Do you feel powerless over some aspects of your life?
It’s easy to believe that life happens to us and that our choices are limited, but we have more power than we ever imagined.
Arguably, one of the most powerful choices we can make is to choose to make a fresh start.
It’s so impactful that researchers have given it a name: the Fresh Start Effect. They found people are more motivated toward aspirational behaviors when they begin with a fresh start. Although many elect to begin new behaviors (or end old ones) at the beginning of a week, month, or year, the effect still works when we choose a random day.
Taking Advantage of the Fresh Start Effect
1. Choose a Date
I’m choosing New Year’s Eve because it’s a clear time-frame that’s fast approaching. In reality, I set goals and readjust them in an ongoing process throughout the year. I like to begin at the beginning of a year, but I know that I will update and modify my goals regularly.
While not everyone prefers lists and plans, it helps me look at the bigger picture of my life. Having a clear way to measure my progress can help me count my blessings when life is hard. I can see how far I’ve come and be reminded of my strength.
Selecting a date to begin can capitalize on the motivational power of the Fresh Start Effect, and it can give us time to be ready for the work ahead.
2. Choose a Word of the Year
I’m starting with my word of the year. It helps me decide on an overall theme for the year ahead. I’m considering Nourish or Bloom. I keep turning over different words in my mind, waiting for the one that feels right for the year ahead.
Choosing a word of the year can be a powerful way to kickstart the change process.
I keep asking, “What do I need most?” Every year, the answer to this question has been instrumental in shaping my goals. One year, I chose Balance. The next year was Rise. I made 2020 my year of being Present — and also seeing every day as a gift. My word of the year for 2021 was Evolve.
Each year brought with it unimaginable challenges associated with my chosen word. My year of Balance knocked me off balance first. The year of Rise demanded grit to grow and face new challenges. I was Present during 2020 — present with my discomfort in a changing world and learning to tune in and listen to a body struggling with an as-yet undiagnosed disorder. Then, there was the year I asked the Universe to let me Evolve — and did I ever! Yet, having a word of the year in mind kept me focused on my priorities.
3. Choose Your Own Adventure
What do we want to accomplish? What goals are important for us to set? The answer will differ for everyone.
The goals we set for the year ahead will shape our journey.
When setting our goals, it’s helpful to choose goals for each area of our lives. We can consider our families, careers, physical health, mental health, friendships, spirituality, and any other areas of importance. What do we want to learn? What do we want to change? Who do we want to be? As we answer these important questions, we can begin choosing our own adventure.
4. Choose to Change
I’ve already booked a class for the upcoming year. I’ve put some plans into motion. These are small steps, but each one is a choice. In this preparation stage, we can start researching the path and making conscious movement forward. I’m transitioning from preparation to action with every single clear decision for the year ahead.
An important part of the choice to change is to adjust our mindsets accordingly.
Change is hard. We’re likely to have setbacks. Every negative we can possibly think of might just be true — but that doesn’t mean our goals aren’t worthwhile. Instead, we begin to focus on the possibilities, slowly realizing that the point of our goals isn’t in the achievement but in the daily effort. That’s where we shape our lives. That’s where true change begins.
A new year is the perfect time to reflect on the past and to make decisions about the future.
It may be time to stop talking and start taking action. Every choice may seem small, but we have no idea how it will ripple through our lives or who it might reach. We can only do the next right thing. And then the next.
And that may lead to living our dreams, not just dreaming them.
Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned author. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elephant Journal, Elite Daily, and The Good Men Project. She’s also the author of Left on Main, the first book in the Heart of Madison series. When she’s not writing for Medium and working on her next book, you can find Crystal traveling, paddle boarding, running, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, doing yoga, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with her two wild and wonderful children.
Image courtesy of George Milton.