And it’s not just an excuse…
Have you ever had a new goal in mind and thought to yourself “I’ll start on Monday”? Keep reading and I’ll tell you how to start a new habit and why you should start on a Monday if you want to stick to it. I’ll also give you the science that backs it up.
“I’ll start exercising at the gym… on Monday”
“I’m going to give up smoking… on Monday”
“I’ll quit caffeine… on Monday”
You may think that when your brain automatically decides that you should start your new side hustle on a Monday, or start going to the gym from Monday, that it’s just an excuse. It’s simply just a reason to have a few extra days without having to commit to a new goal. I’m here to tell you that’s not exactly the case.
According to science, you’re more likely to succeed and stick to your goal if you start (you guessed it!) on a Monday.
It was this book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, by Daniel H. Pink, which helped me to understand how the timing of our actions can be more important than we may first think.
According to science…
As humans, we use what social scientists refer to as “temporal landmarks” to navigate through our lives. Temporal landmarks are milestone days which stand out from other, more mundane days, and help us get off to a good start and provide us with motivation to achieve our goals.
In his book, Pink refers to two types of temporal landmarks we use to navigate time:
A fresh start
These landmarks are used to create what researchers refer to as the fresh start effect. Starting a new habit on a Monday allows us to have a fresh start on the previous week. We can leave our old-selves in the past, and bring a new, more confident self into the week.
In addition to this, temporal landmarks can encourage us to disconnect from the mistakes our previous selves made, and adopt a more confident attitude with the motivation to succeed, this time round.
The chance to start again
Starting a new habit or setting a new goal on a Monday offers us the upperhand on all the other days of the week. When we think of Monday, we think “a new week”, “a fresh start”, “a chance to start again”. This mindset equips us with motivation which can propel us forward towards reaching our goals.
We can use other, more personal, temporal landmarks to start a new habit, but these are less frequent than the beginning of a new week. Deciding to start going to the gym the day after you get back from a vacation, for example, can ignite a change in our brains and give us the chance to start again. However, personal landmarks tend to be spread more sporadically throughout the year. This means there are less opportunities to make a fresh start than say, for example, a Monday morning.
When we create new temporal landmarks, we allow ourselves the opportunity to “recover from rough beginnings” and try again.
New Year’s Resolutions
Think about the last time you tried to stick to a New Year’s resolution but got a month in and fell off the wagon. (You’re not alone, by the way. Research has shown that only 64% of New Years resolutions make it to February). You may have felt guilty or that you had let yourself down in some way.
Starting again on a Monday allows us to leave these feelings of disappointment in the past. We can strive towards our goal without carrying the weight of perceived failure on our shoulders. It’s a lot easier to try and build a new habit when we’re not beating ourselves up about our previous mistakes.
The Monday morning ‘fresh start effect’ may be more familiar than you think…
Consider the concept of “Meatfree Mondays“. In his book, Pink states that “Consumers might be more open to [advertising] messages on days framed as fresh starts.” He says the idea of “Meatfree Mondays” is far more effective than, say, “Vegan Thursdays”. Basically, you will be more open to changing your behaviour on a Monday than any other day of the week. Plus, “Vegan Thursdays” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?
How to start a new habit and stick to it
The best thing you can do to adopt and stick to a new habit, is set yourself up for success. You have the chance for a fresh start at the beginning of every single week. You can leave behind any feelings of failure in the pervious week, and simply start again.
I also recommend further reading about habits so you can understand the rituals and routines which can propel you towards acheveing your goals. Making a new habit attractive (for example,if you want to exercise more you could watch Netflix whilst you’re on the treadmill) will make it easier to stick to long-term. Atomic Habits by James Clear and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg are great starting points.
Getting ready to start adopting your new habit
Think of your goal, clearly picture success in your mind, visualise yourself adopting the habits you need to propel you forwards. And now get ready to start. When Monday morning next rolls around, you’ll be well prepared to start your new habit and stick to it.