Magill Counseling Associates

Taking Control…. Of Emotions, Pt. 2

Our last post looked briefly at what emotions are, and this post up to discuss how to identify what our emotions are. As I previously mentioned, emotions are simply a gauge to indicate something is going on.

Often, emotions can be overwhelming. Someone says something we don’t like or disagree with, so we immediately get angry. We feel like we aren’t being heard, so we become frustrated. But in the moment, how can we tell what the gauges of emotions are telling us? Here are the steps I think are helpful to identify our emotions:

Acknowledge they are there
This sounds simple, but the first step we need to take is to acknowledge that our emotions exist. We have to recognize we are feeling something. We don’t have to know what we are feeling yet, or why, but that something is going on emotionally.

Put a name to it
Once we know an emotion is present we need to put a name to it. This step is important because it allows us to productively communicate with other people what we are feeling. This can be particularly challenging, especially when we experience more than one emotion at once, or when we don’t have a word to express how we are feeling. I have found this chart to be very helpful for people learning how to put words to their emotions.

Dive in
Once we acknowledge the emotions and put a name to it, the next step is to dive into the emotion. Ask yourself “Why am I feeling ______?”The answer might seem obvious: “I am angry because I am being yelled at.” But go deeper. Why does that action/behavior/etc. bring up that emotion? What core value or belief do you have that is being impacted by whatever is causing your emotions.

Congratulations! Following these steps, one can identify their emotion and what is at the root of it. From there, the emotion can either be communicated, or effectively managed.

More on effectively managing emotions next time!

Taking Control… of Emotions Pt. 1

Emotions are a very powerful – and helpful – part of who we are. When everything is going well, emotions can inform us of danger, threats, and uncertainty as we feel fear, anger, anxiety, etc. Emotions can also run amok and cause unintended destruction: anything from holes in walls to destroyed relationships to failed employment.

So what are emotions? The best illustration I have heard is that emotions are like gauges in a car: they tell us that something is going on, but they don’t say what. The low-gas light could mean that you need to fill up on gas because you drove through a tank of gas. It could also mean there is a short in the light, a leak in the fuel system, or a bad sensor. The low gas light doesn’t say exactly what the problem is, just that there is a problem.

Emotions work the same way. They don’t tell us specifically what the danger, threat, uncertainty, or even benefit might be, just that the circumstances probably exist. For instance, when we are angry, we might not be able to identify why we are angry, just that we are angry. Many people react to their anger and appeal to it as the measure of any event or conversation. “That person made me angry. I want to hurt them so they know how I feel.” The danger with this approach is that our anger may be unjustified or misplaced. They might have been speaking truth to us we didn’t want to hear (so whose fault is it, really, that we are angry?) or may be having a bad day and accidentally angered us. It is certainly important to recognize these emotions, but it is also important to be able to both identify what is causing the emotions and then to choose our best response. Being able to take a step back and examine what we are angry about allows us to then choose how to address the anger.

Next week, we will look at specific steps to take to identify what is underneath our emotions.

Nature or Nurture?

Did you ever find yourself making the same decision…. again… that you were trying desperately to change, only to wonder why you kept making the same mistake over and over?

There is an ongoing debate if this happens due to nature – it is simply a part of who you are, or nurture – it is a result of your environment. This issue is particularly confusing because there are some behavioral choices that are impacted by genetics. For instance, some people are far more likely to become alcoholics if they have a drink than other people, simply due to genetics. However, there are many people who grow up in the homes of an alcoholic who say “not me” and never drink a day in their lives.

I am impressed by the people who, despite their entire family struggling with a behavior, go on to change their life. These lives are living proof that we are not simply a matter of genetics and that we can overcome some of our genetic wiring.

So what makes change possible when genetics and our environment come together to keep us trapped? I think three things are absolutely necessary, and they have very little to do with our genetics or our environment, which is why they work:

  1. Faith – Believing in a God who is powerful enough to help save us and believing in a better future are powerful in keeping someone struggling moving forward
  2. Growth Mindset – A growth mindset is when we look at challenges as learning opportunities and not as something else keeping us down. Every challenge is a way to learn about ourselves, our environment, and to get better and doing life.
  3. Perseverance – Having a stubborn determination to be successful can provide the needed grittiness to keep going, especially when change is difficult – even seemingly impossible.

How can you use your faith, growth mindset, and perseverance to meet your goals today?


Life presents us with many choices: what job should I apply to? What job offer should I take? What car should I buy? Who should I date? Even what time should I get up in the morning?.

How is the time we get up a life choice? Many people – probably most people – live their lives focused on the day-to-day requirements. What does my boss, partner, children, etc. need from me today? What time do I have to be at ABC event? What time to I have to get up to go to work? But these are all reactive questions.

If we choose what time we want to get up in the morning – making sure we have plenty of time to start the day slowly,. focusing on getting ourselves right for the day, and being productive all before anyone else wakes up, we are choosing to be productive. Not only that, but we are proactively taking control of the day from the moment we wake up.

Imagine going into your day with that proactive mindset: When can I choose to meet with my coworkers? How will I get ahead of my workload today? How will I proactively give those around me what they need from me today before they even need to ask?

How would this mindset and approach change your day, or even your life? It is in these small choices and decisions that greatness is born. Be intentionally great today!

