Emotional Awareness and Resilience Coach, Author, and Speaker

Lou’s Bio

As an Emotional Awareness coach, author, and speaker, Lou’s mission is to help people of all ages understand and gain ownership over their emotions, so they can live the life they choose.

Through his personal experience, having successfully completed a multitude of endurance athletic events over the past decade, including the Boston Marathon, Ironman, and ultramarathons, as well his study of eastern medicine and philosophy Lou has developed tools for building mental and emotional tools that have the ability to benefit anyone looking to bring their best selves to every situation.

Beyond his own practice, Lou transformed his knowledge into an accessible methods and tools that anyone can use in their own life. Through his presentations, workshops, as well as individual and group coaching Lou helps students, parents, mentors, caregivers, teachers, athletes and leaders gain ownership of their choices by knowing how to use their emotions in a way that serves their goals.

Emotional Anesthesia: Not all Emotional Information is Useful

I am sitting in my dentist’s chair and I am exceptionally grateful.  No one is grateful, let alone exceptionally grateful, in a dentist’s chair, I know this.  But I also know that my dentist is going to be gentle.

Now when I say gentle, I don’t just mean with her words or her ways.  It’s not that she is going to be all politeness or has very tiny hands.  What I mean is that she is going to shoot me up with enough Novocain to probably put down a small horse and I’m not going to have to feel pain.  I realize this is a weird thing for someone to say who does endurance races and is an emotional resilience coach, speaker, and author. You might think I’d be chomping at the bit to sink my teeth into some good old resilience-building pain.

But this isn’t the type of thing that would build my resilience.  The anxiety and fear, let alone the actual physical pain I would feel, are not helpful emotions at this moment.  The dental work has to be done. These emotions are not something to listen to, something that can help me. Instead, the pain would be telling me straight out, “GET OUT OF THIS CHAIR!  SHE IS DRILLING INTO YOUR TEETH AND IT HURTS!” The information that my severe discomfort would give me would be spot on and send me into flight mode. But, since I need to be here getting a cavity filled, I am grateful to silence that physical pain signal by way of the Novocain. 

There are times in our lives when pain is just pain.  When there’s no different action to take, or a different perspective falls short.  There are times when the only thing that helps is being able to put aside the information that our emotions provide for a while.  Some people put their emotions in a ‘box,’ while others minimize emotional information by willing all their focus on their thoughts, allowing reason and a logical approach to have a greater say in how they develop their perspective to a situation. 

It is a fine practice in many situations to use your tools to ‘sidestep’ emotions for the time being, especially when difficult or immediate pain is imminent…as long as you go back to your emotions.  My dentist may numb me to the max while drilling my mouth, making sure I don’t feel a pin prick. But the very first thing she says after the procedure, before she lets me out of the chair: “Don’t forget to avoid eating or drinking anything hot or really cold!”  Why? Because she doesn’t want me to burn myself or have a slurpy stuck to the side of my face. She doesn’t want food to get stuck in places it shouldn’t and cause me pain later. Because she knows that I will not be able to feel those things. Just like applying Novocain, when we cannot get the information our emotions provide over a long period of time we are at a severe disadvantage.

How many of us go through our lives not feeling at all, sticking our heads in the sand?  How many of us don’t allow our feelings to tell us what they need to tell us? Like physical pain, emotions such as fear, self-doubt, anxiety, or whatever you’re feeling that you’d rather not, all have information to give you that is necessary and important.  It could be telling you that something is going on that’s wrong, may harm you, or is harming you!  So, while with my dental situation the physical pain would cause me to flee as fast I could from the dentist’s office, my cavity wouldn’t get fixed, my tooth would continue to be excruciating, and it would do serious damage to my health.  The temporary physical and emotional ‘numbing’ allows for the important work to be done. But it is the feelings coming back that allow me to eat again, monitor hot and cold in my mouth so I don’t burn myself, enjoy and savor the taste my food, and have the sensitivity NOT to chew the side of my cheek off.

So, when you are questioning whether it would be easier just to live the rest of your life in that Novocain-numb place, keeping a lid on your emotions so that all physical and emotional pain is kept at bay, consider this: if you used Novocain every day you might avoid ever having to experience tooth pain again, but you would also miss the joy from the taste of the food you ate that caused the cavity.  If you similarly numbed your emotions, you’d miss the love you felt for the person you were with while you ate, and any curiosity and uncertainty to try different restaurants or food in the future would disappear as well. All emotions ultimately serve a purpose, even the painful ones.

Cravings: How We Can Best Handle Them!

