Think, Plan and Act Big
02380 560833

Book of the Month – The Chimp Paradox

2 years ago

The Chimp Paradox by Professor Steve Peters

This book was the subject of our first ActionCOACH Solent BookCLUB in September 2017. I love this book, mainly because of its simplicity. Having done a lot of research myself  in the areas of psychology and neural science, it was great to come across a book that cut through the high level, technical stuff, and brought it down to a concept that a 4 year old could understand!

You need to read this book if you are in the position of needing to push yourself or others to do things that are outside your/their comfort zone. This is why Professor Steve Peters has worked with so many top sports people, such as Ronnie O’Sullivan, Victoria Pendleton, Chris Hoy and many other top sports people, and has used these concepts to help them overcome the mental barriers to  achieving greater performance.

In my view, it is equally useful for business owners and managers who are in growing companies and need to push themselves and their teams to achieve more.


Our brain has 3 fundamental areas that make us who we are. The Chimp model describes these as three teams, each with their own agenda and way of working, and these are The Human, The Chimp and The Computer.

The Human is who we really are. We have the ability to learn from the past and imagine the future. The Human is the thinking, logical, fact based part of us.

The Chimp is our emotional brain; it is intuitive and relies on feelings and first impressions.

The Computer is a storage area for programmed thoughts and behaviours. Both The Human and The Chimp can put information into the Computer and refer to it in difficult situations. The Computer also controls our automatic behaviours – things that happen even when we are not thinking about them.

Everybody has an inner Chimp, and they can be your best friend or your worst enemy. This is The Chimp Paradox!

Problems arise when our Chimp takes over. The Chimp’s primary purpose is to protect us, but it is reactive, emotional and illogical and therefore its response to situations in which it feels threatened will be impulsive and irrational – perhaps to attack, using anger or aggression. You only have to watch an episode of Jeremy Kyle to see the Chimp in action!

Allowing the Chimp free rein may result in behaviour that we will regret later, damaging to ourselves, our relationships and our businesses.  But we need to understand that we can’t CONTROL our Chimp – it is too strong. (Did you know, a Chimp is 5 times stronger than a human?) What we can do is learn to MANAGE our Chimp, and thereby make our life, and that of those around us, better.

The steps to dealing with The Chimp are:

  • Nurturing – give The Chimp the recognition or reward it craves when you have achieved something good.
  • Exercise – you need to express your emotions sometimes, so let The Chimp out to have its say in an appropriate environment, and don’t interrupt its rantings. It will eventually run out of steam and you can then take the sensible things that have been said and formulate your response to the situation from that.
  • Distraction – recognise when your Chimp is likely to make an unwelcome appearance and disengage from the situation. Then get involved with doing something else instead that will distract the Chimp.

This applies equally in business, where we have to manage others.  Not only do we have to look after our own Chimp, but also understand that our team members, customers and suppliers have their own Chimps to deal with.  Is it any wonder that in high pressure situations, it can become more like a chimps tea party than a constructive meeting?

Professor Peters concludes that one of the secrets to success and happiness is to learn to live with your Chimp and not get attacked by it. To do this, you need to understand your Chimp – why it thinks and does what it does. You also need to remember that you are The Human and not The Chimp, and take responsibility for your behaviour!

To buy the book on Amazon: CLICK HERE

Sign up here for our December BookCLUB session.



Post a Comment