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My Chimp Paradox

I've just worked through a book I've been wanting to read for ages - Steven Peters' 'The Chimp Paradox' and I really loved it. As well as being a breeze to read through quickly, Peters' breakdown of the brain has really helped me to better understand some of the reasons we act in certain ways as well as how we can manage our behaviours and thinking to get the best from ourselves and others.

The Chimp Paradox breaks down the complexities of how our brain works into a very simple model involving 3 main parts: the human, the chimp, and the computer.

  • The human brain is associated with rational, methodical and logical thinking;

  • The chimp brain is the primal part of our brain, associated with instant gratification, vulnerability and aggression;

  • The computer brain produces the automated actions, responses and behaviours that we have learnt, like driving a car or touch typing

There's lots of suggested development exercises that I've not yet made a start on but I have completed one of the first things that Peterson recommends doing as the basis to successful mind management: identifying and creating my own 'Stone of Life' and to use it as a reminder of what you stand for and should expect from life. The thinking behind this is that a Stone of Life should ground you and shape the way you act and react to what life throws at you. I've pulled together my immediate thoughts for what should be on mine…

Truths of Life: These are how we believe the world works and what we know to be true through life experiences. At the moment, mine are:

  1. Life is not fair

  2. You cannot guarantee everything

  3. Things change: plans, feelings, people

  4. People think and respond to things differently to me

  5. Emotions aren't logical

Values: Values are what is most important to us - quite literally what we value the most. Mine are:

  1. Being happy is more important than being successful

  2. My loved ones are more important than work

  3. Show kindness, empathy and fairness to others

  4. Having goals to work towards helps me to feel great about life

  5. I should treat myself like someone I'm responsible for helping (thanks Jordan B Peterson)

Life Force: this is how you want to live your life. Peters recommends thinking about what you would advise someone to do if you had lived a full and complete life, were on your death bed but could answer somebody's final question: 'What should I do with my life? My response would be as follows:

'Take care of yourself and challenge yourself. Show love to as many people as you can. Be honest and open with yourself and those you care about. Do things that truly make you happy, not things that you think you should do to appease others.'

Going forward:

Now that I have some clarity on what is most important to me, I need to make sure that I can refer back to this stone of life, live by it and not forget the truths and values when faced with difficult people or situations. Working my way through the other exercises in the book will also help me manage my mind in a number of different ways, including reducing limiting/ unhelpful beliefs or 'gremlins' as they're referred to. I'd love to know if anyone else has read and used the Chimp Paradox in their lives and whether they found it useful or not...

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