Unlocking Your Brain for Empathy and Impact with Dr. Eugene Choi

June 27, 2022


min listen

Episode Summary

Empathy is essential to creating impact. But did you know that when your body finds itself in a life-threatening situation (or your mind thinks it is), then you are incapable of feeling empathetic?

Research has shown for about 70% of our adult lives, our brain is in a survival state, which is preventing us from accessing our highest levels of creativity, innovation, and performance.

Dr. Eugene K. Choi is a clinical pharmacist turned Certified Transformational Mindset coach that helps talented heart-driven leaders operate at their highest levels of clarity, energy and focus. His articles have reached over 9 million people and he has helped hundreds of leaders and heart driven entrepreneurs significantly transform their results at both a professional and personal level.

Using neuroscience combined with specific technologies we now have access to, Dr. Eugene trains leading entrepreneurs to consistently unlock those exponential results both at a business and personal level.

Show Notes

Empathy is essential to creating impact. But did you know that when your body finds itself in a life-threatening situation (or your mind thinks it is), then you are incapable of feeling empathetic?

Research has shown for about 70% of our adult lives, our brain is in a survival state, which is preventing us from accessing our highest levels of creativity, innovation, and performance.

Dr. Eugene K. Choi is a clinical pharmacist turned Certified Transformational Mindset coach that helps talented heart-driven leaders operate at their highest levels of clarity, energy and focus. His articles have reached over 9 million people and he has helped hundreds of leaders and heart driven entrepreneurs significantly transform their results at both a professional and personal level.

Using neuroscience combined with specific technologies we now have access to, Dr. Eugene trains leading entrepreneurs to consistently unlock those exponential results both at a business and personal level.

Dr. Eugene K. Choi is a clinical pharmacist turned Certified Transformational Mindset coach that helps talented heart-driven leaders operate at their highest levels of clarity, energy and focus. With a background in clinical pharmacy, neuroscience, and business coaching, his unique science-backed process along with the use of groundbreaking technology helps entrepreneurs figure out how to dramatically improve performance, innovate dynamic solutions, and achieve their goals. His articles have reached over 9 million people and he has helped hundreds of leaders and heart driven entrepreneurs significantly transform their results at both a professional and personal level.

Read a full transcript and more at https://wecandothis.co/episodes/029

Instagram → https://instagram.com/wecandothisco

Twitter → https://twitter.com/wecandothisco

Find Eugene at https://destinyhacks.co


Follow Sean at the links below:

Instagram → https://instagram.com/seanpritzkau

Twitter → https://twitter.com/seanpritzkau



Music by Darren King on Soundstripe

Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Sean Pritzkau: All right hey there and welcome to episode 29 of We Can Do This. Today I'm joined by a good friend of mine Dr. Eugene Choi. Eugene is a certified transformational mindset coach who uses neuroscience to help talented heart driven leaders operate at their highest level of clarity. Energy and focus in this episode, he shares with us how at any given moment your brain is either in an executive state or a survival state, and how research has shown for about 70% of our adult lives.

[00:00:39] Sean Pritzkau: We are in the survival state, which is preventing us from accessing our highest levels of creativity, innovation, and performance. And as entrepreneurs we're often faced with uncertainty and risk. And that often triggers the brain's reactive survival state. And as a result, it's been discovered that this is often the root cause of many entrepreneurs being bogged down by stress, anxiety, and overwhelm.

[00:01:08] Sean Pritzkau: And as we talk about in the episode that this inhibits our ability to be empathetic, which is really crucial, For the work that we do in the social impact space. So Eugene is in this work to really prevent entrepreneurs from experiencing burnout, negativity, low morale, under performance, and ultimately keeping entrepreneurs from quitting their ventures all together.

[00:01:34] Sean Pritzkau: So I'm excited to introduce you to Eugene and some of the content that he often writes and speaks about. And I think you'll really enjoy this. So let's go ahead and jump into this episode with Dr. Eugene Cho.

[00:02:00] Sean Pritzkau: All right. Hey and welcome back to the podcast. I'm really excited to be here with Eugene Choi. Dr. Eugene Choi is a clinical pharmacist turn certified transformational mindset. Coachs that helps talented heart driven leaders operate at their highest levels of clarity, energy, and focus with a background in clinical pharmacy, neuroscience, and business coaching.

[00:02:24] Sean Pritzkau: His unique science backed process. Along with the use of groundbreaking technology helps entrepreneurs figure out how to dramatically improve performance, innovate, dynamic solutions and achieve their goals. His articles have reached over 9 million people and he has helped hundreds of leaders and heart driven entrepreneurs significantly transform their results at both a professional and personal level.

[00:02:47] Sean Pritzkau: So Eugene, I'm really excited to have you on the podcast. Welcome. 

[00:02:51] Eugene Choi: Yeah, it's so good to be here. And it's so good to see you. I, cuz I know we go back a little bit. 

[00:02:56] Sean Pritzkau: Yeah. It's been a little while since we've chatted and I, I know we've known each other for years. I think we first met in person at an event in Nashville, which is where I first really heard you, present a lot of this content.

[00:03:09] Sean Pritzkau: And for me, I remember it being. I mean, won a great event and great to hang out with everyone. But I remember the content that you delivered at that event being a particularly helpful for me at that moment. And I'm excited to be able to share some of that with the audience 

[00:03:21] Eugene Choi: today. Yeah. Sounds fun. Let's do it.

[00:03:24] Eugene Choi: Yeah. 

[00:03:25] Sean Pritzkau: Well, if you wanna start and we just kinda shared a little bit, but if you wanna share this transition that you made into your, you know, your previous career and now into really taking neuroscience and helping entrepreneurs, how did you get to this? 

[00:03:38] Eugene Choi: Yeah. I mean, it's been a wild ride and I'll try to explain it in like, as succinctly as possible, but long story short, the reason I went into pharmacy was for this green thing called money.

