August: The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Program to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence, and Happiness

by Steve Peters

Book Description

“Do you sabotage your own happiness and success? Are you struggling to make sense of yourself? Do your emotions sometimes dictate your life?
Dr. Steve Peters explains that we all have a being within our minds that can wreak havoc on every aspect of our lives—be it business or personal. He calls this being “the chimp,” and it can work either for you or against you. The challenge comes when we try to tame the chimp, and persuade it to do our bidding.

The Chimp Paradox contains an incredibly powerful mind management model that can help you be happier and healthier, increase your confidence, and become a more successful person. This book will help you to:
—Recognize how your mind is working
—Understand and manage your emotions and thoughts
—Manage yourself and become the person you would like to be

Dr. Peters explains the struggle that takes place within your mind and then shows you how to apply this understanding. Once you’re armed with this new knowledge, you will be able to utilize your chimp for good, rather than letting your chimp run rampant with its own agenda.”

Book Club Review

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The book club is designed to explore books that will help us on our leadership journey. It is a part of the Modern Leadership Podcast where we breakdown a book weekly in each episode. You can catch the podcast here.

This month’s book is: The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Program to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence, and Happiness by Steve Peters

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Brief Summary

The Chimp Paradox considers the competing controls within our heads. How we make decisions and what is prioritized. Looking at the psychology of the mind, the three competing “beings” within your head: the chimp, the human and the computer. And how all this affects personality and day-to-day functioning, including interactions with others. The result is the Chimp Paradox.

About the author – Dr. Steve Peters

Professor Steve Peters is CEO of Chimp Management Limited.  He is a Consultant Psychiatrist working in Elite Sport. His current and past involvements cover over twenty Olympic, Paralympic and non-Olympic Sports, including Sky ProCycling, British Cycling, Liverpool Football Club, England Football, England Rugby, World Championship Snooker, British Swimming and Great Britain Taekwondo.

His career began with teaching Mathematics and then moved on to Medicine. He has worked in the clinical field of Psychiatry for the past twenty years including Clinical Director of the Mental Health Services at Bassetlaw Trust, culminating in working at Rampton Secure Hospital. Steve has been with Sheffield University as a Senior Clinical Lecturer since 1994 and is also Undergraduate Dean. He holds degrees in Mathematics, Medicine and Medical Education (Masters Degree) and also postgraduate qualifications in Sports Medicine, Education and Psychiatry.

You should read this book if:

  • You love psychology
  • You have wondered about competing thoughts within your head
  • You are academic minded and enjoy researched scholarly books

Who shouldn’t read this book

  • Think psychology books are boring
  • Don’t care about how the brain works and inner contradictions
  • You want a novel with a characters, plot and success

What surprised me

This book came highly recommended from someone that I admire. The book disappointed. I think the premise is great and would have made a nice white-paper for me. I think the book ran long and repeated ideas that I felt I already grasped. The biggest surprise, of course, was that the recommender spoke so highly of it. It didn’t really speak to me the same way.

In fairness, I have studied psychology and human behavior a lot in the past. I was a psych major for a couple of early years in college. Maybe I was already burned out before I began. It is possible you may enjoy the discussion of why you make decisions the way that you do.

Also, one of the first warnings from Dr. Peters, is that part of the book will relate to you and others will not. He advises that you select the portions that make the most sense to you and focus on those. I started with page 1 and read through. I guess I’m not a very good listener.


I kinda shared my criticism above but let me add, the book doesn’t story tell or take the reader on a journey. it is a very deep, research based and thorough discussion of the topic. While the attempt was made to introduce a chimp as a part of each of our brains, the story didn’t flow for me and I had to determinedly push through to finish.


