January 12, 2017 / THE ART OF THE START
January 12, 2017
Why do we wait until the last week in December to reflect on our life and the first day in January to commit (or attempt to commit) to changing or setting new goals for the upcoming year? What is it about the beginning of a new year that creates such widespread movement to do better? Of course, part of it is due to the annual tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. But where did this tradition come from in the first place?
Novelty shakes things up
According to Dr. Bob Nease’s article in Fast Company, the recognition of a new start allows our brain to temporarily shift out of autopilot and into a mode of conscious evaluating and decision-making. In the midst of a new beginning, we are alerted to available decisions that we would usually have made subconsciously and without recognizing that a choice was made at all.
Turn off cruise control and drive
The thing is, we are wired for autopilot because it is adaptive. If we had to concentrate on the millions (yes, millions) of little decisions we make every day, our brains would be completely overloaded with information and we would never be able to survive—let alone get anything done. However, we are so efficient at minimizing our conscious decision-making that all too often we get swept up in our routines and fail to recognize that we actually have the opportunity to regularly make other choices—not just on the first of the year.
A fresh start is powerful because it alerts our brain of a shift. The part of our brain that is devoted to conscious decision-making fires up for action when we notice something novel or something that contradicts our expectations (like the fresh start of a new year). According to Dr. Nease, “It seems that there’s a natural tendency to pause and reflect at the start of any new time period.” So, it’s not just on the first of January when we see this effect—it also applies to the first day of the month and to the first day of the week as well. But, it doesn’t have to stop there.
Don’t wait around—break your routine now
We can tap into this higher level of consciousness—not in some sort of lofty spiritual sense but in a very real neurological sense—by creating small new beginnings for ourselves throughout the year, month, week and even day. Dr. Nease even suggests we build distinct breaks in our routines so that we have little fresh starts sprinkled into our days. By harnessing novelty’s power to awaken our brain to the power of choice, we have the ability to create little starts for ourselves constantly. Because there is an art in the start—and we don’t have to wait till the beginning the next year to find it.
For more tips on how to break out of autopilot and give yourself little starts, check out this video.