Fresh Start Effects. New Years Resolution

Fresh Start Effect And The Motivational Effects Of Temporal Landmarks

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Resolutions and Fresh Start Effect

As an adult, the concept of a New Year new me is familiar. It is almost viewed as a rebirth, often creating New Year resolutions and goals to be achieved. They could be significant goals or minuscule changes to the routine.

The goals you set for yourself could be in fitness, productivity, socializing or travel, an overall way of changing your life for the better. With any change positive or negative in your life you know growth will occur, and the potential of positive development cannot be overlooked.

This difference of a day should not hold so much meaning, but you have to ask yourself two questions. Why do you put so much pressure on yourself to change with the simple flip of the calendar to welcome the New Year? What makes that day better than any other?

According to professor and Author Katy Milkman, “When we think about our lives, we think about ourselves as if we’re characters in a book, and we think of our lives in chapters. Where the chapter breaks, fall turns out to be really important to where we feel like we have a new beginning or a fresh start. The start of a new year, right, we know about New Year’s resolutions.”

On the outside, the idea of tailoring your journey to betterment to suit temporal landmarks may seem illogical, but it is a long-standing tradition that can be traced back to Chinese antiquity and the Roman Stoics, according to historian and author Anna Katharina Schaffner. She states that it is a purity principle where with the new, you recognize the over indulgence you took part in and the birth of a new year is a time to purify and be abstinent of bad habits.

Image: Mark Twain

Perhaps you share the same view as American writer and humorist Samuel Langhorne Clemens, famously known by the pen name Mark Twain. His letter to the territorial enterprise on January 1, 1863, named New Year’s Day, carries the truth of what you have experienced or seen.

Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. To-day, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient short comings considerably shorter than ever.

We shall also reflect pleasantly upon how we did the same old thing last year about this time. However, go in, community. New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls, and humbug resolutions, and we wish you to enjoy it with a looseness suited to the greatness of the occasion.’

This pressure is not restricted to the New Year; it is present in major milestones we go through such as birthdays and anniversaries. It is a way you frame our future by believing that those days hold a significant meaning compared to others when seeking motivation.

Researchers named it the fresh start effect, and in this article, you will get to know what it is and how you can use it to improve your life.

The Fresh Start Effect

The fresh start effect is a performance reset where you disassociate your past performance/self from your current performance/self. The separation makes it easier to leave all vices behind to pursue more positive goals and behaviors.

a woman writing numbers on sand with her hand
Image: Engin Akyurt on

With The Gregorian calendar on your desk showing 2023, you have had moments of introspection and inspiration to set goals for a better future, some reasonable, others impossible within the time frame set. This shows that temporal landmarks representing new beginnings are more likely to get you to take action to achieve the goals you set.

It’s not only you who does it. Governments and corporations use this behavior to achieve desired outcomes through ‘nudges’ as an influence tactic. Using this, they create products or implement policies that go along with it. For example gyms might offer discounts to attract many people to sign up in January as many tend to set health and fitness goals as New Year resolutions.

12% of all new members join in January. 4% of the New Year gym members quit by the end of January, 14% quit by the end of February, and 50% quit within 6 months. – IHRSA

The most popular resolutions for 2021 are exercising more and improving fitness (50% of participants), losing weight (48%), saving money (44%), and improving diet (39%). Of those that made a resolution in 2020, 35% kept all their resolutions, 49% kept some of their resolutions, and only 16% failed to keep any of their resolutions. – discover happy habits

That shows the good and bad sides of the fresh start effect. So the question is, how can you make the decisions stick?

How To Make Decisions stick Using The Fresh Start Effect


Before you start making goals write down your skills and performance levels. Doing this will give you a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses. Your intuition can lie, but your performance metrics cannot.

The benefit of this is that it highlights one of the cons of the fresh start effect. Doing a general performance reset can slow down or ruin your productivity. If you are succeeding in your tasks and goals, you should not let them be affected by temporal landmarks. In your areas of weakness, you can see January as a major opportunity to change. In your high performance areas, it is simply a regular month with regular routine.

So once you locate your areas of low performance, which could be self-care, you can create goals to meet daily or weekly to improve in that area.

Set reasonable goals

New years resolution. graphing paper with text

The decision to set goals is not a light one but one with meaning. When setting them, you have to decide whether your goals are: avoidance goals where you quit something like sugar, or approach goals, where you adopt new habits such as drinking water. The difference between the two is essential as creating new positive habits tend to outlive others as they are a long-term goal while avoidance mostly works for the short term.

First, divide your goals into what type they are. There are three types of goals:

  • Performance goals are those created based on your standards
  • Process goals are the processes or actions you perform
  • Outcome goals are the results you hope to achieve

The second step is to set goals. Some tips to ensure you set quality goals are:

  • Make sure your goals are specific
  • Ensure they are measurable
  • They should be attainable
  • Must be relevant
  • Must be time-based

Having bite-sized goals you can implement in your daily life can lead to significant achievements down the line. For example, you cannot quit your job to start a business without a plan. You can grow your financial resources by setting up passive income streams like affiliate marketing or dividends. Do your market research to see if the reward is worth the risk and to know how to stand out from the rest in the same field. You can offer your services on the side so you can secure clients.

These are all reasonable steps to be taken before opening your business. Your goals should lead you to growth and success, not stress and regret. In your daily journal, set one or two goals you seek to achieve for the day so you won’t be overwhelmed by ten unreasonable goals you failed to complete.

Set review dates

Fresh start effect. person holding white ceramci be happy painted mug
Image: Lisa Fotios on

When making changes, you have to look at how much progress has been made and whether the system should be changed or stay. You can do this quarterly if things are going well. If the circumstance you were in changed, such as a new job or different work hours, you can do a review then to make the transition easier. If the process you set is unmanageable, you also have to sit down and change what does not work.

This review is meant to check on yourself to see if you are improving mentally, physically or spiritually. Failing to do so will put you in a tough spot leading you to quit on the resolutions set. The fresh start effect you implemented will have failed again, and unless you recover, you will be stuck in the cycle and constantly give up.

In Conclusion

Fresh starts are a great way to inspire growth and set goals. In doing so, you have to be careful and assess the benefits you expect from the process. You have to be selective on what performance areas require resets and which stay the same to avoid the breaking good productivity systems you have.

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