Bonus: Lucas Brave

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Lucas Gifford is an executive coach. He basically helps people see what they’re afraid of. And we get into a few of his downright terrifyingly powerful exercises and ideas in this conversation.

In this conversation look for:

  • Why most of us are actually afraid of clarity.
  • Which feelings are off-limits or too dangerous.
  • How to fill up your own cup. Very powerful exercise.
  • What the biggest bang for your buck in journaling is.

Notes from the conversation:

We don’t realize that we subconsciously don’t want clarity because it might ask us to do something we don’t want to do.

Getting comfortable with finding clarity began for me 9 years ago when I was told I was gonna be blind by 30. I had a disease where my cornea was degenerating, so I spent my twenties losing my clarity, my whole life literally and figuratively got really blurry. I’m a good looking athletic independent guy, and I was gonna be blind, needing others to live, and the idea of that scared the shit out of me. I got to a really blurry place emotionally. I went into this emotional depression, had to learn how to deal with myself emotionally, how to cope with the pain. I was married at 25 to a woman who was willing to take care of me and by 26 I was legally blind. Then a surgery was invented and it gave me sight in one eye. One eye stays lazy and the other stays open.

That was my 20s. Then I hit a very intense spot in 2014. In my 20s I developed ways to be emotionally clear because otherwise I’d get lost in my sadness. “Efficient Emotional Clarity” is what I call it. Then, in 2014 I lost a daughter — we carried her to full term, she lived for 40 minutes and passed away. That Brought all my years of sadness to one point of overwhelming intense sadness… and I didn’t die. It didn’t kill me. Once you approach death like that you find a lot, it makes things clear, really focuses things. You realize this kind of clarity is so intense and scary, but it won’t actually kill you.

I think most of us are afraid of clarity because it’s gonna kill a lot of things. The way our brains are setup, we go into fight or flight because millions of years ago we actually were gonna die. Play them out to death and realize you’re not gonna die.

So, I wanted to be living full and I got comfortable asking, “OK what is the truth? What is the clarity here? Where am I showing up at only 75%? I want to be full, I want to live at 100%.”

The Best Day Ever exercise for clarity

This is what I do for clients for a living, teach them how to find clarity. As long as we’re processing our pain and sadness as well, we can do some work to predefine the positive feelings as well. It’s a process called Your Best Day Ever. You can decide at the beginning of the day what you want to feel at the end of the day. What are the ways you want to feel? Let’s lock them in right now so they can become the context for the day. We use apple notes, share the notes.

First of all, no emotion or feeling is off-limits

No emotion or feeling is off limits, they’re all part of your experience, we just typically judge them. For example, depression is “you’re sad that you’re sad.” Instead of being sad to be sad, let’s just be sad together. Let’s unpack how understandable it is that your’e sad. And then let’s just cry. We have great reasons to be sad, especially once you understand what trauma is. No feeling or emotion is off limits, you have good reasons to be feeling these things.

You can feel peace anytime you want to

Once you understand nothing is off limits, you’re willing to feel your pain, but you’re also allowing yourself to feel your power. You can imagine being on a beach, the warmth, the sand, the sound of the waves, the wind. Ease into that, you’re on the beach. Now, describe to me what you feel like: I feel warm, relaxed, relieved. Oh wait, you’re in the middle of this business acquisition and you started feeling this peace thing. So, you can feel peace anytime you want to, you just have to choose it.

In the beach example, we just used our imagination to do it. Your memory is just your imagination remembering things. Imagination and reality are pretty much the same thing to your body, it’s the same chemical and electrical signals. So, if we can release same chemical and electrical responses, we can elicit the same feelings… in this case, peace.

How to fill up your own cup before you do anything

How do you want to feel at the end of the day? Here’s an exercise you can do to verbally, out loud fill up your own cup up. For example, before this meeting I thought to myself: “What do I want Chase to think or feel about me at the end of this call? Luke is fucking awesome. ‘Fucking awesome’ feels like what? Hmmm, let’s get below that. I want him to feel like I’m open. I want him to feel like I’m valuable. What does valuable feel like? Hmmm, Wanted. I want him to feel I’m wise. Wise feels like what? Hmmm, Respected. OK, so my 3 words are open, wanted and respected.”

(Note: see how important it is to accept and allow any feeling and emotion you find you want? None of those feelings in yourself are off-limits. Tell the truth.)

However I don’t want to come to this meeting needing something from you. I want to come into this full, ready to spill out. So, I use affirmation like this to fill up my own cup. Watch how I use my 3 words and affirm myself around them:

“You are open, Luke. You know how to be open with people. Luke, I want you. I love when you sit down in a room. Just you being here tells me you’re wanted. Thank you for being here. And Luke, I respect you. You have a lot of hard experiences in your life and the decisions you’ve made are big and good.”

So, I write that down in a note and that’s one of the ways I journal. And that takes, like, 4 minutes. I can watch how those things morph and change.

