You Don’t Need a Clean Slate

“Ok, I’m excited to do this.”

“I’m finally going to take the plunge!”

“Awesome, cool. Let’s start Monday.”

The Fresh Start Hypothesis

How many times have you made a decision NOW, but only to start Monday? How many times have you vowed to take up a skill, or to make a big change beginning on New Years Day?

These are both features of what social scientists call the “Fresh Start Hypothesis.” This hypothesis states that we have a general tendency to correlate changes in behavior with temporal triggers or changes in environment.

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

If you understand more about human nature, you understand more about yourself. And if you understand more about yourself, you have greater control of your outcomes.

We can recognize the “Fresh Start Hypothesis” for what it is, and consider how we can exploit this natural tendency to our benefit. On the other hand, we can also think about how such tendencies might create psychological barriers to success.

In other words, the desire for a “clean slate” can be helpful. But it can also block you. And there is nothing more tragic than someone standing in the way of their own success.

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Know Yourself. 

There is no right or wrong answer here. Everyone is different. We all have different motivations at different times in our lives.

A “fresh start” may be just what you need!   On the other hand, if you find yourself making a “fresh start” every Monday – it might be time to recognize that this approach isn’t working for you.  You have too much emotional baggage, and it’s associated with the Fresh Start.

“But it will be different this time!” Maybe it will. Who am I to say? But maybe you are simply sabotaging yourself.

  • Example 1:  It’s December 27th and it’s a Friday. You are miserable. Kids throw jelly donuts at you, and at 5’1 you weigh 220 pounds. You have never attempted to lose weight before, and in fact your weight hasn’t really bothered you until recently. You have zero healthy habits, and you barely know where to begin.
    • Solution: If you’re going to do a major life overhaul, you can start on January 1st. But until then, see if you can substitute one meal a day with a salad.
  • Example 2: At 5’2′ you weigh 160 pounds. You aren’t happy with your weight, but you’re always dieting. Almost every Monday you find yourself vowing that this week will be different. By Thursday or Friday, you’ve usually fallen off the wagon. You feel guilty and you binge all weekend. Next Monday you know you’ll get it right!
    • Solution: Stop starting Monday. Start right now. For you, the BREAK from starting on Mondays is the REAL fresh start. Don’t be hard on yourself, either. Just make one change for the better.
    • Alternative solution: start Monday, but also start implementing one specific change right now.

The Power of Now

If you need to make a change, it’s best to start RIGHT NOW. But maybe don’t start all the way just yet..

You DON’T need:

  • a funeral procession for your last meal
  • ritual binge before your “purge.”

The more you see fitness as a “project” the more likely you are to see it as deprivation or hard labor.  It doesn’t have to be this way. It could just be simple – eat less shit.

On the other hand, the more you see your fitness journey as a “project” the more likely you are to take it seriously.

So what can we do about this contradiction?

Make a Fresh Start WITHOUT a Fresh Start

  1. Understand that most people have a tendency to correlate behavioral changes with temporal markers.
  2. Understand that our habits do not exist in isolation. They are intertwined with the concepts of time, and also with our physical environments. This will make it easier for you to change them.
  3. Understand also that an absolute NEED for a “clean slate” can be detrimental. And it’s also an illusion. You never need it, you only think you do.
  4. Use this knowledge for good! And Not for evil.

“Starting” can mean taking one small concrete action beginning right now. It could be as simple as replacing one part of dinner with veggies.

Do this PRIOR to taking a big plunge. You can still take the big plunge when you’re ready.

More Ways to Use the Fresh Start for Good

Start NOW!

But use temporal triggers and environmental changes to enhance your efforts.

Examples:

  • I’m beginning to replace one meal with a salad each day TODAY.
    • But beginning on Monday, I’ll start tracking my weight once weekly
  • I’m going to begin cut down on processed foods TODAY.
    • But once the semester starts, I will go to the gym on Mondays and Wednesdays.
  • I’m going to add more veggies in my diet beginning TODAY.
    • But starting on January 1, I’m going to begin my meal plan.
  • I’m going to try to make as many healthy choices as I can TODAY
    • But starting Monday, I’m going to do a 30 day weight loss challenge

The Struggle

I write this post because I struggled with this for a long time. I was always making a fresh start, and I was always failing.

My TRUE fresh start was when I recognized that my need for a clean slate was holding me back. It was crazy and delusional. I would NEVER have a clean slate. And I would never stick perfectly to a diet plan.

And even so, it was difficult to break the pattern. It took time. My brain kept going back to it. I had to break the pattern by reminding myself over and over again that my mind was playing tricks on me.

Remember this: the universe doesn’t have major plans for you. It’s apathetic. It doesn’t care about your clean slate. Only you do. And that’s because it’s a part of your human nature. Forgive yourself. Your slate is as clean RIGHT NOW as it will ever be.

You can use your need for a “fresh start” for good, or you can use it as an excuse to self-sabotage.

I say, if you’re not happy – then start this minute. In whatever small way you can.

Have you struggled with this?

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11 thoughts on “You Don’t Need a Clean Slate”

    1. Thank you so much. I spent so much time doing this too. And of course so many people still do. Hopefully someone might come across this post and it will nudge them towards breaking the cycle.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Tell me about it. I spent 26 years “starting tomorrow” 😛

      It’s actually funny. Of everything I’ve written so far, this post was the most personal and most difficult to write. I just think of all the time I wasted..

      Liked by 1 person

  1. great read dori, and so true. You only have to go into a gym or health food aisle over january and see the new mes’ pottering around, and by Feb 1 back to normal service… It’s the same with my clients and patients, and a constant monolog during the course of their training / treatment. Do you mind if i reblog this and share ?

    Liked by 1 person

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