7 Smart & Simple Hacks for Truly Getting a Fresh Start with Almost Anything in Life

Fresh Start Picture

New Year, New You?

Many of us try for a fresh start around the New Year – and most of us don’t achieve it. In fact, it only takes a month or so for most of us to abandon that fresh start, even if we really want it.1

What if our slip-ups weren’t failures but, instead, just our first tries – or latest attempts – at a fresh start? How can we take advantage of the fresh start effect to get the resets and results we want? Let’s find out by looking at some clever, no-sweat strategies for making the fresh start effect work for us.

Time It Right

Timing is everything with a fresh start. That’s because the effect is based on “temporal landmarks” – key points in time that inform your brain that something new is happening. At these moments, it can be easier to see the negative habits you want to change as your “old self.” At the same time, you can see the change you want to make as part of the “new self” you’re becoming.3

How: January 1st isn’t necessarily the ideal temporal landmark for fresh starts – we put a lot of pressure on New Year resolutions. but this isn’t the only temporal landmark. Time your fresh start around ANY defined moment that kicks off a new phase of your life. That could be a birthday, an anniversary, or any date or event that marks a new stage of your life. Timing a fresh start around these landmarks can be deeply motivating.3

Take an Honest Look at Your Past

Where have you missed the mark in life? You can’t wipe the slate clean if you aren’t honest about where you’ve fallen short and how you can do better. If you are objective about what you’ve tried in the past, you’ll have an easier time seeing new alternatives that could be far more effective.

How: Reflect on what has tripped you up in the past (without being hard on yourself!) and consider what else you can try to avoid those same mistakes. Consider whether it’s time to find a partner, group, or system to give you an extra push and keep you accountable.

Define Your Values

Fresh starts don’t have to be focused on a single habit. Instead, they can be tied to more general themes that are linked to many habits. These values can be powerful rudders that guide your decisions and keep you committed to working towards a fresh start.

How: Think about how or where you’d like to hit reset in life and what those parts of your life have in common. You may uncover themes like gratitude, wellness, simplicity, growth, or connection. Whatever theme comes to light, simply identifying this personal value can make it much easier to stay on track and make good choices, especially when you’re hit with an unexpected challenge.

Change Your Environment

Your habits and routines are mapped into your environment. That’s because your space is full of stimuli that activate certain “behavioral cues.” Behavioral cues signal your brain to do specific actions, and they can lock you into a habit loop. Changing your environment in a meaningful way can interrupt that loop and help you start to change an associated behavior.4

How: Rearrange a room in your home or refresh your office space. You can also switch up where you go for fun, what you do in your free time, and who you surround yourself with. Small changes in your environment can be enough to disrupt your routines and the choices you make around them.

Practice a New Hobby

A new hobby can tap into your passions and welcome fresh people, activities, and environments into your life. That can give you new inspiration to fuel your fresh start, open an opportunity to create fresh routines, and expand your skills and social circle. Together, these changes can be deeply enriching, helping you see and embrace a new version of yourself.

How: Think about your skills, passions, and what you would want to do if you had more free time. Try to piggyback your new hobby onto a positive habit you already have. And consider whether you’d do better in a group or solo environment. Whatever hobby you choose, simply having one can bring new focus and zest to your life.

Make Time to Do Something Good for Yourself

Fresh starts aren’t just about actively working to change. They are also about taking care of yourself – mentally, emotionally, and physically. After all, it’s difficult to think clearly and stay focused if your mind, emotions, or body are in trouble. So, set aside time to take care of yourself every day.5 Preferably in a tangible, personally meaningful way.

How: Nap, meditate, practice yoga, spend time outside, or do anything that’s refreshing for your mind and/or your body. Remember, doing something good for yourself isn’t the same as indulging – but it can align with your passions or hobbies, no matter how active or passive they may be.

Rethink What Failure & Progress Mean

If you think starting fresh is about recovering from failure – or that you have to climb a staircase, step by step, to succeed – you’re thinking about it all wrong. And you’re coming at your fresh start from a negative, narrow viewpoint. Remember, life’s resets aren’t necessarily the result of failures, and progress doesn’t necessarily come in a straight line.

How: Focus on what you have accomplished and the progress you have made. This perspective can slow your fall when you start backsliding into negative thinking or getting down on yourself. Staying positive and recognizing that progress isn’t linear can keep you working towards a fresh start, even if you stumble every now and again.

The truth is, good intentions alone won’t make a fresh start work.

Fresh Starts Work If You Know How to Make Them Work.

How can we leverage the fresh start effect to make real, positive, lasting change? It starts by simply recognizing that fresh starts should be used prudently.6 If you’re honest with yourself – and if you have a reliable support system – you can make the most of your next fresh start, and you can start transforming your life in truly incredible ways.


  1. https://www.abccolumbia.com/2021/12/31/research-shows-80-of-people-abandon-their-new-years-resolutions-by-february/
  2. https://educationaladvancement.org/blog-rewire-your-brain-for-success-when-you-fail/
  3. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-it-the-right-time-for-a-fresh-start/
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/habit-loop
  5. https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-self-care-is-and-what-it-isnt
  6. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ritual-and-the-brain/201811/the-unexpected-science-fresh-starts-and-failures