Emotions are making your choices for you. Are you ok with that?

Lou’s Bio

Emotional Awareness and Resilience Coach, Author, and Speaker

Now offering Virtual Resilience Coaching
Contact me for a free consultation

Have you ever wondered, “What would I do if I didn’t have an uncomfortable emotion stopping me from doing it?” Our Emotions are the number one reason we do or don’t do anything in our lives.  When we develop our ability to identify and understand all of our emotions, detect why they are there, and make crystal clear what it is we truly want, we begin to live the life we’ve always wanted to live.  We learn to use our emotions, instead of being used by them.

If you truly want to go after the life you want, and not have it be chosen by fear, anger, or self-doubt…

Start working, and start learning to

Using Your ‘Corner Time’ Wisely

It’s my first day off from work in 2 years. I’m serious. You’re probably thinking that I’m full of it. That it’s not true. Everybody takes off on the weekends. Well, while I may do less work on the weekends, holidays, Sundays, etc, somehow I seem to always manage to get at least a few hours in whether it’s writing, reading, or simply practicing speaking on emotional resilience. 

Well not this past Saturday. I vowed to the holiest of holies that I was going to take the day off.  “I deserve it,” I said to myself, trying to convince myself in the process.  Within minutes of getting in my car to head for the spot I was planning to run on Saturday morning, I could feel myself reaching for my phone to practice speaking.  I had to stop myself.  I felt a little irritation creep in, but I chose to put on my ‘Rat Pack’ spotify Playlist in the car instead of something from Brené Brown or some random informative Ted Talk or podcast.  Hell…I think at one point I considered even bringing up the idea of watching “Inside Out” as Saturday’s movie flick…not that I could’ve gotten away with it  (we had already chosen “Fantastic Four”…  No emotional theme there 🙂  

No blogging, vlogging, writing, listening, watching, no ANYTHING to do with work for 24 hours.

 As you can imagine, my inner critic had a great deal to say about this choice of mine.

“You know when you take a day off that’s when it starts… You stop writing as much, stop speaking as much, it’ll be like starting from scratch and having to do everything all over again… yeah, great idea taking the day off!” (My inner critic is plenty fluent in sarcasm).  

Another goodie that comes up is always, “You are totally going to lose your motivation to do any of this work you hold so dear, you know that right?  Let your guard down for one minute and you know you’re going to regret it.  Keep fighting for your self-worth, don’t let up, don’t sit down on that stool and take a break… ‘corner time’ is for others, not you.”

“Corner time” is what I call it when we give ourselves a break from the “bout” (‘Challenge’ that is causing us to grow in some way) we are courageously fighting.  It doesn’t matter if your bout is stretching as a parent, competing for a promotion at work, dealing with a sick or elderly parent… your “bout” is any challenge you deem worth of your energy, effort, and time.  

It can be difficult not to believe our inner critic when it’s pouring fear and self-doubt into our ear.   When we’re trying to be respectful of ourselves and the effort we’re making by actually taking our well-deserved “corner time”, we may hear, “We’re not good enough, strong enough, capable enough… really just fill in the blank ______ “enough.”  That’s our inner critic. It is keeping us scared of whether or not we’re actually going to be able to get up off that stool in the corner of our ring, and back into our bout.  The fear that inner critic fuels is that we need to keep our momentum at all costs… It doesn’t let us believe for an instant that we can trust and respect ourselves and the commitment we made. 

It’s hard to trust that once we sit down, take a break, allow ourselves to relax, we’ll have our back again, especially if we are far from familiar with taking our corner time.  Our inner critic is most likely whispering in our ear that if we give ourselves rest we will lose our fortitude, courage, and energy to get back into the bout.  But as our internal coach knows and reinforces in us: it is these well-deserved breaks in our “bouts” that truly enable us to sustain our efforts and make consistent and effective progress.  Progress that is lasting as well as self-motivating.

The next time your inner critic has you on the ropes believing that it’s better to continue in your “bout” without a break remember these major benefits to taking and making the most of your corner time:

You gain energy: W.B. Yeats wrote, “The world is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  When we actually give ourselves permission to lessen our energetic grip around a goal or challenge that is important to us, our five senses become keener at figuring out what needs to be done.  By taking time to mentally and physically recharge, we come back to the dogged pursuit of our goals with renewed energy and vigor for the task at hand.

