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23 Jan 2023

Harness the power of the ‘fresh start effect’

What is it about the new year that makes us want to reassess our lives and set new goals?  Behavioural scientists call it ‘the fresh start effect’. The idea is that we’re more likely to take action towards a goal after temporal landmarks representing new beginnings – a new month, a year, or a birthday for example. So, how can you take advantage of the fresh-start effect to boost your motivation? Here’s what research says. 

Understanding the fresh-start effect

According to historians, the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions dates back more than 4,000 years. Babylonians were the first ancient civilisation to celebrate the changing of the year, by pledging to pay off debts to their gods and return what they had borrowed. 

Fast forward to today, the beginning of the year is an opportunity to reassess ourselves, our priorities, our goals – and find ways to improve ourselves somehow. And the same is true for other key temporal landmarks.

2014 research found that people aged 29, 39, 49 and 59 were more likely to look for existential meaning and make life-changing decisions to improve themselves. For example, many choose to run a marathon for the first time. That’s because a new decade feels like a fresh start, and so does the first day of each month, according to other studies.

But why? Psychologists who study the fresh-start effect believe that these temporal landmarks allow us to see our current and past selves as separable (‘old new’ vs ‘new you’), making it easier to leave past habits behind and start new ones. In other words, by disconnecting yourself from the past, you can turn your focus on a new more confident self. 

How to use the fresh-start effect in your life

Whether it’s a new year, a birthday, a wedding anniversary or the start of a new decade, you can pick a temporal landmark that already exists and start from there. 

But the great thing about the fresh-start effect is that you don’t have to wait for a landmark: you can create your own fresh start (while Tuesday is not the start of a new week, it’s still a brand-new day!). 

Whatever fresh-start moment you choose, make sure you plan ahead. Anticipation can contribute to your motivational drive, and with a plan, you’re less likely to get side-tracked.

And of course, make sure you are kind to yourself. Not all fresh starts go as planned, and sometimes it takes more than one false start before things really pick up steam. At the end of the day, the fresh-start effect is all about having confidence in your ability to change and improve. 

Can we help you?

If your new beginning needs any financial/ mortgage or insurance advice, feel free to get in touch.

If we can help you with any of your goals or point you in the right direction, one of our advisers will be there to guide you. We’ll be happy to hear from you.


Disclaimer: Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. While care is taken to ensure accuracy and reliability, the information provided is subject to continuous change and may not reflect current developments or address your situation. Before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article, please use your discretion and seek independent guidance.

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