[00:03:48] Eugene Choi: Right. You know, you get a six figure salary right out of college. And I grew up pretty poor. So that's why I did that. And then I got pretty jaded because I couldn't see myself doing it for the rest of my life. So AF all my three year anniversary. I quit and went into full on soul searching mode. I went on a road trip with my wife for two months and then ended up doing some filmmaking out in LA.

[00:04:06] Eugene Choi: And while doing filmmaking, we found some exposure there where, you know, one of the biggest projects I worked on got 23 million views online. We had multiple viral content. Some of it got picked up by television. So, which was fun to see it on TV, on talk shows and stuff like that. That taught me a lot about marketing indirectly, without even realizing I realized there's, you know, certain framework, certain patterns that people do to create content that gets shared very rapidly.

[00:04:32] Eugene Choi: So I learned a lot about that and I ended up running outta money. So I went back to pharmacy for a little bit. And while I was doing that, I was really starting to soul search again. It was like a tail between my legs moment. Right? Like I failed, I tried to find your passion thing. It didn't work. I did the filmmaking thing and I realized, well, you know, I didn't actually like filmmaking anyway, to give you an idea.

[00:04:51] Eugene Choi: That video that got 23 million views took me seven months to edit it. It's very labor intensive filmmaking, as you know, like in editing, right. Whether it's podcast, it's time consuming at times. So I was just like, well, what is it that I really liked anyway? And I realized it was story. Because even as adults, we love to sit in a dark room at the movie theater and be told a story.

[00:05:11] Eugene Choi: And I realized why it's because in any movie that's mainstream, it's basically a main character that has something they really, really want. And they go through some challenges and they achieve it at the end. And the big thing that they experience is not just an external transformation, it's a significant internal transformation.

[00:05:27] Eugene Choi: They become a different person. And I think we all crave. At a baseline level, we crave to grow as an individual. We crave to expand. We crave to get better and it started this journey of well. How do you make that happen in real life? How can we make this happen in real life? So I developed two skill sets.

[00:05:44] Eugene Choi: One was business coaching. So I got this opportunity to get directly mentored by the CEO of a multimillion dollar business. I was just like, what else do I get to get this opportunity? Cuz they watched my content start growing and they invited me to join the team and they'll teach me business. So long story short, that helped me with that in terms of my business growth skills.

[00:06:02] Eugene Choi: So I can speak the language of business. Now I understand it. The second skill that I found to be the differentiator, I guess, so to speak in my brand, was my healthcare background. So I discovered neuroscience. I was just like, oh my goodness. How can we make this transformation happen in real life? It's this it's understanding how our brains are wired, how our brain works, how in fact, most of our adult lives, our brains are working against us and not for us, which is why we run into all these habits that we're saying that we feel stuck, right?

[00:06:29] Eugene Choi: Whether it's procrastination, addiction, whatever it is, right. Distractions, binge watching television, all of these habits we enter into it's. It's not because we're stupid. It's just because. How the neurology in our brain has been formed because of our unique life experiences. So I use my marketing skills to take something complex and be able to try to explain it in a more digestible way.

[00:06:51] Eugene Choi: That's easier to understand and more importantly, easier to implement. And that's kind of. Where my sweet spot came in, I've been testing it out. A lot of leaders loved it. Entrepreneurs, sometimes a political leader. I coached the mayor last year, which was still wild for me that I did that. So I've been realizing this kind of content has been super helpful for people with making more impact, right.

[00:07:12] Eugene Choi: And also growth, whether it's in their business or in their life. And I've been doing it ever. That's 

[00:07:17] Sean Pritzkau: amazing. yeah, I think that's gonna be really relevant for people listening today because a lot of us are either in progress or have found the place we are in our careers by bridging connections between experiences that we've had in our lifetime.

[00:07:33] Sean Pritzkau: And I love that you shared your own story to where you are now is you kind of took what you learned from, you know, both your, academic and medical background, right. And this experience. Storytelling and hon in kind of this, filmmaking background and a business and, you know, come full swing. Now you're running a business that is helping people, entrepreneurs and, and many people in business through successful performance and how they get past barriers.

[00:08:03] Sean Pritzkau: I love hearing people's, career paths and specifically ones that are pretty nontraditional I find really interesting. So thanks for sharing some of your, your background. I remember the first time that I, I met you, I read like a viral article that you had posted online that had gotten I think probably a million or so views at the time, and then just kept kind of growing.

[00:08:26] Sean Pritzkau: Yeah. It hit 

[00:08:26] Eugene Choi: over 7 million for that article. Yeah. 

[00:08:30] Sean Pritzkau: Yeah. So maybe you'll have to answer us answer questions on how to do that. I mean, you have a ability to communicate some of these pretty complex concepts and make them simple for people to understand and not just understand, but implement. I'd love to talk about that today with our audience here, because a lot of people are entrepreneurs are maybe entrepreneurs in business and are really looking to create impact outta the work that they do, whether they're in a company, they have their own company.

[00:08:59] Sean Pritzkau: Maybe they're a freelancer or coach or something, and they're looking to make a impact beyond just the profit. And with that comes a lot to think about. And I know you talk a lot about the various states that our, our mind or our body can find itself in. And we operate at our best or our worst in those states.

[00:09:21] Sean Pritzkau: So I'd love if you wanna introduce to us, what are the reasons we find ourselves performing really, really well in some seasons and really, really poorly in others. 

[00:09:30] Eugene Choi: Yeah. And, and that's a great conversation to have, cuz this was the big breakthrough for me. Right. When I started kind of examining the neuroscience, right?

[00:09:37] Eugene Choi: Like I don't have a PhD in it, but I have a healthcare background that enables me to read these medical journals, interpret it and see what it's saying. And, and, and basically look at what the conversation is. And it came down to, I realized one of the big ahas for me was turns out your brain operates in one of two states.

[00:09:52] Eugene Choi: That's it? It's one or the other when one's on the other's off. And these two states is what I call either a survival. Or an executive state. Okay. The executive state is where some of the most amazing capabilities of your brain come from this is your ability to make impact. This is your ability to innovate.

