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How to be brave

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Every day we have opportunities to be brave. Yet, when given the choice to be brave or retreat to the safety of what’s familiar, most of us choose the latter. When we think of being brave, we usually talk ourselves out of it.

Why? Because we don’t want to be brave. It’s the experience of being brave that we hate. It’s uncomfortable as hell. So much so, that most of us pay extraordinary costs to avoid being brave. Those costs are many and all too common.

We work jobs that suck our soul. We stay in relationships that hurt. We eat more than our body needs. We drink more than our body can process. We spend more than we have. We blame others for our suffering. We yell at our kids. We lash out at strangers in comments on social media. We blame others for our reality.

Because we hate being brave.

Being brave requires a few things. Things that often feel terrible before they feel amazing. Things that can really suck at the outset but are worth it in the end.

For starters, we’ve got to be willing to face our fears. Then brace ourselves for the impact of such a feat, and the subsequent waves of reaction that follow. After that, we’ve got to practice listening to our own knowing. Then build our tolerance for the discomfort of the whole process.

The best/worst part? Like any other skill, we get to practice over and over until we get good at it. And even when we get good at being brave, we’ll still have more fears to face and more discomfort to feel.

Still want to be brave? Ha. I hope so! Because I’m quite willing to bet that most of what you really want requires you to be brave.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

1 // You’ve got to be willing to face your fears.

Sweet Jesus, no. Anything but that, right?

I would say, “I’m sorry to tell you this,” except that I’m not sorry. I’m delighted. Because I’m convinced that developing this skill will change your life for the better.

It all starts with our own willingness. For willingness is the beginning of anything. It’s an energy that proclaims, “I may not know what the hell I’m doing or how I’m going to get where I want to go, but I’m willing to show up and give whatever this is a shot.”

What this means: You are willing to stop moving and sit still long enough to identify what scares you. You are willing to name it.

Common fears we share (meaning I’ve experienced every last one of these): I’m afraid I don’t have what it takes. I’m afraid I’m not good enough. I’m afraid I will fail. I’m afraid I won’t be able to see it thorough. I’m afraid no one really cares. I’m afraid there’s something wrong with me.

What this does not mean: Facing your fears is not about doing anything. This is where most of us get tripped up and take inappropriate action that leads to unwanted outcomes, at which point we declare, “See what being brave gets me?! SCREWED!” Then your Clever Brain—that part which runs entirely on perceived fear and does everything it can to stop you from changing anything for any reason—jumps in to comfort you and say, “See, Darling? This is why we don’t try anything new and are better off staying home and being terrified.”

This is about being with yourself and your fears without taking action. The goal here is the feel the fear and name what scares you.

How this feels: There’s a range that goes from approximately “scary” to “really, really fucking scary” and that feels like all kinds of afraid.

It feels like your heart is beating too fast, your chest might be a little tight, and the room might be too warm. Perhaps you’ll get to enjoy a bit of nausea and a strong urge to flee. Hiding sounds dreamy. Curling into the fetal position? Yes, please.

Why it’s worth it: You deal with your fears or they deal with you.

If you desire to be a grown-ass person who captains their own ship, who is free, who adults at full-power, you’ve got to deal with your fears. When you do, you’ll feel powerful. Like anything is possible. It feels like victory/relief to name your fears and be willing to face them in the “arena” as Brené would say.

2 // You need to brace for impact and the waves of reaction.

Clever Brain does not want you facing anything so it will throw at you everything it’s got to shut this “being brave” shit down.

One of the most common responses to our willingness to face our fears and name them is panic. Clever Brain — that relentless source of inner propaganda — reacts by tripping all your internal alarms and swearing there will soon be a tsunami of terrible consequences, should you keep going.

Your ever-resourceful Clever Brain customizes this projection to be the sum total of your worst fears. It very sincerely confirms that it’s just a matter of time before you’re completely fucked. The message is quite plainly: ABORT MISSION. RETREAT. SIT DOWN. SHUT UP. DISTRACT YOURSELF IMMEDIATELY UNTIL THIS RIDICULOUS URGE TO HONOR YOURSELF PASSES.

What this means: You are challenging Clever Brain’s status quo. You are making different choices. You are venturing outside of what it safe and known.

This is progress. You are getting closer to something you really want. And you’re taking steps to get where you want to go!

What this does not mean: You should stop. The internal meltdown you feel is normal. It doesn’t mean turn around. It doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes. If doesn’t mean you’re off-track. Quite the opposite. You are moving toward something that matters to you.

How this feels: Very, very uncomfortable. At times, terrible. Your physical senses kick into panic mode and your impulse will be to make it stop.

