New Year, Same Fear: Moving from Contemplation to Action

Contributed by Portia Jackson, DrPH, MPH, Consultant, Founder of Active Steps Coaching (, Certified Trainer with Equilibrium Dynamics 

Welcome to the New Year! This is a time where many take action on resolutions with the hope that they will achieve their goals. However, it can trigger as much fear as it does excitement, with the realization that the same obstacles we encountered in years past await us now. Whether you have accomplished past resolutions and are seeking to maintain them, or will begin anew this year, a large predictor of your success is your response to the challenges that lie ahead. Will you retire your ambitions at the first interruption of your best-laid plans? Or, will you draw upon your resources and find a way to overcome obstacles?

It is enchanting and seductive to believe that a New Year creates a time and space, protected from the real world, in which we are fully resolved and ready to take action. However, when we least expect it, a cascade of emotions often hits us and derails us from our intended path. We encounter an emergency and must redirect the resources we intended to use for a dedicated purpose. The question arises, how do we not only plan but also stay accountable to our goals in light of life? 

Conduct a reality check of your goals, and check your fear at the door.

First of all, consider whether or not this goal is not just something you want, but something you are dedicated to taking sustainable action towards.

  • What are the fears and concerns that have kept you from taking action in the past? Use the emotional competence strategy of feelings management to evaluate your feelings and establish a plan. Are you using your fears and concerns as an excuse to avoid admitting you don’t really want to do the work that is required?
  • What decisions will you need to make in order to accomplish this goal? Use the emotional competence decision-making strategy to evaluate your options.
  • What systems and resources will you need to set in place to support your goal and stay accountable? Challenge yourself to think creatively as to how these needs can be met.
  • Is your dedication to this goal strong enough to get back up each time you fall, learning from the experience rather than expecting immediate success?

Be mindful that fears that keep you focused on the worst-case scenario can also keep you from doing the work required to create positive potential outcomes. Visualize the worst that could happen, then identify strategies of how you would you deal it. If you are using your fears and concerns as an excuse to avoid admitting you don’t really want to do the work required, then you should rethink your goal. When you start with a more easily achievable goal, you can build your confidence and motivation, allowing you to stretch yourself gradually toward setting larger goals.

Value what you have already achieved as much as you do your future potential. 

Devote time to building your self-efficacy by focusing on what you have overcome and accomplished in the past.

  • What progress did you make in 2013? What lessons did you learn?
  • How have you overcome challenges or dealt with fears in the past? How might you apply this to your current situation?

In this process, you will achieve a better understanding of yourself and how you respond to challenges. You will learn that while distractions and setbacks are inevitable, they also invite you to think creatively and pursue options that are not immediately visible. Once you have a strategy in place for dealing with them, and are accountable to that process, you will make progress towards your goals.

Emotional Competence Checklist

  • Create goals that are based on realistic expectations. Separate them into short-term and long-term (overall) goals, where small missions or projects help you reach your end result desired. Keep sight of that overall goal.
  • Develop an informed plan. Empower yourself ahead of time by determining what will be required to carry it out.
  • Be aware of the choices that are available to you and the decisions that you must make. Use the EQD 'Alternative, Benefits, and Costs (ABC)' process to facilitate your decision-making.
  • Record your goals and revisit them monthly. Make adjustments as needed.


|| January 8, 2014