You honor yourself and gain appreciation:  It is exceptionally difficult to continue to appreciate and feel inspired by any goal or challenge that is draining your energy if your fears won’t allow you to take a break from it.  We show ourselves gratitude for a hard effort not with just ‘positive self-talk’, but by actually ‘walking the walk’ by actually giving ourselves the well-deserved rest we need. John F. Kennedy once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

So, as I drive, I turn up Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly with me!” and allow my mind to drift into my run on some of my favorite local trails.  When I’m done, I’m keeping my vow of being fully present and enjoying time with my family, uninterrupted by anything.  I am grateful for the ability to have these 24 hours of corner time to recharge myself fully.  Tomorrow I’ll get off the stool and back into the bouts that are so important to me… I have no doubt!

The Clock Keeps Ticking

This is your time.  How do you want to spend it?  

I’m playing tennis with my son (who is soon to overtake his old man on the courts…but not yet), and, while I’m having an incredible time hitting the ball and talking about everything and nothing, there’s a tinsy problem.  I feel anxious and sad.  Not because I’ve lost “a point”, or because a topic we are actually talking about is upsetting me.  No.  That’s at least something I could get behind.  I’m upset because I’m thinking that soon he’ll be back at college and these tennis matches will be limited.  I’m upset because I’m thinking that, although soon my son will be doing exceptional things with his life, I’ll be much less a part of it.  I’m upset because, honestly, I’m not here playing tennis. My mind is fully invested in a story that’s leaving me feeling sad and anxious about a future moment that hasn’t happened yet, and I am totally missing out on the amazing time I am having with my son right now…

And the clock hasn’t stopped.

It is a high quest indeed to decide to be in the present moment.  If it’s good, you fear it won’t stay that way.  Then, when shit hits the fan, you pat yourself on the back feeling the validation of just how right you were.  While you are waging this war in your brain trying to find the pitfalls in the future, or the possible chinks in the happy moment that you’re presently in, your life is passing along.  

The clock doesn’t stop running.  It doesn’t stop running while you are looking for the perfect moment where you love your work, your kids are grateful for everything you’ve done, you’ve finished your first marathon (or PR’d it…good for you by the way :), all while earning your doctorate in awesomeness.  Tick tock–it doesn’t care.  It doesn’t care if you’re struggling with acceptance of your son’s graduation and, while the party is going on, you sulk in your room instead of being in this tremendously happy moment with all of your family outside at the barbecue YOU threw for him. Tick tock–it’s still going.  

No time outs.  No putting time back up on the clock because you suddenly realized you had made a mistake.  It may be a universal clock (the only one we know of on this tiny planet), but it sure as heck is your time.  How do you want to spend it?  Do you want to spend it allowing your brain to create story after story, fogging up your mental glass to the happy and fulfilling moments going on all around you?  Having the feeling of fear, scarcity, and doubt running continuously in your head of everything that will go wrong or come crashing down if you dare to trust being in the present moment and enjoying what it has to offer?

You only have so much time.  How do you want to spend it?

An easy way to spot our mind’s “tell” (poker term for when someone is bluffing) of when we’re creating fear or anxiety and blocking ourselves from being fully present in our happiness is what I call “A Top-to-Bottom.”

What is this? – A top-to-bottom is literally when you notice for a brief moment that you might be caught in your mind’s ‘fear fiction’.  You STOP yourself, and instead of ducking and dodging it you actually allow yourself to acknowledge the fear you feel in your body and chew on it a bit.  Do a self-diagnosis (a scan) of what it feels like from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes.  

Why do this?  When you allow for your fear, listen to it, befriend it as best you can, you can learn what your fear is trying to tell you.  You can decide for yourself if the information it is giving you is useful or not.

What to do next?  Look at the present situation that you are in: the celebration, the quiet moment with your family and friends, and look for ‘proof’ that the emotion you’re feeling matches the moment. 

If it doesn’t?  You are running a full on story–that is, your brain is creating all the potential ‘what if’ or ‘if only’ scenarios, keeping you fearful and unable to be fully present in the moment that you are actually in.  

So then try this:  Take 30 seconds to a minute to fully focus on something outside in your field of vision that you can count that will need your full attention and/or reasoning abilities. Count how many chairs are in the auditorium of your son’s graduation. Count the number of seconds at your high school reunion that it takes for one of your childhood friends to say something truly funny. Or, better yet, count how many white lines make up a tennis court, so you can be fully present and enjoy the fact that you can still school your son in tennis…at the moment. 🙂

The Courage to Show Your Emotions

I was embarrassed.  I was incredibly vulnerable in front of a good friend yesterday and it left me feeling as if I lost a great deal of respect in her eyes.  I was also embarrassed to have been that self-doubting, angry, and fearful.  Did I get great support and true help seeing a different perspective?  I did.  Did her support help me get through those emotions that were stuck in me like an unbroken piñata?  Yep.  But I felt like it was at the cost of my ego, my pride, and my ability to stand alone.  In truth, it was those things which were blocking the intense feelings I had from moving through me.  

