Are you familiar with the “fresh-start effect”? It’s a term first introduced to me in 2014 in an article called The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior.
If you’re like most of the population, it’s likely that January 1 serves as at least one of your temporal landmarks – a significant point in time that promotes a break from the past and a sense of renewal moving forward. The day on which you and people around the globe have high motivation to commit personal improvement goals such as eating healthier, losing weight, saving more or some other personal change. You get it.
But here’s the thing. Sometimes it’s hard to sustain that high motivation as January turns into February turns into March, as our best intentions get crowded out by the obstacles that arise throughout the year. The next thing you know, you’re telling your friends and family about the goals you’ll be setting this January. We’ve all been there, right?
Personally, I’ve never been a New Year’s Resolution kind of person, though I most definitely am a goal-oriented person. I have some conventional and not-so-conventional temporal landmarks that I use to fill up my motivational fuel tank.
The first day of the month is one of my more conventional dates. I set aside time to reflect on how I did in the previous month and decide on the corrections I need to make or the new actions I need to bring into focus for the current month.
For years, when my children were still in grade school, that first day back was also my day to do some personal inventory and set goals for myself.
One of my not-so-conventional dates is Groundhog Day. Overall, my family is one that tends to gravitate away from standard, commercial holidays and more toward those that have organically become our unique family tradition holidays. This is one of them. Whether we are together or apart, we all do our best to watch the Bill Murray movie (a timeless classic). It serves as an excellent catalyst for me and with a sense of urgency I evaluate my routine to find where I’m looping and not moving forward toward my definition of my ideal future self.
As VP of Behavior Change at Vitality, I get to live my passion daily as I work with a great team of people to develop program features, communications, and interactions to help our members reflect on their motivation and to help them find those fresh-start moments that might be hiding in plain sight.
Here are a few things that might help you boost your commitment to your goals and get back on track after experiencing setbacks or obstacles:
- Adopt a grab what you can when you can mindset toward exercise. For years I had a very rigid definition of what constituted exercise and if it wasn’t running for at least 5 miles, it didn’t count. These days, if I can grab 15 minutes between meetings to do a quick weight workout or take 20 minutes to squeeze in a 2-mile run before I start my afternoon worklist, I go for it!
- If you miss your target, find a new “fresh start” date – stat! Motivation can be erratic and that’s ok. If you find yours ebbing and flowing, set your mind on finding a future landmark. It can be as simple as the coming Monday or the end of a work deadline. You don’t have to be conventional here – find whatever it is that puts you in a ‘new beginning’ mindset.
- Form a picture of your ideal future self. It’s easy to give into the temptation of immediate gratification. It’s raining outside! Before you make that decision to skip that walk you planned, think about how that will affect that picture you’ve formed.
Christine Brophy, VP of Behavior Change, mother of three incredible young men, cancer thriver and eternal optimist. When not found at her desk, she’s likely to be off for a run, even if it’s raining.