I’m in the middle of a 10-hour drive and I’m standing in line at Burger King. The problem is there is no line. There is a tall lanky guy in a Burger King outfit staring at me. He’s smiling, but I know. I know I’m holding up a line – it just is a line that doesn’t exist. I know in my heart of hearts that I have to rush and make a decision on what I’m going to get. The thing is I’ve truly come in for a large diet Coke. I truly believe that. I think.

Another competing truth is that I could’ve gotten a diet soda at any of the gas stations that I passed. But, somehow, I wound up at an establishment that just happens to also have cheeseburgers and extra-large order fries that I would just love to have.  But again…that’s not why I am here. But I have been standing here staring at the menu for more than a few minutes.  I mean I kind of have to order something now, right? Or else the 16-year-old kid (who I will never see again) is going to think, “Hey! What’s wrong with this guy?” It is definitely worth eating at least 1600 calories worth of food that I don’t need so this kid doesn’t think less of me.

I literally have what I would call have a mental brain freeze for a moment. I don’t know whose voice it is, but there is a voice inside my head that goes: “What the hell are you talking about!”

I shake my head, as if I got hit really hard in the face, walk up to the 16-year-old kid who holds my self-worth in his hands. When he asks me what I’d like to order, I say, mustering up the most courage that I have, “I’ll take an extra-large Diet Coke.”

To my surprise there’s no rebuttal. There’s no sneering, laughing, pointing. No covering his mouth and eyes squinting. He doesn’t turn and ask the other Burger King employees to come over so he can say, “Do you believe this guy? He stared at that board for at least 10 seconds and he’s just getting a Diet Coke! Who is he trying to kid?”

The thing about craving is that we take it personally. We take craving personally because it hurts. It hurts because we see it as a reflection of our self-worth whether or not we give into the craving or whether or not we are courageous enough to use our will is a shield against it. Neither is the case. We don’t need to inflate cravings’ role in our lives. We don’t need to assign it an evil mustache or an angelic halo. It holds one or the other or both sometimes.  Broken down, it’s a wiry, itchy, under-your-skin feeling that demands that you act before you think. The urgency of craving is shoot first and ask questions later.

Out of all of our emotions it withstands rationalization, creates a fictitious storyline (hence my over-concern about the judgmental 16-year-old Burger King attendant), and refuses to except no for an answer by creating uncomfortability until you give in to it.  The reason why we give in to cravings, is because, while we’re craving whatever it is that we’re craving, we forget that there are actually two possible outcomes:

One – we give in to our craving and we feel relief. We feel satiated. We may lose a little bit of dignity, self-respect or self-worth, but we no longer feel uncomfortable so there’s that.

Two – We don’t give in to our craving, allow for the uncomfortable feeling for the moment, and we remember that there is such a thing as time. What the hell does that have to do with anything you might be thinking. 

Time is the antidote to cravings.  You may not kill it. You may not be able to bury your craving in the ground after a considerable amount of time. But, rest assured, if you can out last you’re craving, you’re craving will get smaller, and you will gain confidence that you can handle your next craving. Haven’t you ever gone to bed at night wanting carbs, sugar, ice cream ( a gigantic root beer float with sprinkles on top of it!) and you were able to hold off and go to bed and wake up the next morning without any craving for it whatsoever? No, I’m not guaranteeing that the next night you didn’t want your root beer float, I mean who wouldn’t, but it might come at you a little less hard. You may find after one victory against craving that it’s easier to face it again.   Why? Your memory is just a little less hazy on that second out-come now. It knows even though it’s feeling pretty darn terrible that it’s not going to feel that craving for the rest of its life. You now know, through your own experience, that a craving has a shelf life at best, and that it can be minimized over time. This self-knowledge is the kiss of death for a craving.

As the words Diet Coke left my lips I immediately felt better. Not 100% better. I still want my large fries and burger, but better. By the time I got out to the car, I was barely feeling the craving.  The next emotion that had slid into its place was pride. Maybe a little bit of self-worth. There is no alternate universe where I believe that I will never put myself in that same position again, but in this universe, I now have the knowledge that cravings are only feelings and therefore finite. That may be all I need when I get to my hotel. I know there’s a Wendy’s across the street.

Walking the Walk: Adjusting Your Goals to Persevere!

I’m waking up with my head in a fog and my legs feeling like they’ve been tasered.  It’s been a while since I’ve had to mentally and physically show up so strongly for a race.  Yesterday was that day. From severe disappointment when the race started 45 minutes late due to thunderstorms (I’m always hoping for cooler temps), to having my foot give out at mile 10, I had a series of challenges early on in the race that led me to question whether I was even going to ‘finish’ let alone catch a time I could be proud of.  I try to keep a mindset that ‘it will be what it will be, focus on the effort not the outcome.’ It turns out holding to that mindset (basically walking the walk) is a completely different animal than merely understanding it, saying it, and hopefully never ever having to see it show up at your front door.