  • As we start our journey you may find that some parts of the book will resonate with you more strongly than others. Select those parts that are relevant to you and work with them.
  • Effectively, there are two beings in your head!
  • The Chimp is an emotional machine that thinks independently from us. It is not good or bad, it is just a Chimp.
  • Having a Chimp is like owning a dog. You are not responsible for the nature of the dog but you are responsible for managing it and keeping it well behaved.
  • You are not responsible for the nature of your Chimp but you are responsible for managing it.
  • One of the secrets of success and happiness is to learn to live with your Chimp and not get bitten or attacked by it. To do this, you need to understand how your Chimp behaves, and why it thinks and acts in the way that it does. You also need to understand your Human and not muddle up your Human with your Chimp.
  • As we go about our day we are continually receiving information from around us. The Human and Chimp both receive this information and then interpret it.
  • The Chimp interprets this information with feelings and impressions.
  • it then uses emotional thinking to put things together and to work out what is happening and form a plan of action.
  • The Human, on the other hand, will interpret information by searching for the facts and establishing the truth.
  • it will then put things together in a logical manner using logical thinking and form a plan of action based on this.
  • When you disagree, the Chimp is the most powerful and therefore gets control of your thoughts and actions.
  • The message always goes to the Chimp first (this is one of the rules of how the brain works).
  • emotions can shift ground quickly and therefore the Chimp’s thinking is relatively unstable and inconsistent. Therefore, the Chimp is less predictable than the Human when it comes to decision making and the process is often irrational.
  • The Chimp does not necessarily work with facts but it works with what it believes is the truth or with a perception of the truth or, even worse, with a projection of what might be the truth. It is quick to form an impression on little, if any, evidence.
  • The Chimp forms an opinion based on its feelings and impressions and then fixes its opinion. It then searches out evidence to back up its opinion and prove its point.
  • The Chimp needs to know that it is safe, so it is vigilant and continually looks for danger and therefore is prone to paranoia.
  • The golden rule is that whenever have you feelings, thoughts or behaviors that you do not want or welcome, then you are being hijacked by your Chimp.
  • Chimps like to survive; Humans like to have a purpose.
  • When we have a sense of purpose in life, it brings with it a sense of meaning and this in turn leads to achievement, satisfaction and well-being.
  • “Do I want…?” is the question to ask in order to recognize if your Chimp is hijacking you. If the answer is “no” then you are being hijacked.
  • Autopilots are constructive and helpful automatic behaviors and beliefs.
  • Gremlins are destructive and unhelpful automatic behaviors and beliefs that are removable.
  • Goblins are destructive and unhelpful automatic behaviors and beliefs that are firmly fixed.
  • The Stone of Life contains your Truths of Life, Values and Life Force.
  • The Mindset you hold is based on your perception of how things are and therefore influences your approach to life.
  • To replace a Gremlin you must introduce an Autopilot. In other words, if you have a belief that is unhelpful, you must replace it with a helpful belief.
  • Only you can decide how you want to act in your world. If you want things to change, then you have to look at things differently.
  • The differences between the two statements are that using the word “should” often evokes a sense of judgment, a command, guilt or a feeling of failure, whereas using the word “could” usually evokes feelings of possibility, hope, an option, a choice, empowerment and potential for change. The equivalent word for “must” is “might.”
  • Remember: the person that you want to be is the person that you really are.
  • It is vital that you understand you are simply being hijacked and therefore we need to just stop this. What is happening is that as you are trying to be you, the Chimp keeps interfering or hijacking you with emotion or emotional thoughts and making you present yourself to the world in a way that you don’t like.
  • You are the person that you want to be but you are being hijacked by your Chimp into being someone else.
  • A golden rule for understanding people and situations is to ALWAYS try to establish THE FACTS before you make your assessment.
  • Humans look for evidence and then draw conclusions. Chimps draw conclusions, then look for evidence to support them.
  • The Chimp’s error therefore is to make a decision on someone and then look for evidence to prove its point. It has self-fulfilling prophecies.
  • If you want to build bridges with someone, then it is you that has to build the bridge. Don’t expect him or her to build it with you, because if you approach someone with that attitude it is very likely to fail.
  • Successful people don’t make demands of others but set the scene so that the Human in others can respond, rather than their Chimp.
  • Invest in the troop Once you know who the members of your troop are, prioritize your time to engage with them.

My Key Key Key Takeaway

  • My key: The Chimp needs to know that it is safe, so it is vigilant and continually looks for danger and therefore is prone to paranoia.

My takeaway was understanding the need of the chimp. Accepting that we all have a chimp within us that needs to feel safe, that is hardwired to be paranoid and always looking for danger. I certainly recognize this drive within myself, the reason it is hard to try new things and meet new people is that chimp is always tricking me to feel exposed and unsafe.

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Podcaster | Speaker | Leadership Mentor

Jake Carlson is a popular speaker, accountability partner, and host of the Modern Leadership podcast. Jake built his business while traveling with his family around the world. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn. Read more about him here.