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

What You Can Control

It hurts!  I’ve had a leg injury for about two months now.  It’s not as though I am not familiar with the aches and pains that come with increasing my running mileage and talking myself through it.  I have intimate knowledge that making long runs, well…longer, over the weeks of training causes a good amount of physical and mental discomfort.  But there’s something else.  Something a little more insidious lingering around me at the moment causing an unfamiliar anxiousness.  You see, I’m signed up to attempt a hundred-mile race come November (not naming it, because I don’t want to jinx it :), and, for the first time doing any of these races, I’m uncertain about whether or not the race will actually take place. 

I realize with everything that’s been happening with COVID-19 we all are all experiencing more than our fair share of the new anxiety-fueled game called ‘wait and see’.  I also know that, for many, the stakes are much higher than a race date. Their anxiety could be around whether or not they have a job for another month. For some kids it’s whether or not their schools are going to open and if they’re going to get to see their friends.  For others who may have a cold for two or three days, it could be waiting to see if it’s actually something worse.  Regardless of the ‘why’, this uncertainty causes a feeling of powerlessness in our lives. 

Powerlessness causes fear.   

When we know what our target is, it’s much easier to find the motivation to pick up your bow, draw back your string, and fire.  I believe a lot of runners would tell you that, without a race to shoot for, it’s definitely harder to lace up their shoes for a 30- or 40-mile run and head out the door.  I know I feel this in just about every area in my life, and, when I’m at my best, I remember to check in with myself and see what it is that I actually can control.  

When I’m talking about control I’m not talking about some kind of militant way of making things outside of us bend to our will.  I’m talking about nurturing the things inside of us that can help us grow and thrive regardless of what’s going on around us.  I know I have no control over whether or not COVID gets worse or when it lets up.  I also know that I have no real say, if I’m being honest, about most things in my life that are outside of me.  What I can control is whether or not I attempt to run one hundred miles this November. 

Can I control whether it’s going to happen at the race I’ve entered?  Nope.  Wish I could.  Would it be much easier, if that’s the right word to use, to have aid stations, positive energy from crew-people, hardened runners suffering beside me while I run those last 30 miles?  Absolutely. Would the lure of a big, shiny belt buckle at the end of my slightly less-than-civil distance be motivating?  Yes (even though I’m not a huge fan of oversized belt buckles). But I do know that none of that is in my control.  But here’s what is:

How I choose to think, what I choose to focus on, and the actions I choose to take.

The things that are out of our control or just that…out of our wheelhouse of choice.  We don’t have to be happy about it.  But we don’t have to dwell on it either.  One thing we can do to keep a ‘round’ of fear from lasting longer than it should is to focus on the ways we think and behave that support our greater happiness.  Now, when I talk about happiness, I’m not talking about zoning out, shopping binges, and pounds of candy (although I do like my Jujyfruits :).  I’m talking about the true joy that comes from knowing that we have control over how we’re going to think and feel about a situation, and the actions we’re going to take.

When we give over our responsibility for the things we can control to external circumstances, we give away our power to create our lives.  The power to decide our own emotional state.  The power to choose how we’re going to motivate ourselves to take those actions that we have the power to take.  The power to stay in the present moment, focus on the task at hand, and not get caught by the ‘unknown’ that we can’t do anything about.  

So, here’s what I can control: until this leg injury let’s up, I’ll be managing my pace and terrain choosing to go a bit slower and flatter; and, if my race doesn’t happen, I’ll create three possible courses right here in my own backyard (I don’t have a hundred miles worth of backyard, but it’ll be in Vermont :).  By having these courses ‘on the ready’, I’ll have lessened my anxiety and fear when it comes time to run the one hundred miles this November…or at least give my very best effort to do so. That I can control!

Using Fear to Win Your Bout

At this point I’m pretty certain that fear is my sworn enemy.  Not a great way for an emotional resilience coach to think, I’ll grant you, but at this moment, it couldn’t ring truer.  Every time I go to design the updates for my website, well… I’m freezing up mentally.  I can barely sit in front of the computer.  I reason and reassure myself that fear can be a good thing.  I know this to be true.  Fear can be a driving force to actually get difficult tasks done.  But I also realize that I’m human, and fear doesn’t ‘feel’ particularly awesome, so I’m doing my best to not listen to a word it has to say. 

Like a cold that comes on, I’ve gone through the regular stages of denial–ducking it and just trying to ‘forge onward’.  I’ve reasoned with it (as much as anyone can talk to their fear).  Avoidance is pretty standard (I feel fine!  I’m sure I’m just tired).  The one thing that I actually could do, the thing that might get me out of the frozen state and back to productivity, is the one thing I’ve been avoiding as if my life depended on it, which is of course… 

Actually listen to it.

Why all the avoidance?  I’m ashamed. 

You see, there are so many stories that my inner critic (that inner voice that fills me with fear and self-doubt) can come up with injecting even more fear and self-doubt directly into my veins with big old neon bumper stickers (never good) like: “It’s never going to work.  You know that, right?!”, or “The project is way too big and what do you know really?!”  Or, my all time favorite, “Who are you to think you can do something like this!”

Yet, I find that when I leave my fear unacknowledged it eats my energy, destroys my hopes and dreams, and burns right through my ability to use my imagination and be creative.  So why not just admit I’m feeling fear, right?  In comes shame.  Shame is the VERY emotion that leaves everyone alone with their fear.  Shame keeps us from getting support from ourselves or others by telling us “You better not tell anyone you’re scared.  Stay silent and look self-assured.  I’m positive you’re the only one who feels fear like this, so better not to embarrass yourself and admit it to anyone…”

I remember this shame of my fear being at an all time high when I would step into the boxing ring with my good friend and mentor Aaron years ago, when we both coached boxing.  Aaron would watch me bull forward, straight at him, my arms throwing punches with my head down. For someone who didn’t know boxing I looked aggressive.  Like a strong fighter, a good fighter.  But Aaron knew better.  He could sense the lack of thinking as fear took over, the falter in my combinations, and know that I’d become predictable, more scared of how I looked than how I performed.  He would often quote a great boxing trainer named Cus D’Amato, a man who really got to know his fighters and developed real relationships and trust with them.  One of D’Amato’s best quotes about fear came when he began his relationship as a trainer for Mike Tyson:

“Every fighter that ever lived had fear. A boy comes to me and tells me that he’s not afraid, if I believed him I’d have to say there’s something wrong with him. I’d send him to a doctor to find out what the hell’s the matter with him, because this is not a normal reaction. The fighter that’s gone into the ring and hasn’t experienced fear is either a liar or a psychopath…  A fighter has to know fear.”

D’Amato believed that fear could do one of two things: it could cook your food, or burn your house down.  The shame keeping us from making the most of our fear comes from our belief that any emotion isn’t natural or useful.  Once we know this intimately and can see our fear for what it is, which is just an emotion that has kept us alive and thriving for thousands of years, we can befriend it, use it, and harness its power to motivate our actions and focus our thinking.  

I’ve decided to get back into the ‘bout’ (challenge) of updating my website.  I’ve laid down my shame and admitted what was going on for me, this has freed me up to move forward.  I know intimately that creating anything new takes courage, and that fear and courage go hand in hand.  And, if fear must be present, then I choose to use it to fuel my efforts, to focus my mind on the task at hand, to steel my resolve…to cook my food. 🙂

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!

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

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