There cannot be a better pointer to the allure of a a fresh start than the spike in gym memberships every new year! That it tapers off is a different story that I will examine separately. But this ‘new year’ phenomenon fascinates me.
There are other interesting times when probability of attending the gym increases. According to research, a beginning of a new week, term, and birthdays all increased gym attendance. What is happening here? Hengchen Dai and Katherine Milkman, researches from Wharton looked at this closely and came up with the “Fresh Start Effect”.
The Fresh Start Effect
What prompts people to initiate change in their lives? And how can we use it better to bring about change in our own lives? That is what I am going after in this edition. One answer is the Fresh Start effect. Human beings are consistency seeking creatures. Breaking from a way of being with a set of habits, attitudes and mindsets is not easy. Breaking is inconsistent with our past, present and future. The one aspect that helps with a degree of consistency when this change occurs are what’s called as ‘Temporal Landmarks’.
Now, what is a temporal landmark. It turns out that we approach life in blocks of time. Blocks of time that have beginnings and ends. For example, the Asian Paints years. The Bangalore Days. The Advertising days. All these are blocks of time that in my mind. Change is easier when seen in the context of a different block!
Every new year, is the beginning of a block. So is a birthday. It allows us a clean slate, to start all over again. A fresh start! A start that is an opportunity to distance ourselves from the past and take on a new set of behaviours. It can provide us a pathway to our aspiration. Be it better health, relationships, wealth and so on.
How Does This Help?
You can make this work in several ways. Number one, if you seek change in other people, you can harness the fresh start effect and tie in the change with a temporal landmark! How best can you help people see this as a different block of time that they ar a part of?
For yourself, please do reflect on who else you can be, what new habits you can imbibe if you have shifted cities? Stuff that can be drastically different from who you were earlier.
What better a time than COVID, for instance, to think about what all to shift? I have a good friend who has given up on sugar, regulated sleep and taken to a healthy lifestyle all in the last year. Last week, we had a good laugh as he spoke about how different the pre-covid version of himself was to the Post Covid version! (For the record, he evaded the virus while reaching for his aspirations)
Giving Ourselves A Fresh Start
A fresh start always holds promise. It provides hope that the future can be different, immaterial of however successful or otherwise the past was.
Some ways that can augment a fresh start includes writing goals down and staying accountable to someone about them! Be it a friend, a spouse or a coach. That’s one way to ensure change is shaped.
Evens in life like marriage, death, divorce, graduation all provide for an opportunity for contemplation and change. In most cases, the change is unconscious. It happens. As the years rush away, I see how much of a change my fathers passing away, a few years ago has brought in me.
Last week, my father-in-law left us. I am slowing down, contemplative. I guess I am searching for new meaning and direction. And hoping for a fresh start.
The OWL Despatch
This is edition 88 of The OWL Despatch. Typically, I put one out every fortnight on interesting reads I picked up.
1. Tim Hartford gives three simple pointers to help distinguish noise from signal.
2. Escaping the productive trap
3. How digital media turned us all into dopamine addicts.
4. How To Prepare Your Organization For Transformation In A Post-COVID World
5. Speaking of parents, Manu Joseph writes. “As children we thought they didn’t know us but now realize that we don’t know them all that well either”
That’s that for now. Stay safe. Ensure you are well placed for a fresh start post the pandemic!