Some psychologists point to willpower as the culprit. We only have so much energy to put to new endeavors. As the day-to-day grind of new obligations pile on, we lose our motivation to reach the goal we enthusiastically set at the beginning of the year.
Losing 30 pounds in 30 days sounds great on a magazine cover, but it’s a stretch goal for most people. Stumbling, even once, destroys your motivation.
Making 20 sales calls a day might have been overly ambitious. Blogging once a day might have been unrealistic. But, let’s face it, if your resolution was important enough to make, it’s probably good for your health, career, or business.
So let’s get a fresh start. Daniel H. Pink can put us back on track.
Pink and his team spent two years reading and analyzing more than 700 studies to show that timing is a science–and that we know more about when to exercise, set a goal, or call a meeting than we ever have.
The Power of New Beginnings
Humans, it seems, are attracted to the power of new beginnings. Scientists call the dates to which we assign such beginnings “temporal landmarks.”
According to Pink, Google searches for “diet” soar on January 1 by 80 percent. They also spike on the first day of every month and the first day of every week. “Something about days that represented ‘firsts’ switched on people’s motivation,” writes Pink.
By “opening a new mental account,” says Pink, we can close the books on the past and open a fresh start. We are mentally reborn, ready to take on a new challenge.
Here’s the fascinating part: According to Pink’s research, “imbuing an otherwise ordinary day with personal meaning generates the power to activate new beginnings.” In other words, January 1 is a random day to which we’ve assigned a special meaning. We have the power to do that all year long.
Pink identifies 86 days in the year when we can make a fresh start. The most effective include: Mondays (52), the first day of the month (12), and the first day of each season (4). The list also includes national celebrations, religious holidays, your birthday, the first day of school, the first day of a new job, anniversaries, and the day you finish a big project.
How to Use This Mental Hack
Every year, I use my birthday, July 26, to take stock of where I’ve been with my new year’s goals and where I want to be by the end of the year. Since it falls near the middle of the year–and during summer vacation for many businesses–it gives me time to refresh and gain perspective.
Understanding this mental hack is a powerful tool. Build fresh starts into your marketing. Send your customers reminders or specials on their birthdays. If you own a bakery or restaurant, mark every start of a new season with a special event and products unique to that time of year. Attract customers who also look for new beginnings.
Pink’s research also applies to the teams you manage. He writes:
Suppose a company’s new quarter has a rough beginning. Rather than waiting until the next quarter, an obvious fresh start date to smooth out the mess, leaders can find a meaningful moment occurring sooner–perhaps the anniversary of the launch of a key product–that would relegate previous screw-ups to the past and help the team get back on track.
You could plan offsites for the first working day of every quarter or the start of the seasons, for example. Use the time to review the company’s mission and your goals. It’ll fuel a creative burst of energy.
In January, you might title your meeting “New Year/New Us.” In April, you could call it “Spring Forward.” On the first day of June, it might be titled “Summer Excursion.” Your October meeting might be titled “Fall Field Trip.” You get the idea.
Use every fresh start to celebrate victories, acknowledge past mistakes or weaknesses, and rev up the team for the next part of the year.