This is where most of us abandon progress altogether. The urgency you felt before when facing your fears gets turned up to the point where you’ll almost compulsively want to flee or make it stop. You’ll pour a drink. Mow down a bag of chips. Bite someone’s head off. Or you will quite literally flee the space you’re in, muttering something akin to, “I can’t do this!”

Why it’s worth it: If you can learn to support yourself in these moments, when Clever Brain teams up with your primal brain’s impulses, you’ll grow exponentially. Your life will transform for the better. It’s in these moments that we most need ourselves. We need to be strong, loving, patient, and kind to the parts of ourselves who are freaking the fuck out. When we can summon what I call our inner Captain, the one who remains calm no matter what, the one who always knows what to do, the one who always comes from love instead of fear, we’ll surprise ourselves. We’ll be the people we need.

3 // You’ve got to practice grounding yourself and listening to your own knowing.

Be still and know, my Dear.

So when we can summon our Captain in the midst of the panic and internal chaos, we get a chance to ground ourselves. Amidst all that noise of projection, perceived fears, and primal impulses, we can choose to get still. We can concentrate on grounding our physical person and spiritual being while the rest of it swirls around in our head.

That often includes all kinds of Clever Brain classics, thoughts like: I don’t know what I’m doing. Who the hell do I think I am? I’m not qualified. I need to do research. I need to get a degree. I need to read more books. I need an expert. I do not have what I need. I must look outside of myself for advice or knowledge or a how-to manual on how to be me right now. I am not qualified to be me.

Now that we’ve acknowledged the very human response that humans have, let’s talk about this practice of grounding ourselves. It’s called a “practice” because it requires loads of practice. There’s no finish line. You will likely be terrible at this in the beginning. That’s perfect. You’re on track. Delight in your terribleness. Use that as evidence that you’re showing up and practicing.

I love how Glennon described it not as a series of thoughts, but a visceral knowing you can actually feel in your body. Beyond your thoughts. Beyond Clever Brain and panic and primal urges. Beyond all that is a space you can feel, you just need to practice feeling for it. It’s the spiritual equivalent of learning to dig out your keys from the bottom of your bag with one hand while comforting a screaming child with the other.

What this means: You intentionally and consciously sit still. You pay close attention to the thoughts running through your head. You hear the loudness of your Clever Brain and the doom it promises. And you listen for that quiet voice underneath all that noise. Like listening to a shy child in a noisy restaurant, tune in to what is being said. Your Quiet Voice knows who you are and what’s right for you.

What this does not mean: This does not mean considering your Clever Brain’s advice. It’s very important to make the distinction between that internal propaganda and inner knowing aka Quiet Voice. Perhaps the easiest way to do it is to pay attention to how your thoughts feel. Clever Brain thoughts generally feel scary and hurtful. Even when they pretend to be helpful, they still feel artificial. It’s the difference between eating artisanal cheese and that “cheese” you squeeze out of can. They’re not the same. Thoughts from your Quiet Voice will feel like real relief. Peaceful, calming, and grounded.

How this feels: At first, this practice feels awkward. Clumsy. Annoying. Your Clever Brain hates everything about it. You might feel self-conscious. Wonder if you’re “doing it right.” Question whether or not you really have a Quiet Voice, or if that’s just some airy-fairy bullshit. P/S That’s one of the many ways your Clever Brain works to keep you stuck.

Why it’s worth it: Take it from someone who coaches for a living. I’ll tell you what I tell all my clients.

You are the expert on you. You are in charge of what goes on in your head. You are the only one who knows everything you’re thinking and feeling, in real-time. You are the best person to choose what’s right for you. And if you abdicate that power to someone else, you dim your light. You rob the world of your greatness.

Conversely, when you practice listening to your Quiet Voice and honoring your own knowing, you set the stage for you to live your life at full power. The world needs you at full power.

4 // You’ve got to tolerate the discomfort.

You can stay comfortable or you can grow. I don’t know that you can do both.

This is the critical bit where we choose to stay when all we want to do is leave. While the panicky urges have subsided, it’s still uncomfortable. This is the experience of choosing to go outside our comfort zone, beyond what is familiar. Beyond what we know and feel competent doing. We’ve got to build our tolerance for the lack of immediate gratification. We’ve got to withstand the power of Clever Brain’s internal seduction that insists the only reasonable thing to do is give up.

What this means: You practice being uncomfortable and building your tolerance for discomfort. You pay attention to those decision points where you normally choose the path of least resistance. Instead of choosing that path, you stay with your resistance. You sit with it. You get curious about it. You talk about it with someone who is safe to talk about it with. You inch forward, instead of giving up and doing what you normally do.