Whether you know it or not you’re designing your life to FEEL something

Think of it like this: you’re not gonna buy the car you like, you’re gonna buy the car that makes you feel a certain way. When I see my car it’s like, man that car is awesome, I love that car. OR, I don’t have a car because I want to feel a different thing, the way that taking care of the earth and living according to what I think is right feels. Every decision you’re making in your life is really designed to make you feel a specific kind of feeling that you want to feel.

Or, if you’re not being honest with yourself, you’re designing every decision in your life to NOT feel a certain way. This is what happens when we don’t have much self awareness.

Think about it like the difference between your head and your heart. We live in our heads and our heads are where our thoughts are and our thoughts are usually projections of feelings. So Imagine that for every feeling you have 100 thoughts. So, what if you have a hundred anxious thoughts, they all probably come from ONE anxious feeling. So, what if you just felt that anxious feeling all the way through so it didn’t generate all those distracting thoughts?

We need to overcome blame, victimhood and become empowered

This is why a lot of our relationships can fall into blaming and being a victim. We blame and make others responsible for our stress. “Hey act like this because of my stress.”

The question we’re really getting at is this: Can you own every part of your life without a shadow of doubt? When you really settle into that, owning your life helps you differentiate between the things that are happening to you and who YOU are when those things are happening to you. It’s responsibility, right? It’s just straight up responsibility. It’s really important to try not to allow yourself to identify as the victim. Because, when you see yourself as a powerful, creative, engaging creature your life will drastically improve.

We talk about this in the context of anger all the time. Anger is the easiest thing to project. "I'm angry at you, you did this and I'm angry out you." No, you're angry because you're full of angriness. Be honest that life isn't going the way you want it to be, feel your anger and let it fly for a minute with just yourself. You're bigger than that anger, you're bigger than any emotion. Emotions are tools and labels. Let's learn to live fully in each of these tools so in this situation I can use the right tool for the right job.

I have to let my embarrassed feeling burn through me. All of the feelings are part of the experience. This is equanimity, that you don't have a lot of opinions about things like these feelings. You notice them. When you learn to not attach yourself to “I just want to be happy,” or "i'm so sad" you just let them be there, you learn to, in a sense, become a master. We become like a child, not judging emotions, but just expressing thing.

Affirmations can let your pain breathe

Sometimes you hit on an affirmation and it HITS. I like to say “it lets your pain breathe.” Think about if you were to hold your breath, your body starts shaking, needs oxygen, and then a little breath of oxygen somehow shows up, like a kiss. It's like oxygen to your soul, that's what that affirmation is.

The reason we're able to recognize the difference between affirmations that hit and those that don’t is because we go through the practice of honesty and acceptance. Acceptance is one of the most overlooked keys in life. Many of us have our issues in life simply because we can’t open our arms and say, “this is what it is.” Once you go "this is where I am today, I can accept it,” that's when you're no longer trying to escape it.

Exercise: “Ride the emotion” without the story

So, in my journaling for instance… Write out a letter to someone who just makes you livid, super angry. Write it all out, get angry, get hot, and then… let go of the story. Just feel the anger, just ride the emotion without the story. Write down, “I am angry.” Just feel the emotion without the story. Then watch as that anger moves, maybe it moves to sadness. Write down “sadness, I’m sad.” Then maybe it goes to shame. “I feel shame.” You’re just feeling and noticing the emotion and as you let yourself feel through it, if you go with it it will always bring you through to a place of openness because your heart is always trying to get you to be open. And as you shift you get to new open places. You create this trail to follow.

The biggest bang for your buck in journaling

One of the best bangs for your buck you can get in journaling is: ask yourself, what am I the most afraid of that if I were honest about would blow my life up. And then write yourself an honest letter. For example, I will ask, “what in my life am I just super frustrated about?” Frustration, to me, tends to be a place in our lives where we haven't brought ourselves to complete honesty. So. really when you say you're frustrated, you mean you're afraid of something. And when we’re afraid of something we tend to run from it or fight it. So, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” Write down the answer, (and then in parentheses write how you feel about what you just wrote).

Example: Right now I'm afraid of not having my next round of contracts and not being able to make a living. I'm scared to death that no more contracts are gonna come in at the end of these contracts right now. (I feel clear, I feel afraid). What scares me the most about that? I’m afraid that if nobody comes in I won’t be valid, all my inadequacies will be proven. (I feel determined, I feel present, I still feel afraid).” From there I follow the fear. ”From this paragraph, what am I most afraid of? From THIS paragraph what am I most afraid of? And this process allows me to be super honest with those things that I’m trying not to look at.

Dr. Hawkins hierarchy of emotion thing can be helpful to identify and quantify your emotions. Letting Go is a great intro to Dr. Hawkins’ work. Power vs Force is also a good one from him. Another book that’s a little pseudo-science is Quantum Love by Laura Berman.