[00:10:10] Eugene Choi: This is your ability to be creative. This is your ability to solve complex problems. Now the survival state is the part of your brain that cuts you off. From accessing that part of your brain, because it's in a mode where it's reacting without thinking the survival state is meant. What it's meant for is for actual life threatening scenarios.

[00:10:29] Eugene Choi: Like if you're about to die, like a Tiger's in front of you about to eat you, or you have a gun pointed at your head because that part of the brain, it doesn't know how to think. It only knows how to react without thinking, because in a LifeRing scenario, you sit there and you start thinking you might. So the part that was shocking for me was turns out based on research.

[00:10:49] Eugene Choi: We're not in the part of our brain that can access our creativity, our innovation, our critical thinking skills, our problem solving skills for a majority of our adult lives. We're in the survival state for a majority of our adult life, more or less around 70%. So that was the big aha. I'm like, oh my goodness, because we're in this state, remember you're reacting without thinking, this is why people experience that experience.

[00:11:13] Eugene Choi: Of like, why do I feel stuck? Why can't I figure out the solution? Why do I feel so unclear on things? Why do I feel so anxious, frustrated, anxious, depressed, and the way, the reason for this is this. You're not actually in a life threatening scenario for 70% of your adult life. We're not running away from savor tooth tigers for 70% of our adult life.

[00:11:33] Eugene Choi: The reason why we're in survival state is not because we're actually surviving from a physical threat. We're surviving from what our brain perceives to be an emotional threat. So the, the way to explain this is, think about how often on a daily basis you might feel anxious, stressed, frustrated, insecure, worried, afraid your brain literally perceives that as a life threatening scenario.

[00:11:58] Eugene Choi: Why? Because the brain research shows that the brain can process emotional pain as being just as painful as physical pain. Think about that. Emotional pain can be just as painful as physical pain. So your brain can't help, but react to the emotion. And then we go into this reactive mode that cuts you off from some of the most amazing capabilities of your brain on a daily basis for about 70% of our adult lives.

[00:12:24] Eugene Choi: And there's so many variables on why that's the case. It's because of your unique life experiences. It's also because of culture. Masculine culture, for example, right? A lot of boys are told to be tough, suck it up. Don't feel your feelings, right? So they feel unsafe. It could also be the media. You turn on the news here.

[00:12:40] Eugene Choi: It's unfortunately, things like school shootings, dramatic politics, the pandemic, of course, and it just triggers so much fear in the brain because of the environments we live in, the cultures we've lived in. And the bottom line to think about is that causes the brain to feel unsafe in some. When you feel unsafe, your brain's gonna go into survival because it feels threatened.

[00:13:01] Eugene Choi: This goes deep. You know, I remember there was research that was done, a survey that was done with a group of people asking a very simple question, which was, who's got your back and out of that group, 60% of them said nobody. And out of the 60% of the people that said nobody, 55% of the people they were married.

[00:13:19] Eugene Choi: Wow. You see what I'm saying? Yeah. So it just goes to show how unsafe we feel psychologically. Even in our own homes and this triggers the part of your brain that cuts you off from some of the most amazing capabilities that you have. And that was the big aha for me going, man, if you understand that and you can actually start seeing it, how often we're in frustration, stress, anxiety, and see that that's the thing that's keeping you stuck.

[00:13:45] Eugene Choi: Then we can actually show you what to do. So we need to be aware of it first. Yeah. 

[00:13:50] Sean Pritzkau: Yeah. When I heard that you share some of this for the first time, it's funny because the amount that you see once you become aware of some of these things afterward, it's like when you, I don't know, read an article about Tesla and then, you know, you see a Tesla, every car you pass by, right.

[00:14:04] Sean Pritzkau: It's just, you, you become aware of it. And it's funny that you mentioned your background, you said you kind of grew up poor and I, I had a very similar experience. And if you think about business and entrepreneurship, you're thinking about money and. You might be carrying in some of those emotions and those thoughts and those frameworks that you had about money growing up and bringing that into your business.

[00:14:24] Sean Pritzkau: And if that's stimulating, you know, fear responses, then you're not operating at your best, or unfortunately even mentioned gun violence. And I've found since I live in roster, New York, which is just about an hour away from Buffalo and these last few weeks, after. Being made aware of the, the shootings and the violence and reading articles and all these things.

[00:14:48] Sean Pritzkau: And I don't feel like I've been able to do anything, like get work done in weeks because my mind is just, one, it dwelling on certain things, but there's also, what that does to your, your mind in terms of your response, like you're talking about it really affects our productivity and how we're able to, to perform and be creative in these things.

[00:15:07] Sean Pritzkau: So once someone becomes aware that they have these two mental modes or states that their brain is in what's the next step after just becoming aware that I find myself in these two different states, what's next? What do you, what do you do to kind of work through that? The 

[00:15:25] Eugene Choi: short answer to that is to become even more aware, right?

[00:15:28] Eugene Choi: Because just when you became aware of one layer, there's another layer to be aware of. And I take this deeper because self-awareness is so important. I think it's such a cliche played out word now, but there's a lot of truth to it because if you're not aware of yourself, like the example I give is if you have a piece of broccoli stuff between your teeth, how do you have the power to remove it?

[00:15:46] Eugene Choi: Unless it comes into your awareness, someone has to point it out or you have to see it in. And one of the first things I want to just stress that you brought up too is. Yeah. Like sometimes we dwell on things and it keeps us in survival, but when it comes to making impact, guess what you can't create when you're in survival, by the way, you're not creative in a survival state because you feel threatened.

[00:16:07] Eugene Choi: You're not sitting there thinking about things or wondering about things or, or feeling good about things. So when you're feeling threatened, it prevents you from having impact. Why? Because you're the part of your brain that can't have empathy. Cuz empathy is the core ingredient of impact. If you think about it, we have to be empathetic is actually shut off.

[00:16:25] Eugene Choi: Right? If a Tiger's in front of you about to eat you, you're not sitting there going, I don't know how this Tiger's doing. Is this parents feeding him. Okay. I hope you. We're not thinking thoughts like that because when your brain feels threatened, guess who the focus is on. It's on yourself. It's all me, me, me, me, me.

