A must read !   (Illustrated Book Review – unsolicited ) from  Sports photographer & author John Coxon.

THE CHIMP PARADOX  is a remarkable book and could , if you’ll forgive the pun, be called a number of things , for example, “Ahoy  there!”Ahoy  as in Sir Chris Hoy, super cycling Olympian multi medalist.

This highly readable, easy to follow book  addresses its audience  in a voice that is  personal , that of  a friendly coach talking to one of their track cycling rider prodigies , and a Hoy because Steve Peters unique mind management model  helped and continues to help British cyclists like Sir Chris Hoy focus on their performance  through taking control of  those innermost performance inhibitors like self doubt and fear of losing ,and going for  success and fulfiment. It is   aimed at empowering readers  to achieve  their life and /or business goals, and that is  in any walk of life , not just in sports.

The Chimp Paradox

Life on the right track ?

We can all be justly proud of the remarkable achievements and the constant winning habit of so many of our Great Britain track cycling team and their  fellow athlete Paralympian cyclists especially in 2012. Their home base camp , The National Cycling Centre  , Manchester Velodrome is a venue in my area and  where I have had the privilege of photographing world class events a number of times. The professionalism, the dedication and the mental toughness, the  focus of these riders is self evident , creates an atmoosphere in that velodrome you could cut with a knife as they all chip away at their personal bests and go at it full tilt with  total head’s down commitment and I have seen so many world records tumble and so many medals won in that amazing atmosphere by our amazing riders.  I know a little about the state of the art equipment and clothing technology , the ruthless training  programmes , the exceptional coaching I and just how hard these people work to keep their edge.

Dame Srah Storey - crossing the finishe for gold but the smile is because she went out focused on one thing that event, to exceed her personal best a target she duly met.

Dame Sarah Storey – crossing the finish for gold but the smile is because she went out focused on one thing in that event, to exceed her personal best- a target she of course  duly met!

Winners and losers

I have ,from the sidelines,  photographed a wide range of sports and team games and from my personal observations and reflections , winning seems to be a habit with some but totally patchy for others or , in team games for example , any level, including internationals,  some players seem to be totally focused , others either losing the plot or letting their heads go down when the run of play is against them.  With my  strong interest in the psychology of performance and excellence, it is always curious to see two teams obviusly equally fit and skilled and yet one loses and often should not have? In summary most coaching tends to be skills and physical fitness based  where times are missed , goals are missed so clealry what is actually going wrong is something internal, in the heads of athletes and players. That condition has a cross over into everyday life and thus so do the systems , the Chimp Paradox model that works so well for performance athletes

want to get a(head) like our British cyclists ?

What set British Cycling in another league, on top of a ruthless pruning that took place as a new approach was adopted nationally not that many years back so that only people with a winning mind set got to join the squad , was the addition of one key extra ingredient and , that is best described as “head ” coaching and “head” training. This “formula” has consistently produced a stream of world class cyclists who perform to the an incredible level and keep on doing. I say formula in quotes because Dr Peters system isn’t a fix all to be slavishly followed but more , it seems to me, a series of techniques that each individual can tailor to their own needs and personal goals and based on the fact that you are solely responsible for success and failures.

 Get yourself rounder wheels! How not to do it. 

To outsiders, national teams that haven’t quite got it yet, this level of success is a mystery , invites suspicion and also penned a great joke which has become urban legend.  The French press had been unimpressed with thier own national teams Olympics and interviewed the mighty Dave Brailsford and he told French reporters, tongue in cheek,  that Brit success was down to having exceptionally round wheels!

Isabelle Gautheron, the director of French cycling , was looking typically not to their ownm mmethodology but looking for something to balme explain as I like to call it . there nust be something dodgy , somethong  special in the kit our riders use  and her questioning, while not going so far as sugesting some form of cheating  was  somewhat dismissive  of the riders abilities and their outstanding dedication and committment . It is risible though understandable that a person even in the governance of their sport should even consider that a mystery  ingredient could be bought as if success  can be ordered in  like a spare part!  I could have told her to look no further than within the contents of the rider’s helmet’s as that is where the edge starts and finishes, beyond the hat and skull and in the deadly GB winning mind set in which Steve Peters played a huge part in developing. Steve is a psychologist but also a pyschiatrist, the one explains , the other offers theraputic and helpful strategies to overcome issues . phobias and to help build self esteem and a sense of well being for those with the whole range of mental health issues.

Sir Chris Hoy, a picture of pure focus getting in the zone just before another remarkable preformance at the Manchester Velodrome, during the World Chmapionships

Sir Chris Hoy, a picture of pure focus getting in the “zone” just before another remarkable preformance at the Manchester Velodrome, during the World Chmapionships

Not one for publishing spoilers all I will do is explore the basis of Steve Peters innovative mind management model and the cycling references merely serve to underline his credentials and the Chimp Paradox model’s effectiveness . The team’s successes speak  for themselves. Steve Peters quotes on his  book cover , cycling track queen Victoria Pendleton  and she  confirms that Steve was the “most important person in her career”, and , on the strength of that endorsement alone, especially where Steve’s book the  Chimp Paradox was written for all, not just elite cyclists, it is going to have to be a must read, and like meeting and being coached by him, likely it is going to be life changing. It quite literally is.

