There’s this cliche trope in our culture that commonly depicts people being bummed out on their birthday, depressed about getting older. But to be honest, I’ve never understood that! Maybe that’s just the privilege of being relatively young, I suppose, but I’m so outrageously grateful for another year revolving on this rock with all of you.
This Saturday I’ll celebrate my 32nd birthday (woohoo!) and I’m reminded of what a wonderful opportunity birthdays provide for inspiring positive change in your life.
The Fresh Start Effect
In fact, there’s a term in psychology all about this phenomenon, known as the Fresh Start Effect. Hengchen Dai, Katherine Milkman, Jason Riis of the Wharton School of Business found evidence of the fresh start effect across all kinds of goal attainment research when they noticed that people seem more likely to take action on their goals after days that mark the start of a new time period and represent new beginnings.
Your Birthday is a Temporal Landmark
Turns out, our psychological perception of beginnings and endings matter a lot when it comes to making progress on our goals.
Here’s how Milkman and her colleagues described their findings in one of their research papers:
“We propose that these landmarks demarcate the passage of time, creating many new mental accounting periods each year, which relegate past imperfections to a previous period, induce people to take a big-picture view of their lives, and thus motivate aspirational behaviors.”
In other words, a birthday is an opportunity to reflect on how you’re measuring up to your own inner expectations for yourself, and make changes in order to better align your day-to-day behaviors with your values.
Inspire Aspirational Behaviors
So what are some aspirational behaviors you might consider making a priority this year? I, for one, am reflecting on the goals I set for myself at the start of the year in my Bossed Up Lifetracker Planner and thinking about how far I’ve come since my last birthday.
Some of the goals I’m re-committing to this year include:
- Finding meaningful ways to give back more
- Getting involved in my local community here in Denver
- Spending quality time with family – and siblings in particular
- And having more fun!
Birthdays can be triggers for tough realizations if you’re not currently living in alignment with your values, sure, but they can also be a catalyst for change.
How to make the most of it
Make the most of the fresh start effect as you begin each new day, new year, or new year of life by giving yourself permission to feel all the feelings that come up for you – good, bad, and ugly – about where you are and where you hope to be.
Examine the habits that are helping or hurting your progress, and take concrete steps to set yourself up for long-term, sustainable success. That might mean finding a support network or courage community, investing in yourself and your development, and eliminating the forces in your life that are no longer serving you.
Change can be scary, but it can also be an exciting opportunity for growth. Use your birthday as an opportunity to make a fresh start in your own personal timeline, leave behind the habits and behaviors you don’t want to take with you into the next year, and set yourself up to make the next year count.