What is the Fresh Start Effect

by | Dec 4, 2020

fresh start

We can likely all unite behind a mutual readiness for 2020 to come to an end. With the new year comes new potential, new resolutions, and new hope. Behavior science tells us that we are more likely to change on the threshold of something new, or something that feels new. This is known as the fresh start effect. 

What is the fresh start effect and why does it lead to positive life change? The fresh start effect states that people are more likely to take action towards a goal after temporal landmarks or special occasions that represent new beginnings. January 1 is the most notable of these landmarks, but the fresh start effect applies to other new beginnings as well. A career crossroads, a birthday, an anniversary, holiday, or start of a new week can be enough to prompt the fresh start effect. 

Why does this happen? Behavior science proves that we take action during moments of transition. A special occasion or landmark creates a fresh slate in our mind of potential and possibilities. We feel encouraged and inspired to make better decisions. We are able to separate our “old” self from our “new” self and create a better picture of what the new self looks like. 

Behavior science has shown that we tend to forget our past self more easily than we realize and think optimistically, often more than we ought, about our future self. We are able to overlook our past imperfections on days that serve as temporal landmarks. While this might sound like a bad thing, this provides momentum toward the future and helps us seize these fresh start moments with new vigor. 

How can you use the fresh start effect to your advantage?

Set short term goals

Maybe this means setting weekly goals, since each Monday feels like a fresh slate. Or maybe it’s monthly goals that give you a fresh start on the first day of a new month. Use the power of new to propel you forward. 

Recalibrate when you get off track

If you drift from your goals, set a date in the future that provides a new start date. This might be a Monday, or a new month, but it could also be a birthday, holiday, or other special occasion. Align your goals with the start of something new or a memorable transition in time. 

Imagine your future

To offset the immediate gratification we naturally seek, setting longer term goals means imagining the new you once you’ve accomplished your goal. See each choice today as a way to  impact your future in a positive way to propel you to healthier choices in the short term. 

While the new year beckons us forward, offering more hope than ever this year, embrace the opportunities that are happening today to allow the fresh start effect to influence your life. Whether it’s the start of the new week, a holiday celebration, or new job, lean into this opportunity to make positive changes to your life for a happier and healthier new year to come!

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