We’re almost two weeks into the New Year—are you on your way to achieve goals or resolutions? (If you’re undecided about making a resolution, read this post.)

Or are you feeling stressed out about how to achieve your goals?

If your stress levels are rising, I think I know why: distressing emotions! This is the most common obstacle everyone faces no matter what goal you’re working toward.

Take a moment and really think about what’s been holding you back. Why haven’t you lost those last few pounds or asked for that promotion? Do you know?  And how are you feeling about it? Stressed? Fearful? Doubtful? Overwhelmed?

It’s only when you pay attention to exactly what you’re feeling that you can do something to change it.

Oftentimes, just identifying what you feel and how it might be holding you back from working toward your goal can make a big difference. This can also help you get started. First manage the fear and self-doubt. Then cope with the stress and anxiety you’re feeling. Now you’re ready to take on your goals.

But unfortunately most people don’t pay attention to what they’re feeling. And sometimes they don’t even know what they’re feeling. I bet most of you know exactly what you “think” about your goals or what you “think” about what you want more of in life. But have you paid attention to what you “feel” about those goals?

Try stepping back to mindfully reflect and make choices that balance what you think, and what you feel. Doing this is part of what I call Wise Mind Living.

Building awareness and an understanding of your experience of emotion is the key to making sure you control it, rather than having it control you. Dealing with emotions is so important because if left unimpeded, distressing emotions stand directly in your way of getting more of what you want in life!

Once you begin to tune in to your emotional response, you can choose how to best respond to an emotion. This happens when you’re in wise mind. But when you’re in emotion mind you can get swept along by an emotion. You have to be able to identify an emotion before you can make any changes in it (read about the eight emotion families here).

Here’s an example of how mindful awareness of your emotions is the key to getting what really matters to you.

My patient Jill had been in her job for several years, consistently getting excellent reviews. She knew that it was time to ask for a promotion and had been discussing this for months with me, her husband, and her friends. But every time Jill decided she was going to speak with her boss, something would come up and get in the way of her following through.

After several failed attempts that all seemed like they were caused by logistical obstacles, I asked Jill a question, “How do you feel about asking for the promotion?”

At first she responded with the “story” I’d heard before: she listed all the reasons why she was deserving of the promotion, all the reasons why it was completely appropriate to ask, and all the reasons why her boss was likely to say yes.

So I asked her again. ”That’s what you think about it and that all sounds great, but how do you FEEL about the promotion?”

And with that Jill burst into tears.

After discussing what the emotion was that was prompting her tears, we uncovered what was holding Jill back: fear. Although she really wanted the promotion and felt deserving of it, Jill was also afraid about how her life would change when she got it.

Jill was worrying about how she would balance the greater responsibilities and longer hours with being a mother and wife. She was worrying about how moving up the corporate ladder would impact her friendships with her co-workers who would then be her subordinates.

And she was worrying that although this was something she had been working for her whole career, she might not actually like the job once she got it.

Over the next few weeks we were able to talk through each of these fears. We sorted through which ones were basically unfounded. And we did some problem solving and planning for ways to manage the very real challenges this change would bring.

Jill’s fears didn’t go away completely (after all, the unknown is a little scary). But by acknowledging and facing her fears, Jill had no problem asking for the promotion – and she got it!

The moral of this story is that you need to know how you really feel about a goal before you make it.

And if you’re not sure what you’re feeling, try visualizing yourself achieving this goal. Then ask yourself how you feel.

What goals are you working on this year? Keep this tip in mind as you work toward achieving them and keep me posted on your progress in the comment section below.