[00:16:38] Eugene Choi: I feel worried. I right, no judgment around any of this, but that's just how the brain functions. So if we become more aware, like you said, it's this kind of experience of where you can't unsee it anymore. You're going, oh my gosh, I can see why I'm in survival, 70% of my life, or I can see why other people are.

[00:16:56] Eugene Choi: And the next thing to become aware of is what a survival actually look like. This is the part where people start getting. More aware and finally seeing things they might not have seen before. And as what does survival actually look like? That's the next thing to be aware of? Because, well, here's what it looks like in the life-threatening scenario, a Tiger's in front of you about to eat you.

[00:17:15] Eugene Choi: It's very obvious. It's what's called a fight flight freeze. That's the only thing your survival brain knows how to do when it's in fear, fight flight freeze in an actual physical life threatening scenario. It's obvious you're gonna pick up a weapon to try to. Against the threat. You're gonna run for your life in flight physically, or you're actually gonna freeze and play dead.

[00:17:33] Eugene Choi: The reason that happens is an example is possums, right? Posums play dead because their predators like their food alive, it's a survival mechanism. So if they play dead, they don't get eaten. So humans do the fight, fly freeze response for our 70% of our adult life as well. But it doesn't look like the same as if you're actually about to die in front of a tiger.

[00:17:51] Eugene Choi: It just looks slightly different. And it's good to be aware of what this actually looks like. What does fight look like? Classic ones are things like someone says something hurtful to you. You get defensive and now you're fighting. It's a fight response or. You know, both of us being from the east coast, right.

[00:18:07] Eugene Choi: Road rage. Right. If you get cut off on the road and you get upset and you try to cut that person back off without any consideration of the safety of the cars around you, that's a fight response where we're reacting without thinking we're not empathetic in that moment. We're just trying to, right. My, my ego gut bruised, still'm trying to fight back right where fight gets a little bit more subtle yet.

[00:18:28] Eugene Choi: It's still as damaging. Are things like the need to prove yourself to someone or to yourself or having the need to always be right. Overworking perfectionism. I like to give examples of this, cuz some people pride themselves on themselves being a hard worker or overwork or an over giver people pleasing.

[00:18:50] Eugene Choi: Right? That's another form of fight response and not holding your boundaries. So I remember having a client, he was in his sixties and I was going over this survival response with him. And he had everything you could imagine. You wanted the multimillion dollar business, the nice house, the beautiful family, all that stuff.

[00:19:05] Eugene Choi: And he was still feeling unfulfilled, unhappy, and I'm sharing this information and he's sitting there going, oh my gosh, I just realized my whole life I've been in a fight response for most of it because I've been trying to prove to people that I'm better than my older brother, cuz everyone always compared me to him.

[00:19:19] Eugene Choi: His older brother was an NFL football player, by the way. Right. He was sharing a memory with me when he was in football, on his team, his coach literally said to him, like stop trying. You're never gonna be as good as him. Like his coach said that the person who was supposed to be mentoring it. Right. And so he spent the rest of his life fighting.

[00:19:36] Eugene Choi: How do you fight trying to accomplish more things? Right. He made more money, more status. And some of us are in a fight response without even realizing. And it always, always leads to a lack of fulfillment and burnout. At some point, you're gonna get burnt out. If you keep fighting and the fight response in the entrepreneur space, this is a big one that a lot of people deal with, but you see, you know, what the fight response is preventing you from doing it's preventing you from working smarter.

[00:20:05] Eugene Choi: If you hear that phrase, work smarter, not harder. Being in fight mode prevents you from working smarter. And I've had conversations with this. I had another client, his business did really well too, right. Multimillion and made it to the Inc 5,000 fastest going company. And he was debating with me. He's like, no, sometimes you'd need that fight response.

[00:20:22] Eugene Choi: right. I'm like, well, from a scientific perspective, you actually only need it. If you're physically in danger, like you're about to die. He's like, no, no, no, no. Let me explain. He's like I hit rock bottom. Like his second wife just divorced him cuz she was cheating on him. First wife cheated on him too and left him.

[00:20:37] Eugene Choi: And he's still responsible for like over $2,000 of child support every month. Like that was the gist of what he was sharing with me. And he had no money left. He remembers scrapping up every coin from his house to put it into that machine that gives you the cash, which the machine also takes a fee for it too.

[00:20:51] Eugene Choi: Right. To give you cash for the coin. And he had like $5 left and he was with his son and his son was just like, I want, I want ice. And he was telling me he was so upset. I'm like, why? Cuz your son asked for ice cream. He's like, no, cause I didn't have enough money to get my own ice cream. right. And he was like, that was the moment I decided I just needed to keep my head down my shoulder up and I needed to fight my butt off.

[00:21:10] Eugene Choi: I was bashing through brick wall after brick wall, after brick wall. So a lot of us entrepreneurs who have quote unquote made it to a certain degree, we did it with the fight response and the illusion is that it was the fight response that got us. So I was just exploring with him. I'm like, look, this is not me about talking about what you should've would've could've done in the past, cuz what happened happened.

[00:21:31] Eugene Choi: But this is just a thought exercise. I was just like, well, what if, because you train yourself on how to get into an executive state. Even if it's for just a moment, I use this analogy back at him. I was just like, even if it's just a moment, what if it's the very thing that helps you put your head up for a second and your shoulders down and what it gives you, the ability and the power to do is to be able to look at more information and you finally see, oh my goodness.

[00:21:56] Eugene Choi: These brick walls that I felt was the only option where I needed to bash through them were only three feet. Meaning there could have been many other options to get to the destination. You wanted to go to why bash through the walls. We could have just walked around it or whatever. That's the analogy I was using because what happens when you're in survival state is you develop tunnel vision, right?

[00:22:15] Eugene Choi: If a Tiger's in front of you about to eat you, you're not sitting there going, let me examine all of my surroundings here. So this is where a lot of leaders make mistakes for their organization and for their businesses is because they're operating from survival, their tunnel vision. They're not looking at the whole picture because they're in survival.