Now in all honesty I know this.  I have walked the walk in many races, as well as in my daily life.  I also know the golden rule: you never really know when your resilience is going to be tested.  I’ve had very difficult races before (difficult meaning longer distances I haven’t done before, difficult terrain I never faced before, terrible weather I’ve never seen before).  I have had races where I thought there was a great possibility I wouldn’t finish. The thing about this race, it was a marathon!

It’s not that marathons are easy; they are certainly not.  Probably the least favorite distance of mine for sure (it’s where trying to get a pace, meets real distance), and if you push in them and miss, they can be grueling.  But I had a good deal of familiarity with them. I had done plenty of them, and, only once, back in 1995 (my first marathon in Boston) did I ever think that not finishing was a real possibility.

After the late start at the Burlington Marathon yesterday (a delay that was very annoying because it meant a longer time in the heat of the day), the horn went off and I was flying on my first few miles, relatively effortlessly (meaning my heart rate was in good shape) trying to catch mile times that I could ‘bank’ and have for a cushion in my later miles when it would be warmer. When I was turning the corner on mile 10, high fiving a child handing me water from his stand, a searing pain shot from the bottom of my foot half-way up my leg!  I actually stopped for a moment and quickly took off my shoe. I had to have stepped on something!

Nothing there.  Maybe if I just ran with the pain for a few miles it would right itself (it had happened in more than a few ultras). Well, for the next three miles I looked more like a man stepping on a hot coal every other step than an actual runner.  But I was able to get to the 1/2 marathon point at a relatively decent time (I had banked all that time in the earlier miles).

I watched the 3:15 pacer with all his runners fade out of sight.  I felt this huge disappointment and goal-lessness start to creep in.  Yes, I had a pyramid goal. I had written it down. My race pyramid goals always start with me just finishing.  But then they build. This time the top of my pyramid was to qualify for the Boston Marathon. In truth, if I was really honest with myself, that was all I could ‘see’ when I looked the pyramid goals I had written down.  It sat there at the top all tantalizing and full of promise. I wanted to qualify for Boston, that’s what my sights were set on. Yes, if I missed, I would be disappointed, but, in my mind’s eye, missing it meant maybe 5 -10 minutes.

This was something way different.  I was 13.2 miles away from even finishing!  My foot felt like it was on fire, and running had turned into an Igor sort of movement.  I really didn’t know what was going on with my body. The emotional gremlins surged in the moment I took a time out on the curb to adjust my shoe, and offered their unsolicited suggestions…

Gremlin: You’ve missed qualifying for Boston, that was what you were looking for. why don’t you just call it a day and get your foot checked out before you cause real damage?

Me: I can’t believe this is happening at mile 10!

Gremlin: Right?  You’ve done plenty of these, many brilliantly.  We both know you were out here to qualify, there’s no other reason for you to do a marathon.

Me: I have other goals within this race –

Gremlin: Come on… where’s the challenge?  You’ve done the distance many times.  This is just walking and running in pain for what could be hours, for what?

Me: Maybe I can set another goal while I –

Gremlin: It’s another 13 miles on that foot and you don’t even know what’s wrong.  Who is this for anyway?

Then it hit me.  It’s why I set pyramid goals in the first place!

Me: It’s for me. And if it’s for me, then there was a boat load of goals I had for this race that I could turn to.  To learn perseverance. To practice resilience regardless of the outcome. To deal with setbacks, learn and move forward.  To practice detachment from the outcome and allow the effort to be what it would be.

Gremlin: I don’t think that’s what I –

Me: I can refocus and bank a lot of knowledge on how to persevere in my next race.  As for time, I can set a goal to not break the four-hour mark.

Gremlin: You’re going to be uncomfortable the whole –

Me:  …and I’m really not looking forward to the pain.  You are more than welcome to come along. Bring Uncertainty, Doubt, and Fear along if you want.  You’re always welcome, because you are part of me. But KNOW you don’t get a vote. This IS getting done.

I got up from the curb. It wasn’t pretty, but I got up.  I’d like to tell you that I had this new, amazingly positive take on the whole situation.  That I was full tilt and brimming with excitement to take on this new challenge of finishing in under 4 hours.  That Rocky music belted out while I was about to undertake my grueling hike/run. None of those things happened.  What I did feel was a solidified resolve and pain-heightened focus to giving all of my energy to the task at hand. The outcome would be what it would be.  My satisfaction and pride would come from my effort as I walked the walk (literally 😉).

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