accept this isn't a good thing for someone like me who get s up at 5.30am, but I am working on it, or at least not doing too much focused thinking!). The golden rule therefore is :
If you wake during the night, any thoughts and feelings you might have are from your Chimp and are very often disturbing, catastrophic and lacking in perspective. In the morning you are likely to regret engaging with these thoughts and feelings because you will see things differently.
Try to develop an autopilot that says I am not prepared to take any thinking seriously during night-time hours when the Chimp is in charge.
One key point I take from this short extract is that it is worth thinking about if you ever find yourself worrying or stressing about something and then a few weeks later you wonder why on earth you ever allowed yourself to get so worked up over something relatively unimportant.
When working with others – perhaps share this knowledge while encouraging them not to stress too much outside of working hours, Let's face it, you need them to be fully switched on and positive at work, worrying late at night when often it's not rational will diminish their personal productivity.
'The Chimp Paradox' is indeed well worth reading for those of you interested in how the mind works, and for those who prefer audio, the best bit is Steve Peters is British (i.e. unlike many audio books it's not coming with an American accent!).