[00:22:31] Eugene Choi: So that's why it always leads to mistakes that we don't want it, and it always hits the ceiling. It can only get you so far. It doesn't help the world rewards over workers and fighters with money, but that's not gonna be the thing that helps you get to the next level of performance and clarity and energy by continuing to fight.

[00:22:49] Eugene Choi: Cause you're just gonna get burnt out at some point. Is this, is this making sense so far in terms of flight 

[00:22:52] Sean Pritzkau: response, right? Oh yeah. Yeah. I definitely see myself in it. 

[00:22:56] Eugene Choi: so this is where you have to check yourself a little bit. Right. Because if you're an overworker overachiever, people pride themselves on things like that.

[00:23:03] Eugene Choi: I'm from New York city, right. People pride themselves on working a lot. And if you're fighting, it's always gonna lead to a lack of fulfillment or a lack of clarity. It's like this experience of you, you climbed the mountain and you've, you finally see that it was the wrong mountain to begin with. That's what happened to me in my pharmacy career.

[00:23:19] Eugene Choi: Right. I thought this is the thing I wanted. I got my six figure salary. I got the nice sports car. I worked so hard for this. And why am I still UN. So that's the fight response, by the way, I stress that a lot because a lot of leaders and entrepreneurs are fighters by the way. So what's the flight response to be aware of it's classic cases, procrast.

[00:23:38] Eugene Choi: Is the brain trying to survive from some sort of fear insecurity or caring, right? What if I do this and I make a mistake? What if I do this? And I do it wrong? What will people think of me? What if it's more evidence that I'm not capable? I'm not good enough, smart enough, et cetera. So the survival mechanism is to run from it by putting it off for later, where flight response gets more deeper is when you start numbing.

[00:24:00] Eugene Choi: So again, I have to preface this, but there's no judgment around any of this. It's just awareness building. By the way, if you start judging, even in including judging yourself, it's a survival state. It's the same reason why people gossip, right? We have an insecurity about ourselves. So we feel the need to put someone else down to feel better about ourselves.

[00:24:15] Eugene Choi: Judging gossiping is the same kind of survival tactic. So anyway, No judgment around any of this. Everyone has their own form of numbing themselves. Some people like to binge watch Netflix. Some people like to eat a type of ice cream. Some people like to overindulge in things like alcohol, sex, drugs, the list goes on and we numb ourselves because we're surviving from the feeling we don't like feeling.

[00:24:35] Eugene Choi: And that's a flight response, right? We're fleeing from the feeling and what's a freeze response. Freeze response is inact. Sometimes it's actually, playing dead as well. So an example of that is if you got caught in a lie, if you ever see people, they literally freeze their eyes wide and, and they just don't move.

[00:24:53] Eugene Choi: It's the brain going, Hey, if you play dead right now, if you pretend not to exist, this person will stop interrogating you hopefully, but clearly that doesn't work cuz you're still there. and it makes you look worse. Cuz it's clear that you got caught in by when you do that response. That's how you can tell a person's lying.

[00:25:07] Eugene Choi: If you see them kind of like in a freeze response when you're confronting them about. And your heart rate actually goes down to, but where it becomes more obvious and more common is inaction is like you wake up in the morning because of overwhelm you wake up in the morning. You don't want to get out of bed, cuz you're feeling overwhelmed.

[00:25:22] Eugene Choi: So overwhelmed tends to trigger inaction as a survival response when you feel overwhelmed, like there's too much to do with too little time. So when you sit and think about that, I encourage clients to become more aware of this is can you. In others, like number one, it helps you see it in all the people around you now, why they behave the way they do, and more importantly in yourself.

[00:25:42] Eugene Choi: And that's the thing to become aware of. And when you become aware of it, you have the power to change it. That's the first step is the 

[00:25:48] Sean Pritzkau: awareness. Yeah. I'm just listening because when you hear about these three responses, your mind probably mine definitely does, goes to different situations. How you react in different moments.

[00:25:59] Sean Pritzkau: I can see ways that I've reacted in. Fight flight freeze, all three of these in different scenarios. And you're touching on really, really important things because our audience, many of them are working towards trying to find solutions for some of the world's biggest problems and most meaningful work.

[00:26:20] Sean Pritzkau: And it's very, very easy to get overwhelmed by when you think about the kinda grandiose city of these problems and the. In action. Doesn't help burnout, lots of businesses and business leaders in this space burn out because of the overwhelm, because of that fight, fight, fight, tunnel vision that you get.

[00:26:43] Sean Pritzkau: What I'm trying to say is in order to really affect change and make a meaningful impact in the world, we need to be operating at our best. So I really encourage people as they're listening to this episode, to even maybe take some notes about fight flight freeze. And kind of try to identify where do you see yourself more?

[00:27:03] Sean Pritzkau: Most often, because I know that there's ways and, and I've, I've heard because I've heard you share some of this content. There are ways to one avoid going into this state and it's important to know what you, you typically go to because then you can kind of counteract that tendency. So once we've been brought into the awareness of how we respond and react, when we feel in danger, what do we.

[00:27:28] Sean Pritzkau: So 

[00:27:28] Eugene Choi: the three step process I bring people through is the first thing is what we just did, which is awareness. So once you become aware, the second phase is training, right? We're not born with a manual on how to use our brains. So that's kind of what I'm dedicating my life to now is just to help train people, to understand how to use and rewire your brain more effectively so that you're elevating its performance.

[00:27:49] Eugene Choi: And the third part is execution, right? Cuz if you don't implement, you're not gonna experience the benefits. So the first part of training number one is I just have to stress the importance of this. If you're trying to tackle a big world problem, if you're in survival, you're not gonna solve it. I'm sorry.

[00:28:05] Eugene Choi: No matter how hard you work towards it, because number one, I'm gonna call out people. If you're in fight mode, you're not doing it for the world problem, by the way, you're doing it for you for survival. Yeah. In survival, you're surviving from something, a belief you're carrying such as I'm not good enough.

