I’ve gained insight into my current life situation from a couple pieces of media I consumed over the last week. The first piece is an episode of Freakonomics called When Willpower Isn’t Enough. Stephen Dubner speaks to Katherine Milkman (I know what her ancestor was doing when last names were invented!), an associate professor at the Wharton School studying behavioural economics. She’s a Katherine, who goes by Katy. We’re spirit sisters. Katy has done a lot of research and coined a catchy phrase for a phenomenon I think we’re all intuitively familiar with – she calls it the “fresh start effect”. Here’s what she had to say about it:
It’s the “fresh start effect,” in essence, that I feel at the beginning of a new year is driven by the fact that last year’s behind me, all of my past failures are from last year and I can think, “Those are not me. That’s old me. That’s not new me. New me isn’t going to make these mistakes.” And so I thought, if that’s true, if that’s part of what’s going on at the beginning of a new year, then there should be lots of other cycles that show that pattern as well. So we should see the same kinds of dissociation from our past failings and the same motivation to do better on this cycle at the beginning of a new week, at the beginning of a new month, following birthdays when we feel like we’re beginning a new cycle in our own lives, following holidays, which may stand apart from other dates and create the start of a new cycle for us personally as well.
I would like to add “moving to a new city (and/or country)” to Katy’s list of cycles that can induce the effect. Not only have I experienced dissociation from my past failings, but Calgary doesn’t even know about my past failings! I can be whoever I want! It’s been liberating to feel that I have so many small changes available to me because of the one really big change I made.
The second piece of media is from Jennifer Dziura’s website getbullish.com. In the article I read, she said that it might be time for a massive life change when “Things are good, but nothing is changing”. Her advice is very career-oriented. She uses the example, “If you have this idea that you want to take your career “to the limit,” but you’ve chosen a job (say, Human Resources manager) that can only be performed within the constraints of a fairly large company – and where glory is simply never awarded – then you’re going to have to rethink.” I think her advice works for life in general and it gets at the heart of why I left Boise nearly a year ago. I generally tell people I did it for Chris because it’s easy to explain. However, he’s a very agreeable man. If I had told him I wanted to stay in Boise, we would have stayed. The Freakonomics episode and the Bullish article helped me put words to something I felt intuitively, but have not said openly, even to myself – this move has been just as much for me as it was for him.
I love Boise. I had a great life there that I think back on tender-heartedly, but nothing was changing. So, I allowed Chris to push me into a massive life change (truth be told, I probably egged him on, too). And… Jennifer Dziura is right! The massive life change has been more emotionally tough than I could have imagined. It has brought me past the edge of what I thought I could handle. At times, I have had to shut out the world and turn inward. I have been lonely, terrified and desperate. But, you know what? The current trajectory of my life is so much richer than it was in Boise. I’m using my fresh start to reevaluate who I want to be and what I want from life. Slowly but surely, I am remaking myself. Also, when I look back on what I’ve survived, I feel like a total badass.