A Fresh Start

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

Over the last few months, I’ve been reading Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Here’s one of many things that have interested me:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected in 1932, amid the Great Depression.

One week before the inauguration on March 4, 1933, a journalist wrote, “The world was rocking beneath our feet.” Says Goodwin, “Following three years of precipitous decline, the vital organs of the financial system were shutting down. The economic system had entered a physical and spiritual state akin to death throes.”

“The sense of helplessness, impotence, dread, and accelerating panic had to reverse before a recovery could commence.”

Roosevelt’s first hundred days in office would be crucial, beginning with the first day.

As Kearns Goodwin describes it, Roosevelt drew an immediate sharp line of demarcation between what had gone before and what was about to begin. “The Inauguration Day of FDR began in prayer and ended in action.”

Every word and deed communicated that “something vast and debilitating had come to an end; something new and hopeful was beginning.”

Roosevelt understood the power of a fresh start. These days, pundits always talk about the first one hundred days of a new American presidency. It doesn’t seem like a long time—not even four months of the four years of a presidential term, but it’s characterized by a flurry of activity and change, or at least, attempts at change.

The power of a fresh start is one of the several things that Katy Milkman, a professor at Wharton, talks about in this week’s podcast. She’s written a book titled How To Change in which she articulates eight things that will aid and abet change; one of them is the importance of a fresh start. She says fresh starts increase our motivation to change because they “give either a real clean slate or the impression of one; they relegate your failures more cleanly to the past, and they boost your optimism about the future.” In our discussion, she also talks about the role that constraints play as well as confidence. There was much to learn from her–––many tips on how to change.

In his book When, Dan Pink (you can listen to him on our podcast here) talks about opportunities for fresh starts, or temporal landmarks as he calls them. They include:

  • The first day of a month
  • Mondays
  • The first day of spring, summer, fall, and winter
  • Your country’s Independence Day
  • The day of an important religious holiday
  • Your birthday
  • A new job
  • The first day of school
  • The first day back from a vacation
  • An anniversary (wedding, first date)
  • The anniversary of the day you started your job, became a citizen, graduated from school, etc.

No doubt this is one of the reasons we originated the practice of Resolutions on New Year’s Day—a new year, a new you. A fresh start.

One of my team members, Heather Hunt, says she likes to make her resolutions at the start of December and build momentum through the month. Then, when the new year arrives, it’s easier for her to stay the course. She also plans to start exercising daily—as soon as the manuscript for our new book is finally in the permanent custody of the publisher—August 16th, which is also a Monday!

For any of you wanting to make a change, think about an auspicious day, one coming up soon, that you can leverage to help you make that change. What is that date? Write it down and start anticipating it; build mental momentum and energy to help you make a quick beginning.

As always, thanks for being here!

My best,

P.S. If you’d like to be eligible for one of three copies of Katy’s book, hit return and say I’m going to start a new S Curve on ___ and include the date.

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