[00:28:21] Eugene Choi: I'm not worth much without my skills or whatever. I don't accept myself the way I am. I don't like myself. And here's the way I illustrate it, cuz I wanna just stress the importance and I'll share a couple of tactics that you can do in addition to how I help people trained with this is I remember I would get so upset at my daughter when she doesn't listen to me, I still get trigger.

[00:28:40] Eugene Choi: Right? I'm I'm not a Saint. right. Our triggers are still there at times. But, thing to think about is I remember sitting there, I would get so upset. Like I felt it and like my body shakes too, like I would get really upset and I'm sitting there going. Based on this work I'm doing now. I'm not getting upset because of her.

[00:28:56] Eugene Choi: My survival brain will want to blame her. Right. And there's many reasons for this, but for the purpose of this conversation, I'm sitting there going, okay, I'm not reacting to her. Then I'm reacting to my internal perspective about her. Cuz there could be any other parent in the same scenario and they don't get upset as much as I do.

[00:29:13] Eugene Choi: So I'm the denominator here. I'm the common denominator here. So I'm sitting there going well. Why is that the case? Well, what I've discovered so far by the way is anger is a secondary emotion behind anger. There's always fear. We get angry because we're afraid a boundary's getting crossed that we don't want it to get crossed.

[00:29:28] Eugene Choi: So we use anger to try to protect ourselves from it. So I'm sitting there, go, what am I so sensitive about? And I remember sitting there going, oh my goodness, I'm upset because I'm very sensitive about being perceived as a bad father, because I had a rough relationship with my father. I used to think thoughts with a lot of resentment and anger going, if I'm ever a dad, I'm never gonna be a crappy dad.

[00:29:48] Eugene Choi: Like my dad, right? Cuz he left the family when I was a teenager and all that, all that stuff, broken family. So the moment my daughter doesn't listen to me, what's my brain doing like, Hey, you're being a bad dad. See, she's not listening to you. Just like you're a dad. Because I'm so sensitive about it.

[00:30:02] Eugene Choi: That's what, what a trigger is, fight flight freeze. In that moment. I fight. I remember when we're in fight mode, we're not empathetic. You're not trying to understand the other person consider their perspective. And the very thing I want with my daughter, which is to be deeply connected with her. I'm doing the opposite when I'm in survival, I'm disconnecting from her.

[00:30:22] Eugene Choi: Cause I'm making it about me. You see what I'm saying? So if you wanna make true impact, you have to teach yourself how to get outta survival. You're not doing it for them, then you're doing it for you. So the first part of training is I have two buckets. One bucket is short term work, meaning like when you're in survival and now you're aware of it, like you're in it.

[00:30:43] Eugene Choi: How do you just kind of snap out of it? And there's long term work, because the reason we're in survival for 70% of our adult life, it's not because you're consciously doing it. You're doing it automatically. Cuz your brain's been wired that way because of interpretations you've give in certain experiences in your.

[00:30:58] Eugene Choi: So the short term work is number one is just label your emotions. I feel sad. I feel anxious. I feel happy. I feel frustrated. Very simple. Even if it's in your own head there's research behind this. UCLA did a study where they had brain scans tied to your head. They would show these people, pictures of people's faces and survival, anxious faces, angry faces.

[00:31:18] Eugene Choi: What was interesting as soon as they showed the participant, the photo, the survival brain immediately turned. But what was interesting was the moment the researcher asked, can you tell me what emotion you're seeing on this photo? They'd be like, oh, easy. That's anxiety. That's fear. That's frustration.

[00:31:33] Eugene Choi: That's anger. The moment they name the emotion. Guess what happened? Survival brain turned off executive state brain turned on. Why? Because to label something doesn't that require you to think about it for a second. And when you're in survival, you cannot think you literally can't think. So even when you're naming your emotions, you're calling on your executive state brain to turn on, which is where your emotional regulation centers come from as well.

[00:31:58] Eugene Choi: It just turns on, and a clinical psychologist, friend of mine just mentioned one nuance. He's like, there's a subtle, yet important difference in the language. There's a difference between I am sad and I feel sad. I am sad presumes that it's your identity. I am Sean. I am sad, but if you're gonna do that, that's why your brain tends to stay stuck in survival because it thinks that's your personality.

[00:32:21] Eugene Choi: That's who you are, but that's not true. I feel sad. Acknowledges that the feeling is temporary. It's not permanent. How do we know this? Because feelings come and go. Don't they, sometimes you feel sad. Sometimes you feel happy. It's not permanent feelings come and go. So it's, even if it's in your own head, just make it a practice.

[00:32:40] Eugene Choi: Just notice how you're feeling. I'm feeling sad. I'm feeling upset. I'm feeling frustrated, I'm feeling disappointed. So that helps your emotional regulation centers turn on in your executive brain and your empathy, which helps you make more impact at the end of the day. Bottom line. 

[00:32:55] Sean Pritzkau: Oh, that's really interesting.

[00:32:56] Sean Pritzkau: Cause I've heard, you know, people share about when you're trying to form positive habits that essentially you do the reverse. You want it to be your identity, 

[00:33:04] Eugene Choi: right? Positive psychology. Yeah. Yeah. That's a, that's a rabbit hole. We can, we can talk about at some point, but, yeah, but long story short it's number one is just a it's awareness where positive psychology damages people is.

[00:33:15] Eugene Choi: They're in a place of denial if that makes sense. Right? It's like I'm saying, I feel great. When I don't and I don't believe it because my belief about myself is that I'm a crappy person or whatever. It's not gonna work. It's actually more damaging than, than beneficial because that's a flight response too.

[00:33:33] Eugene Choi: Isn't it? Denial. So, anyway, the second thing that I give people as a tip is it's a little bit more of a cliche thing that you hear a lot, which is breathe deep breaths. There's science behind why this is true. Just like your brain can be an executive state and a survival state. So can your body think about what happens in your body when you feel like your life is in danger?

