You might be wondering why I have a post titled 'fresh start' almost exactly halfway through this 30 day writing challenge. Truth is, I just did it to make a point - and one that hopefully, this post will explain well.
Consider the fresh starts you've had in your own life recently. Maybe you're in the early stages of a job - a new project, or about to reach the start of a new academic year at university. For myself at least, the jump to Year 3 of my aerospace degree, and the inevitable challenges that will come with that, are simultaneously daunting and exciting to anticipate.
That's what clean slates are, at their core - an avenue for you to begin with a completely new set of goals, challenges and adventures. In essence, they're both scary and fun.
I watched a video from one of my favourite YouTube creators, Matt D'Avella, just before making this post - he condensed a lot of the insights I'm about to curate in this article. Here's the video:
The Fresh Start Effect
When it comes to the science of motivating yourself to take action - it can sometimes feel less to do with the how and more to do with the when.
The Fresh Start Effect is our tendency as humans to be extremely optimistic about our capacity to change, at moments in our lives that feel like new beginnings.
The new year and new year's resolutions are probably the biggest manifestation of this effect. January 1st rolls around and everyone is rushing to the gym to start that amazing new workout routine. But that's actually only one example. If you run your finger along your calendar, you can spot fresh starts at every turn - both big and small.
Katy Milkman, a professor, behavioural scientist and author, describes it well:
Every Monday we're more likely to be optimistic and pursue our goals, than on other days of the week. We see the same pattern at the start of a new semester for students - for birthdays, looking at new years in our lives, or even new starts when people move for university or a job.
There are actually a multitude of these 'launch points' for us to begin to make changes in our lives.
It feels like at the beginning of these new cycles, we turn the page on who we are. The old version of ourselves last year might not have quit that bad habit, or gotten their finances in shape, but the new version will be different.
So what does it take to be able to start anew?
Addressing the Fear and the Friction
Like I said before, making changes in your life isn't just difficult - it can be terrifying. But after that fear and panic rises, it also begins to fade into the background, giving way to a sense of optimism and excitement.
The question is - is it really enough just to start on a special date, to try and get out of a rut? Or will it still end the same way it has before, with us tumbling back into our old habits?
To argue one side of it, new year's resolutions - the most well known product of the Fresh Start Effect - actually don't have a great track record. 80% of them fail in the first month or two. I think people intuitively understand this, seeing friends revert back into old ways after a week or so.
But actually, even just by flipping that statistic, we can see that 20% - a pretty good number of people - succeed.
I think many times people fear making resolutions or new goals that they can't keep to, when in actual fact even just by trying, you're getting more done than you ever have before.
What we've shown about the way we can use the Fresh Start Effect, is that if we encourage ourselves to begin pursuing a goal and highlight a date on the calendar, we're more likely to say yes and actually start on that date. Whether it's the first day of spring, or an upcoming birthday, highlighting a fresh start gives a perfect moment to begin.
Building a habit can be affected by a lot of things - the friction required to do it, the time investment and your own personal discipline - but making the jump and setting yourself a date to begin is one way to make it appealing for you in the first place.
So Why Start Now?
To be honest - why not?
I started the Just Hit Post challenge on the 12th of August. There's nothing special about the date, apart from my own desire to go for it and get going with a goal that I'd been wanting to work on for a while. Even on the days when you don't see a fresh start clearly, when you might not feel like it's 'the perfect timing' - just start. I think the biggest lie you can tell yourself is that there ever is a perfect time to start, apart from now.
It goes back to that famous quote:
The appeal of a fresh start clearly isn't enough to keep a habit going forever - new years resolutions prove that. Humans require a lot more than that to get from setting a goal to achieving it. But the reason I write this post now, on Day 12 in my blog post series - is to make a point that you can really make a fresh start at any time. Sure, it'll take a bit more effort because nobody else is doing it - but it's always going to be hard. Change is almost always hard, whether you start it at new years or any other time.
Thinking back to a time when I was less consistent with my blog posts, I'd originally planned to make a new year's article outlining all my goals back in January - I never actually got around to it, but writing about this reminded me of it, and I thought now would be as good a time as any to reflect on my progress so far, and continue setting goals.
But that one will need it's own post: fully laying out my entire Notion page of goals, and the progress I've made sounds like quite the task - so stay tuned for tomorrow :)
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