Last month, I shared my thoughts on The Chimp Paradox, an incredible book that has really done wonders in helping me to stop self-sabotaging behaviour, focus more, and take some big steps towards my goals.
If you haven’t already, you can read my Chimp Paradox review here.
I finished that review by commenting on how the sheer volume of helpful insights and practical tips made repeated reads necessary, saying:
To really get the most out of this book, it needs to be re-read, to be studied, practised, and re-read again.
There’s so much stuff in here, so much to try out and think about, that every read reveals something new that can really make a profound difference to the life of a constant self-sabotager like me.
This is not a book to read once and put away on your bookshelf. This is a book to keep close by as a handy manual for living.
And so, just recently, I got the book out again and began to go over some of my favourite passages from author Prof. Steve Peters groundbreaking book.
Today, I wanted to share with you the one single greatest lesson I learned by reading The Chimp Paradox, which is this:
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
– The Chimp Paradox, Page 6
There’s a good reason that this comes right at the very beginning:
It’s the most important point in the whole book.
The Chimp Paradox explains that the Chimp is that part of our minds that is driven by emotion. It is concerned with our most basic, primitive needs and adheres to the ‘laws of the jungle ‘
The Chimp either doesn’t know or doesn’t care, about the laws that govern life in a modern, civilised society. It is concerned with meeting those primitive needs come hell or the proverbial high water.
Does that mean that because The Chimp is a part of my mind, that I simply ‘can’t help it’ if I misbehave, act irresponsibly, or even self-sabotage? Does that mean I’m off the hook?
No, no more so than I would be “off the hook” if my dog chewed up next door’s flower beds and did his business on their doorstep.
That’s still my dog, ergo, the chewed up flower beds and messy doorstep are my responsibility.
There are no excuses
This is particularly true when you consider that along with The Chimp, my mind is also made up of a Human side which does understand, and care about, the laws of modern, civilised society.
Besides, taking responsibility is a good thing – it means I am no longer entirely powerless in a situation.
No, I can not control external circumstances or other people, but I am able to control myself and that gives me the power to come out of a situation in a way that benefits me.
In 12 step recovery programmes, the first step is admitting that you’re powerless over your drug of choice. That’s taking responsibility – that’s what I believe the cool kids call ‘owning’ it.
When I take ownership of my problems today, I am granted the power to change my situation and find a solution to those problems.
Of course, this should be obvious, but in the world we live in, I find it easy to blame just about anything else rather than myself.
Since I first read The Chimp Paradox, that hasn’t been the case. I’ve been taking ownership, taking responsibility, and my life has been a whole lot better for it.