[00:33:53] Eugene Choi: If you're in front of a tiger, that's about to eat you, your heart, rate's going up. Your lungs are become faster, breathing faster, shallow breaths to get that oxygen in your body. Your digestive system shuts down because if you're about to die, there's not a time to be eating, which by the way, this is why stressed out.

[00:34:09] Eugene Choi: People tend to have digestion issue. And it's also why people who are stressed a lot have sleep issues. Cuz another thing that pumps through your blood when you're in survival is adrenaline. This is why, even though you slept the full night, you wake up still tired at times. Cuz there's so much adrenaline being pumped through your blood at a programmatic level like on autopilot.

[00:34:27] Eugene Choi: So when you take these deep breaths, It tickles the nervous system called your parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part that helps your body relax and get into its executive state. It tickles those nerves at the bottom of your lungs so that your body comes down and enters you to executive state as well.

[00:34:43] Eugene Choi: So two types of breathing I recommend is what's called box breathing. It's a five second inhale. You hold it for five seconds. Five second exhale. Second type of breathing. I learned about it through a amazing neuroscientist. His name's Andrew Huberman. He's a professor out in Stanford and he literally showed scans of people doing this type of breath and they watch the body relax.

[00:35:06] Eugene Choi: So it's a deep inhale. Inhale again, a nice and slow exhale, and that literally just calms your body down. Cause when your body feels like it's about to die, all that adrenaline, your heart's speeding faster. Your shoulders are all tense. Your muscles are all tense. So it prevents your brain from going into executive state because your body's the first thing to receive information that we get through our five senses.

[00:35:31] Eugene Choi: So if you constantly feels threatened, you're preventing yourself from working smarter, not harder. And you're preventing yourself from making the most impact that you can. That's the short term work, two tips that I found to be very helpful. That's easy to do that you can do right now. 

[00:35:45] Sean Pritzkau: That's really, really interesting.

[00:35:46] Sean Pritzkau: The, especially, I mean, very, very practical breathing tips, especially when you're talking about eating digestive sleeping, you know, I've a lot of times I've noticed and especially over more so over the years where I, I would just skip meals like two, three meals at a time. Cause I would just, when you're stressed, right.

[00:36:04] Sean Pritzkau: So stressed, I'm just working. Go, go, go. Skip all the meals. yeah. And it's, it's the worst. It's funny. Cause I love food. So it's not there's definitely something going. Yeah. 

[00:36:14] Eugene Choi: Your body is literally going, Hey, this is not a time to be eating. We need to survive right now. That's why you don't feel hungry when you're stressed and that doesn't help your body get nourishment.

[00:36:23] Eugene Choi: Does it. And even if you do eat people who scarf down food, when they're stressed, it's not like it's gonna absorb as much of the nutrients that it needs from the food either. Cuz it's not operating at its. Your digestive system when it's in stress. Cause it literally thinks it's about to die. It's like preservation mode.

[00:36:40] Eugene Choi: Exactly. Exactly. It's it's preservation mode. Let's move all of the energy away from the digestive system right now and put it into our muscles cuz your body feels physically threatened and you just right. Fight flight, freeze, fight flight freeze. And our bodies are not meant to be in survival long term, by the way, that's severely damaging for the body in the long.

[00:37:03] Eugene Choi: Who wants to be running away from a saber tooth tiger for 70% of our adult life. But that's what our bodies doing. Believe it or not. And this is why I feel like there's so much more of sickness happening, especially in scenarios where you go to the doctor and you go, I feel so sick. What's wrong with me?

[00:37:19] Eugene Choi: And the doctors are like, well, that's fine. and it's what your stress is doing to you. And at some point you actually get physically. The word disease. If you break it down, it's literally this it's being uneasy stress. You see what I'm saying? Yeah. And it damages your body. And that was the part that I found to be an eyeopening thing about why it's important to take care of your body too, and listen to your body, cuz it's usually an indicator whether or not you're in survival.

[00:37:47] Sean Pritzkau: Yeah. Oh, that's a really great point to kinda, I mean, is there anything that you wanna kind of tie a bow on with 

[00:37:53] Eugene Choi: that? Yeah. So if that's some short tips, the long term work is to understand how to start rewiring your brain to begin with. Cause there's a there's research saying that by the time you're about 35 years old, 90, 95% of your brain becomes subconscious, which means it's on autopilot.

[00:38:10] Eugene Choi: So just like you're walking down the stairs, you don't consciously go, I need to put my left foot forward. Now my right. You just do it without thinking the same thing happens in your brain with your beliefs that you. Maybe at a young age, you watched your parents struggle with money. So you form a belief money's hard to make, or you see your parents struggle with relationships or you form a belief.

[00:38:28] Eugene Choi: Relationships are hard. So it does these beliefs on autopilot. It also does thinking on autopilot, we think 70,000 thoughts a day 90 to 95% of those, those thoughts are the same thoughts every day. And a majority of those thoughts. Guess what? Not surprising. It's a negative thought about yourself. So that's gonna put you into survival state on autopilot.

[00:38:47] Eugene Choi: So there's a lot of variables here. So the long term work is to understand how to actually just rewire your brain to begin with. And it's, it's this process of just deepening the level of awareness within yourself. Support, right. This is the support I provide for people through coaching and through processes and through technology that can actually measure what state your brain and your body is in so that you can train yourself to get out of it on a more moment to moment basis.

[00:39:10] Eugene Choi: And that's the next thing to be aware of is, oh, this is on autopilot, but it brings up this question of what are you actually surviving from a hundred percent of the time. It's a belief about yourself. I'm not good enough. I'm not smart enough. I'm not capable. I don't matter. My voice doesn't matter. The list goes.

[00:39:26] Eugene Choi: About these beliefs that aren't true, that we carry about ourselves. So we need to get awareness around that. Then you can actually rewire it. And that's the process I bring people through. And that's the longer term work because sometimes it's decades of thought patterns and beliefs that you're carrying in your brain.

[00:39:40] Eugene Choi: So you have to go deep with that. So that's the long term work. And that's the one thing to think about is how safety you feel on a daily basis. Are you creating a safe space for yourself? Whether it's you just going out for a walk on occasion or giving yourself what you need when you're stressed, breathing.

