|Source: Wikimedia Commons|
Fresh starts are real! This week we will hear a lot of advice about setting the appropriate New Year's resolutions. We'll also hear about how hard it is to actually adhere to our resolutions. So many of us establish diet or exercise goals this time of year, but by the spring, we find ourselves struggling to stick with our original plans. Having said that, recent research does suggest that New Year's Day might be a more effective day for setting a bold goal than a "typical" day during the year.
Hengchen Dai, Katherine Milkman, and Jason Riis published a paper three years ago titled, "Put Your Imperfections behind You:Temporal Landmarks Spur Goal Initiation When They Signal New Beginnings." They studied "temporal landmarks" - i.e. days that “stand in marked contrast to the seemingly unending stream of trivial and ordinary occurrences” in our lives. These landmarks include birthdays, holidays, new beginnings (of a year or semester), and major life events such as a wedding. These scholars examined whether an event that marked a "new beginning" could be motivating for people to pursue a particular goal. Dai, Milkman, and Riis found that landmarks that represent new beginnings are useful to us because they enable us to "leave our old selves behind" and to embrace a better version of ourselves. We can "disassociate" ourselves from our past imperfect selves, in a sense, at these landmark moments. That motivates us to pursue a new goal, perhaps to eradicate a bad habit.
In sum, New Year's Day might just be the right time to attempt to pursue a bold new goal regarding your career, personal well-being, or other aspect of your life. Of course, much work will remain with regard to adhering to that goal. However, the holiday will certainly be advantageous when it comes to initiating the pursuit of this new goal, much more effective than January 3rd or 4th might be... unless that happens to be your birthday or some other key moment in your life.