Have you read the Happiness Hypothesis by Johnathan Haidt or The Chimp Paradox by Steve L Peters? My brother introduced me to the latter a number of years ago and it literally changed my way of thinking. I suddenly understood why I thought the way I did and why I reacted to certain situations in a way that wasn’t always constructive. I also learnt how to manage those situations in a more positive way. NB: I have since learnt that the Chimp Paradox is based on the Happiness Hypothesis
Looking at your brain
Ultimately you have three areas of your brain:
- The chimp part which looks after your need to survive and to be part of a pack (or tribe); it is powerful and strong and causes you to ‘freeze, fight or flight’. It is emotional.
- The human part which is logical and applies common sense and works with society – asking how we work together and what our purpose is.
- The computer part, also known as the limbic system which creates our model of the world. We process 95% of our lives through this area which stores our experiences and refers back to them in any given situation. It is fast but when it comes to change, this is the biggest inhibitor as we do what we have always done.
When the chimp part of your brain is under stress or pressure it needs to feel in control and so it asks…what is in it for me? It can be very selfish and destructive (but not always – sometimes this is a really good question to ask yourself). This all affects your motivation to do anything and while your chimp is out of control the rest of your brain is ultimately powerless to stop it.
Recognising why you are feeling unmotivated or why you are having an emotional response to something is the first step to moving on. There are two key points:
There is always a choice and remember that anything in life is only as important as you want it to be – what are you prioritising?
How to regain some clarity
For you to regain some form of clarity you need to feel that you fit in, that you are safe and that you are valued. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you regain control of your chimp and to get things back on track:
- Are you doing things because you should or because you could?
- Are your expectations realistic? really?
- Where do you fit into your tribe (pack)?
- How are you dealing with negative emotions?
- Could you do anything differently?
- Are you being kind to yourself?
It is normal to have setbacks, accept life is not perfect and that you are doing the best you can. Perhaps you can try again tomorrow. Oh and it only takes 3 minutes for your chimp to be pacified so find somewhere quiet and take three.