The Fresh Start Effect

Whether New Year lover or hater, the science behind the year’s most significant self-improvement day is pretty darn fascinating. 

In today’s episode of The Change Lab, Dr. Sasha Heinz dives into the research on the Fresh Start Effect, the human tendency to set and pursue goals or make positive changes at the beginning of a date that gives us a psychological feeling of “before & after.” 

In this episode, you will learn the three reasons why a fresh start is an ideal time to initiate change and why, when you’re already doing a bang up job checking the box on your daily habits, it’s wise to ignore those fresh start dates. 

Tune in to see how a fresh start can help you transcend the daily grind and reach toward your biggest goals. 

Show Notes:

(The goal commitment contract website mentioned in today’s episode.)

(The alcohol tracking app Sasha is currently using…it’s pretty awesome!)

Dai, H., Milkman, K. L., & Riis, J. (2015). Put your imperfections behind you: Temporal landmarks spur goal initiation when they signal new beginnings. Psychological science, 26(12), 1927-1936.

Dai, H., Milkman, K. L., & Riis, J. (2014). The fresh start effect: Temporal landmarks motivate aspirational behavior. Management Science, 60(10), 2563-2582.

Lab Work

Define Your Current Chapter:

  1. You are the protagonist in your life story, how have you—the main character—evolved in this current chapter? 
  2. What challenges have you struggled with and overcome since this chapter began?
  3. What emotions define this chapter?
  4. What goals or dreams have given shape to your story arc?
  5. During this period of your life, what relationships have had the most significant impact?
  6. What activities, hobbies, or interests would characterize this time in your life?
  7. What daily routine or schedule exemplifies this particular chapter of your life?
  8. In this chapter, what problem or worry is a prominent feature?
  9. What triumphs and accomplishments have given this chapter special meaning?
  10. If this chapter had a title or label…what would it be?
  11. Are you in the beginning, middle, or end of writing this chapter?
  12. And how does this chapter set you up for the next one?

And if music resonates with you more than books…describe this period of your life as an album:

  1. What’s the style of music?
  2. How would you design the cover art? 
  3. What are the names of the songs in this album? Is it full of country songs like “Achy, Breaky, Body?” and “Off the wagon again” or R&B ballads a la Toni Braxton and Boyz II Men like “Un-stuck my life” and “I’ll make time for me.”
  4. Did you collaborate with anyone on some of the songs? How did they contribute?
  5. What song are you most proud of and why?
  6. What songs were the most challenging to write?
  7. Is the album finished or does it need some other pieces to make it come together as a coherent body of work?
  8. And finally, what’s the title of this album?

For more, follow Dr. Heinz on Instagram!

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