According to victoria, Dr Peters was the most importan person in her glittering  cycling career

According to Victoria, Dr Peters was the most important person in her glittering cycling career

I have read widely from the various schools of psychology and the models various schools proposed from Janov to Freud, from Jung to Rogers  and  Script analsis theories , the “inner child” stuff , the raft of self help books, but also have been fascinated by the models which various psychology theories profess and then guide psychiatry treaments based on them. That psychology is   apllied to influence ,empower and or heal individuals to undo old habits and plant the seeds of new ones. All such theories have to have a vocabulary to make describing relevant factors posible so the indivual can internalise them, visualise them, even make friends  with them and recognise how the various bits and bobs of the psyche interact and affect us and our behaviours. We need to loose dependency on any interventionist and move forward and be self-regulating in my view. steve has built a reputation on supporting all his riders and giving them the tools to win and ovecome self-inflicted fails.



As Brits we all live, most of us any way ,  in complex circumstances often stressful contexts with life’s pushes and pulls, ups and down and cope with failures and disappointments and those either teach us to change or make us ill. Normally  you would not seek professional help unless your symtoms got so bad that they reached the clinical level  and only then might you find yourelf , one to one with a “shrink.” This is GB where ,as yet , we do not visit  a psychiatrist as a kind of “Self ” indulgence  as a matter of routine like a trip to the hairdresser or the shopping mal as seems now commonplace  in another culture where the flag is also red white and blue!

I have yet to have the pleasure of attending one of  Steve Peters courses or public speaking engagements when he is in life coaching mode but I’d love to and it’s on my wish list but oh, how I would love to be a fly on the wall say when he had his initial dialogue with a newcomer to the cycling team. Normally a person sees a psychiatrist because they have relationship or mental health issues but my guess is that the Chimp Paradox model is usually delivered in a track side session in context, not with a client on a couch or in a chair at the normal  counselling furniture intimacy  mode  90  degrees  from the listening ear  practitioner but with the rider astride one of those Brit saddles.

Steve, I read does not do the unresolved conflicts thing and pyschiatric sessions to overcome such things take a lot of time and would be a bad fit for example for a rider with an event coming up or does he offer the sacred trinity of the inter relationships between your ego, you id and your superego  or do the heavy analysis thing as if  having been frightened a birth by a horse or unloved is the thing to resolve  although even an elite athlete may bring along personal baggage. But surely what fits at the trackside and in performance racing fits in the world of work and play. According to Steve’s model because it is all about you , what makes you tick and what may be stopping you achieving  your objectives and full potential. I believe everyone seeks what for them is the most important knowledge, self knowledge and that is the focus of Dr  Peters model and more importantly making that knowlegde work for you. There is nothing better for your self esteem that to be empowered take repsonsibility and control of your life and being successful  (and nothing more re-asuring than having a model in place to guide you when things, as they will, go wrong.)

If I read it right , the model is  an invitation to look at and respect your emotions and understand what Steve has delightfully dubbed the Chimp, the personification of that primeval part of us,  the  gut feelings and emotions which come from the motivation and simple choice that drives all living things, fear and the instinct to survive which means  making the choice between fight and flight, and we live those choices day in day out amny times even in simple work tasks .   Seems  you need to learn the language of that chimp within  as it thinks differently from that thinking rational brain of yours and  to  get to know and how to tame your  Chimp  and get it to dance for you and with you as you strive towards your goals.

chimp-228x300In Steve Peters Chimp Paradox model that inner dialogue is just that, a dialoogue not a monolgue. It is between your rational and your emotional self , i.e. your Self and that darn Chimp! You are generally  competent , self-assured, but when  asked to do something  with a challenge – your rational self says “no prob” but now and again the chimp interupts and the “emotion’s  voice”  ( because we translate feelings into words of thought to process them )  tries  to kick in and suddenly , if you can’t manage the Chimp you are in worry and self doubt mode and may begin to talk yourself out of being able to do it.

I thoroughly recommend this book and I am sure you will enjoy it from cover to cover .


Sarah Storey - multi olympic gold medalists  and one of the hardest working, determined  and most successful cyclists ever. We can't all get "head"  coaching personally but my guess is we can get this kind of focus she is showing here because we now have the book from the man whose model  inspired people like Sarah to achieve their dreams.

Sarah Storey – multi olympic gold medalists and one of the hardest working, determined and most successful cyclists ever. We can’t all get “head” coaching personally but my guess is we can get this kind of focus she is showing here because we now have the book from the man whose model inspired people like Sarah to achieve their dreams.



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