I could’ve turned off. I could’ve kept my emotions to myself, pasted on a big old smile, and enjoyed the time with my friend.  It would’ve been a pleasant experience for both of us.  We would have walked and talked for twenty minutes, then I would’ve been on my way.  I would have still been filled with self doubt, fear, and anger. But at least I wouldn’t have been embarrassed that somebody else saw my emotions.  

What’s amazing is the process I just described above is the very process and I am trying to get others to consider changing. This strong desire to just shut down.  Armor up.  Judge ourselves for feeling.  Hide uncomfortable emotions and hope they won’t be seen out of the fear of being judged by others.  This hiding our emotions is called ‘glazing’, a term I’ve used which means to put on a socially acceptable energetic mask and keep safe by not letting others see how we truly feel.  

Within these two choices (not sharing, or being “all in”) I’m starting to see a clear “down the road” picture of what my future holds when I follow either path: 

Not sharing and staying ‘out of the ring’ allows me to preserve my ego. My dignity.  I remain in ‘control’ of how others see me.  The indisputable truth is that I don’t have to feel my uncomfortable emotions. The negative of staying out of the ring is that I don’t get to feel any of my emotions.  My world grows smaller when I allow my fear of fear, anxiousness of having anxiety, and shame of others knowing my true emotions keep me from connecting authentically and openly with people in my life that could be fulfilling.

Being ‘all in’ emotionally and ‘getting in the ring’ has its drawbacks as well.  You have the joy (yes, that’s sarcasm) of having all of your emotions on the table in front of others. You get to feel all of your uncomfortability with an audience, hopefully an audience that has earned your trust, but sometimes you have to take the chance and trust without knowing how it’s going to go. That is truly the price of entering the ring.  The great thing about this is that your world opens up.  You can emotionally breathe.  When you don’t fear other people seeing your emotions, or fear feeling your emotions yourself, your world expands. You begin to meet people where they are because you’re not afraid of how you’re going to feel.  You try different experiences because you’re familiar with your uncomfortable emotions.  When you don’t walk–or run–from your emotions, when you get in the ring, that’s where the living happens.

It helps a great deal to remember the price of being vulnerable is discomfort.  What you buy with vulnerability is things you can’t get when you are emotionally closed off because of fear of self-exposure.  The first thing that comes to mind is support.  Whether my friend judged me or not, well, I’ll never know (so let it go).  But, because I shared what I was feeling, I was definitely able to get help in seeing something very important to me.  

The risk of being emotionally exposed was uncomfortable to say the least.  But I was given great support because I was willing to step into the ring, to be ‘all in’ and reveal what was actually going on for me.  It’s this kind of courage and resolve to allow for my uncomfortable emotions and feel exposed that enabled me to receive help to release the harmful thinking and break the emotional cycle for myself.

I can’t say that I am feeling exceptionally great at the moment. It’s only been like fifteen minutes since I’ve left the ring in which I actually expressed my fear, anger, and frustration. I know that I am very grateful and that I feel much better for sharing with my friend how I was feeling.  I also know that I am left with a strong feeling of embarrassment and uncomfortability for having exposed myself like that.  The good thing is that I’ve done it before, quite a bit actually.  It’s becoming more and more familiar.  I fully recognize I want authentic connections with people in my life.  If getting in the ring is the price of admission, it is one that I am willing to pay because it means I am able to truly live.

What people are saying

  • “I was having real difficulty, not just creating a relationship with my son and daughter,
    but being able to
    parent him without getting caught in my anger all the time.
    After being in Lou’s workshop, I definitely feel more in control
    of my emotions and actions at work, with my kids, everywhere.“

    – Educator and mother of two

  • “Lou is able to take things that most of us feel and have difficulty expressing and give words to them. He makes what we’re feeling accessible to us through humor and great story telling.”

    – Social Worker, mother of three

  • “Lou is one of those special peopl who gets kids AND adults.  You see it in his coaching cross-country as well as his books and workshops.  His compassionate treatment of children and adults alike as we learn to help each other grow in emotional awareness and skills is so needed today, so centering and enlivening.  Thank you Lou for all you are and what you do with it!”

    Sally Kendall, MT and Intructor

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.