Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

The Fresh Start Effect

Submitted by amanda.dumsch@… January 22, 2024
model thinkers

An interesting research paper from the NIH sheds some light on new year’s resolutions. The article “Put Your Imperfections behind You: Temporal Landmarks Spur Goal Initiation When They Signal New Beginnings” explores the phenomenon of temporal landmarks and their impact on goal initiation.  Temporal landmarks are significant points in time that promote a break from the past and a sense of renewal moving forward. Common temporal landmarks include: a new year, birthdays, anniversaries, start of a new semester, start of a new job, moving into a new home or city. Some even think of a Monday and the start of a new week as a landmark.

Researchers believe that linking aspirational change with a temporal landmark helps an individual mentally wipe the slate clean. They call this the “fresh start effect”.

Most people have difficulty mustering the motivation to initiate goal pursuit; however, the authors of this article propose that planning changes around a temporal landmark, like a holiday or a personal event, can help increase your success. These act as cues for new beginnings and most importantly, they help create a psychological disassociation between a person’s past, imperfect self and their current aspirations. This separation allows individuals to distance themselves from their past failures and imperfections.

Creating this distance has an effect on self-perception and self-efficacy leading individuals to set more challenging goals and work more persistently. The practical implication here is that interventions to support long-term goals may be more effective when there are temporal landmarks for designate a new beginning.

What does this mean in practice? Recognize the importance of these landmarks in your life and act accordingly. We all just experienced a big on with the start of a new calendar year but look at your own personal calendar and note upcoming dates of importance to you.  Plan a new goal to coincide with a landmark event and behold the power of the fresh start effect in your own life.

Related posts: