There is no them, only us

Like most people, having never been to a real prison, my knowledge of the prison system was limited to the often depressing news about them and their residents. That changed last week when I had the privilege of visiting Portland prison in Dorset with the youth offending rehabilitation charity, Key4life. There I met 30 young men who were serving time at this forbidding looking prison perched on top of a windswept cliff overlooking the English Channel. It felt isolated and on the very edge.

It is easy to think of offenders as being different from us – outsiders, poorly educated, drug-addicted, violent, dangerous and well….just criminal. But spend a day with them and you will find that we are more alike than we think.

They want their lives to be better
They want to provide for, and protect, their family
They want to do meaningful work
They get frustrated about things they can’t control
They want to be respected and valued
They want to have a voice and to be heard
They want their lives to have meaning
They miss their friends and family
They grieve for those they have lost
They want to love and be loved
They want to have a place to call home

They sound a lot like you and me…perhaps we are more similar than we think.

If you think we are more alike, visit the Key4life website at

Take the toothbrush test

I was brushing my teeth a few nights ago and something was really bugging me. In fact it had been bugging me all day – while I was eating lunch, while I was working, while I was watching TV with my family in the evening. As I scrubbed my teeth, I asked myself “do I want to feel like this?“. The answer was an emphatic no, so I knew it had to be my inner chimp.

Who is this chimp and what is it doing in my head?

The Chimp model was created by Prof Steve Peters to represent how we think and act. The model has three elements – Chimp, Human and Computer.


Human. This is the logical rational thinking you that deals with facts. The person that is rational, looks at things in context and accepts that everything isn’t clear cut. This is the real you that has grown up and developed since you were born.

Your Inner Chimp

Chimp. Your inner chimp can be thought of as an emotional machine inside your head. It is something you are born with in the same way you are born with two arms and two legs. You didn’t choose your chimp, it just exists.

computerComputer. This stores information for use later. It also allows you to act in an automatic way for example walking or driving a car.


So what’s the problem?

Your Chimp (yes we all have one) is way stronger than your human so it always gets to decide what to do first. Unfortunately this means it can get carried away on a wave of feelings without considering the rational facts about a situation. And when your Chimp gets annoyed, it becomes restless and keeps bugging you about things.


What your Chimp bugs you about is different for everyone. Often it can be just feelings of unhappiness at a particular situation or it might be feeling stressed because your basic emotional needs are not being met.

How can I manage it?

The first step is to recognize when your Chimp has taken over. Instead of waiting until you are brushing your teeeth, just ask yourself the magic question “Do I want to feel like this?” This is a logical question that only your Human can answer. If the answer is no then your Chimp is running the show.

Once you know your Chimp is in charge you can slow down and start thinking rationally about the problem. Getting a perspective, formulating a plan and slowing down your thinking are all rational (Human) things that will calm and sooth your Chimp.

So if you are still being bugged by something while brushing your teeth at the end of the day, then you know your chimp is agitated and its time to sit it down and get rational.

If you would like more information on how this model can help you, please don’t hesitate in getting in touch.

P.S. What was bugging me the other day as I brushed my teeth? I honestly can’t remember it was so unimportant. But of course that is the problem with Chimps – they love to over react.

It’s not your fault but it might be your responsibility

Seth Godin’s blog on Sunday was very short and to the point.

“It’s not your fault…but it might be your responsibility. That’s a fork in the road on the way to becoming a professional.”

I would like to add the following.

“That’s a fork in the road …”

…for deciding not to point the finger of blame.
…for accepting a leadership role in your organisation.
…for helping a colleague who is in need.
…on the way to becoming more Emotionally Intelligent.
…on the way to becoming a better person.
…on the way to a better career.