Fresh Start Effects and Change-Making

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now”

– The Internet.

The above quote points to two key truths about change-making: It’s always possible to create a new start and starting matters.

If you are looking to create change within your organization, team, or yourself you need to start somewhere. While it might be true that starting saving for your future makes a bigger difference when done early, that doesn’t negate what you can do today.

Starting and Starting Over

We don’t need elaborated moments for making change happen and waiting for the perfect opportunity to take action is usually a means of avoidance. We just need a new beginning.

The good news is that it’s available to us at any time.

Research by Katy Milkman and others has shed light on why we often use significant dates — things like birthdays, anniversaries, or calendar changes – to make a change happen. This is called the Fresh Start Effect.

Milkman’s research suggests people are much more likely to start and sustain changes if anchored to a specific date or event and that using a ‘start’ can enable them to re-start change attempts that fail. Considering that many of our change attempts end in failure, this is significant.

How To Fresh Start

What does a fresh start look like in practice? The first thing is having a date — the planned start to the change. Your date needs to be significant although that significance can be arbitrary. Whatever the reason, your date must have some meaning to you (and those you’re working with).

The second issue is commitment. Take the date seriously. It’s why anniversaries or significant cultural events (e.g., back to school, New Year’s Eve, holidays) are often chosen – they are symbolic.

The third is a need for persistence. Persistence means continually working on the change even if it starts to fail. The exception is if the change no longer is needed. If you fail, start again.

Evaluation is the last thing you need to do. Evaluate your efforts, make the feedback visible, and make changes to your strategy if it is not producing results.

Bring these together and you can create a new beginning today to create a better tomorrow.

Go plant that tree.

Do you need or want help setting this up for you and your organization? We work with leaders, managers, and founders to create change in people and organizations and create a fresh start for them. Contact us to learn more.

Photo by Johann Siemens on Unsplash

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