Agh! I don’t have enough time!!!! Or do I?

We only have so much time in a given day, and with work, school, family, and relationship demands, there never seems to be enough time to go around. If we all had another 3-4 hours in the day, I think we would all be happier. But would we?

Technology is wonderful! My cell phone now repaces: a wall-mounted phone, paper maps, bulky desktop computer with a mere 56K modem (cue modem noises here), and an analog camera. It also has more computing power and a faster internet connection than my first desktop. It lets me stay in touch with family and friends – some of which are in different states and countries! I can also stay on top of the latest news, world happenings, and life events of my friends. I even get instant notifications if someone makes a post or emails me.

All of this great technology helps us to… well, honestly, be busier. It seems like most people are running from one thing to another, not really ever paying attention to what they are doing in the moment, while looking at their phone, typing on a computer (yes, I am doing that now), or thinking about the next thing to do. This happens because there is too much to do in the day, and not enough time. Or does it? Consider this quote from the Fellowship of the Ring:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

As Gandalf points out, it is our decision what we do with our time. The book “Eat That Frog!: Twenty-one Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time” discusses the importance of scheduling our day with a focus on what will have the biggest impact. You see, we don’t have 28 hours in a day, so something has to be left for another day. Why let the day tell you if that will be a very important phone call, meeting, etc.? When we decide what we do with our time, we become more effective. How can you take control of your time today?

New Year, Same You?

I have heard “New Year, New You” thrown around a lot leading up to 2019.  This sounds like a good thing, right? Why not start the New Year off being a better person than you were last year?  But isn’t that part of our problem? We start the New Year off right, but over time our determination and follow through fail.

This happens for several reasons.  First, there is no “new year, new you”.  Unlike in Cinderella, when the clock strikes midnight nothing actually changes.  You are the exact same person you were one second earlier, with all of your goals, desires, and shortcomings.  Until we change our perspective and behavior, not much will change in the New Year.

I had the opportunity to talk with several gym owners about the New Year.  Most people don’t regularly attend the gym past the first week of January, with the more determined dropping out by the end of January.  In just 31 days, all of the dreams for the New Year die out. This is common, and I believe this is due to a lack of understanding about motivation.

Most people have an emotional-based view of motivation.  Motivation is often viewed as an emotional desire to reach a goal.  The difficulty people have with maintaining motivation over time is that our emotions change from day to day.  What we feel like doing one day, we don’t feel like doing the next.  A more effective approach to motivation is viewing motivation as the “Why” behind our goals.  You want to get in better shape this year? Great! What is your motivation? Better health? Be more attractive?  Be more active? Well, why are those things important to you? That just may be your “why”! Remembering that – your “why” – can help you maintain consistency in meeting your goals for 2019.

If you want to learn how to set effective goals for 2019, I will be holding a free live webinar on 2/16/19 at 8:00 AM. For more information or to register, click here.

Rob Magill



It is often said that January 2nd is the busiest day in a gym, and by February 2nd, the gym returns to its usual level of activity.  People make New Year’s resolutions, show up to the gym, then the work begins.  It. is. work. It is difficult.  Life gets in the way.  1,001 excuses pop into our minds for why we should just give up.  And many do, and never reach their goals.

Having motivation – our “Why” – is incredibly important, but we also need perseverance.  We need the ability to keep going, especially when challenges arise.  I have been listening to several podcasts recently that hosted people doing incredibly challenging things: running a marathon, running 100+ miles in one event, etc.  Each of those successful people described moments of intense discomfort or pain, of despairing of ever finishing, of wanting to give up.  What makes these people great, though, is not that they didn’t have these thoughts – they are human and wanting to quit is pretty normal.  No, what makes them great is that despite these obstacles, they pushed through.

Sometimes, taking the obstacle as a new challenge, or as motivation to keep going can help.  Sometimes, taking the obstacle and breaking it down – literally one foot in front of the next even when painful or extremely difficult – can help.  Sometimes remembering the “Why” and intentionally choosing to keep going will help.

What ever your motivations are for what you do, challenges will arise.  Goals will become difficult to work towards, and life will want to get in the way.  Don’t let this discourage you.  Instead, get creative!  Find new ways to keep going towards your goals!  This is when perseverance is key as we continue to choose to live a live getting us closer to our goals.

There are only 3 months left in 2018!  Persevere in your goals for the year, and finish strong!

Labor Day

Today is Labor Day.  I always assumed labor day was a day to celebrate people working, which never really made sense to me.  This year, I decided to look up the origin of Labor Day, and found that it is actually a day to remember the work that we have completed (for more information, you can visit: https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history).

I think there is a lot of wisdom behind this holiday.  It is important to focus on our goals, and not look back to old ways that we have changed.  It is equally important to reflect back on our accomplishments.  Focusing one day, even one moment, at a time is an excellent way to make long-term, lasting progress.  One step at a time is also a good way to loose focus of just how much progress we have made.

Occasionally taking the time to look back on our accomplishments can provide a sense of accomplishment, self-worth, value, and satisfaction.  Reflecting back can also provide added motivation.  When we have made so much progress, why stop now?

I would like to challenge you to reflect on the work – personally and professionally – you have made over the past year and take satisfaction in those accomplishments.  What did you do well that you can keep doing well?  What didn’t you do well, and how can you improve in the next year?