[00:39:56] Eugene Choi: Right. Take yourself out for a little bit. Take yourself out on a date. And the bow that I would love to tie is like, this is the most important thing to think about is how is your relationship with yourself? Cause the biggest breakthrough I've had in my work. There was this leader asked once a very cliche question about relationships.

[00:40:13] Eugene Choi: How do I find the perfect partner? The, the one for me, which by the way, is a survival question and I'm gonna call it out. The reason it's a survival question is because what the brain's really asking is, Hey, I carry this insecurity about myself. How can I find someone that I hold a hundred percent responsible for my happiness, so that if I'm ever unhappy, I at least have someone to blame.

[00:40:34] Eugene Choi: Cause I don't wanna take ownership over that unhappiness. I don't wanna take responsibility for it. You see what I'm saying? And the leader understood this was where it was coming from. There was already an insecurity there about themselves, eliminating belief, they're caring about themselves. And he asked the very powerful question, which was, would you go out with yourself?

[00:40:49] Eugene Choi: And I remember the two big breakthroughs happen. Number one was I noticed immediately. My response was no, I wouldn't go out with myself cuz it's so easy to see all these things you don't like about your. And I was like, oh, okay. It's interesting because, but it's also familiar because in personal development space, you know, a lot of people stress, self care, self love.

[00:41:09] Eugene Choi: So I was just like, okay. That's, that's interesting awareness that I just noticed, but the breakthrough behind that breakthrough. Was wait, hold on. I can tell my wife, I love her. And I do all these nice things for her because I love her. But if I don't love me, I'm doing those things in survival. I'm not doing it for her.

[00:41:25] Eugene Choi: I'm doing it for me because if I carry a belief that I don't matter, which I do, right. That's that was one of my core beliefs. My brain's going to survive from this belief of, I don't matter. Maybe if you do these nice things for her one day, you will find me. I'm doing it for me. You see what I'm saying?

[00:41:41] Eugene Choi: How did I know this was true. If I ever got into an argument with my wife, what's the first thing I do as a defense mechanism in survival, I bring up the stuff I've done for her. Well, I do this and this for you. Why don't you do that for me? And I'm resenting and I'm bitter I'm, but it, if you call yourself out, you're going, whoa, why did you do those things to begin with?

[00:41:57] Eugene Choi: And for you to have to bring it up in this current conversation where you're truly doing it from a place of abundance and generosity? I wasn't. So this is why I realize now when people say they're impact driven. And you're burning yourself out and you're not taking care of yourself. Guess what? You're not doing those things for the, for the mission, then you're doing it for you.

[00:42:17] Eugene Choi: It's bullshit. Sorry. Excuse my language. But if you're in that mode where you're burning yourself out and you're just giving, giving, giving, and you're not taking care of yourself, you're not doing it for the cause. I'm sorry, it's your brain going? If I don't do this and I don't burn myself out, then it might mean I don't.

[00:42:32] Eugene Choi: It might mean I'm not doing enough, which therefore means I am not enough. So this is why it's so critically important to invest in yourself. Take care of yourself, give yourself what you need. Get yourself the support, be your own biggest advocate. Treat yourself with the same level of care that you would provide for the people that you're trying to make an impact on.

[00:42:54] Eugene Choi: Cause if you don't, you're doing it outta survival to begin with. I'm sorry. And that's a, that's an honest truth that you're gonna have to come to grips with. That's preventing you from reaching that next level of impact cause you can't impact people in survival. That was one of the biggest breakthroughs I had.

[00:43:10] Eugene Choi: How was your relationship with yourself? You actually like yourself. Cause if you don't, you're gonna do everything in survival. You're just gonna keep fighting to do more for other people. And you might justify saying I'm doing it for others, but you're not. So that's the thing to come to grips with. And that was transformative for.

[00:43:27] Sean Pritzkau: That's that's huge. I I'd love to underscore that. I mean, one of the driving things behind people that work in impact related spaces is this belief in human dignity, like everyone is, has worth and value, man. It's, it's a necessity to believe that in yourself, that you have worth and you have value. And I can see how one, how hard that is to, to accomplish that, to believe that personally, and, and two, like how, what lengths we go to to cover it up when we don't.

[00:44:01] Sean Pritzkau: So that's, that's huge. I really appreciate you sharing that. Well, Eugene, thanks so much for sharing like this work that you do and your own life lessons through this and how you've kind of come to this point. It's been really, really valuable. I know Eugene does a lot of group writing around this. You can find him Google

[00:44:18] Sean Pritzkau: You can definitely find him on Google, but we'll have links to Eugene's website. In the show notes, you can find, articles, he's written podcasts that he's recorded events that he's hosted. it goes on it definitely. If this, if this resonates, then I really encourage you to take a look at Eugene's work and subscribe to his email list and things because there's, we're touching on some really, really important.

[00:44:38] Sean Pritzkau: Topics here where we cannot be effective lead transformative teams and businesses and causes, unless we tackle this, these topics in this work. So Eugene, thanks so much for joining me today. I really, really appreciate it. 

[00:44:55] Eugene Choi: Yeah, man. Thanks so much for having me. I had a blast.

[00:45:11] Sean Pritzkau: All right. I hope you enjoyed the episode with Dr. Eugene Choi. I know, talking through topics like this forces me to be introspective in honestly, some of the best ways. And like we talked about at the end, the idea of really caring for ourselves and believing that we have ourselves have inherent worth and dignity.

[00:45:32] Sean Pritzkau: And if you like this episode, I would love if you would share it with a friend, go ahead and pass this along to someone who you think could benefit from the conversation that we had today. And if you're not yet subscribed, go ahead and. Whatever podcast player in at the moment, go ahead and hit subscribe.

[00:45:49] Sean Pritzkau: And if you have a chance to leave a review, that would really help me. And I love to hear the feedback from those who are listening. So thanks again for tuning in to this episode of We Can Do This and I'll see you next week.

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