Example: Let’s say you (by which of course I also mean me last Tuesday night) normally comfort yourself with a pint of ice cream in front of the TV. A key decision point comes when you are in the grocery store, deciding whether or not to buy the pint. Where you normally toss a pint in your cart, don’t. Notice how that feels.

How this feels: It feels both awful and victorious. It feels like deprivation and determination at the same time.

It might feel like a hollowness and weight in the pit of your stomach. Your blood may feel hot. While there is a sense of pride in your act of self-command, you might notice a strong urge to throw a tantrum. Or snap at someone. Or curse me and anyone else that suggests this is progress.

You’re outside your comfort zone. You’re making different choices. You’re practicing tolerating that discomfort. Your Clever Brain will do all it can to punish you for such foolishness. It will be uncomfortable. That is victory.

Why it’s worth it: Getting good at this skill drastically improves your odds of getting what you want and being who you want to be. Did I say drastically? I meant DRASTICALLY. The ability to consciously move outside your comfort zone in service of what you want to create is not an easy one to cultivate, but yields great dividends. You do the things your Clever Brain swears you can’t do. You and your Captain do adulty things. Good-for-you things. Brave things. Things that make your Quiet Voice nod and smile proudly. She will whisper, “I never doubted you for a second, Sweetheart. You are brave because you chose to be brave.”

Next right steps

Sorry to sound like your piano teacher, but the only way through is to practice, practice, practice. To the best of your ability, as often as you can, despite how messy it feels. Being brave might suck, but having been brave feels awesome.

To recap, here’s what there is to do:

1 // Be willing to face your fears. It helps a great deal if you can say them out loud to safe and compassionate person. Should one not be available, go for a dog. Even a cat. All you’ve got is a hamster? Chat that hamster UP.

2 // Brace for impact and the waves of reaction. Breathing is extra helpful in this phase. Be comforting, soothing, and stay with yourself. Do not abandon ship. Did Sam Smith touch our souls with “Leave me when I most need you?” Nope. “Stay with me” is what we want. Stay with yourself, here.

3 // Ground yourself and listen to your own knowing. I find it helps to close your eyes. Maybe that’s meditation. Maybe that’s just being still with your eyes closed. Maybe after that, it’s writing until you feel clear and connected to what’s true for you.

4 // Tolerate the discomfort. My best tip for tolerating discomfort is to get curious about it. Instead of focusing on how uncomfortable you feel, how vulnerable, out of sorts, and such—get curious about what you are feeling. Notice what’s happening in your body. Be an observer in your own experience, without judging what you’re feeling or making it mean something.

Being brave on-purpose is a skill. It is a choice we can make. It’s a practice we practice because it leads us to what we most want: being fully alive at full power.

As crap as it may feel being brave in practice, I have no doubt that it’s worth all the discomfort. I have no doubt that you are worth it. I’ve seen this practice change my life in such meaningful and profound ways. It’s what’s allowed me to be writing these words you’re reading right now.

I hope these words are of service to you. I hope this practice of being brave is one you’ll choose. Because there are folks out there right now who very much want to be served by you and what you’re here to give. Who need you to be brave.

Will you show up for them?

Start by showing up with me

We need a reason to be brave, something that’s so important to us, we’re willing to practice being brave and develop the skills we need to tolerate the discomfort. For it all to be worthwhile.

I’m interested in what is worth all that while. There’s not one right answer.

When you know what’s worth it to you, who you’re here on this planet to be, who you are here to serve, who you matter to, you’ve got a damn powerful reason. And choices become clearer. You have purpose that’s meaningful to you.

I can’t think of better motivation to make progress. That’s why I help people who want to know what they’re here to do. I work with people I all Human Lights; they are here to bring light into the world in a way that serves others. Yet they often pursue a definition of success that doesn’t deliver the satisfaction they thought it would. They’ve accomplished so much, they’ve been so responsible and have really taken care of their people. They look super successful from the outside, yet inside: they know they’re here to do something more. Something meaningful on soul-level.

That’s the kind of person I serve best. And exploring what’s possible starts with something I call a Spark Session. By the end of two hours, you’ll have clarity on what light you’re here to bring into the world and what’s getting in the way.

When you show up for a Spark Session, you’re not just showing up for me. You’re not just showing up for you. You’re showing up for the difference you’re here to make. You’re showing up for all the people out there whose lives would be better just by knowing you and your work. They won’t be served in the way only you can serve them, if you don’t show up.

If you’re feeling in your bones that this is you, that you are a Human Light, and you are here to come alive in service of others, then it’s time to apply for your Spark Session. Not too far in the future, the Spark Session will be priced at $525. Which basically means: When I get it updated on the website. Until then: I highly encourage you to take this session as a gift while I'm still offering it!

Be brave // Apply for a complimentary Spark Session with me

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