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December 6, 2022

A Fresh Start – #MTTalk Roundup

Zala Bricelj

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How often have you heard the phrase, "It's time for a fresh start?" Or, "Time to turn a new leaf?"

I remember when I first heard these two phrases. It was in elementary school when I suffered a series of unpleasant situations with classmates. Even though I was usually an outgoing and chatty child, these events affected me emotionally and I closed off entirely. I didn't want to go to school anymore. I fell sick a lot and I became extraordinarily quiet and introverted.

Zala Bricelj
Mind Tools Coach, Zala Bricelj

To solve the situation and motivate me about school again, the school counselor and my family decided it would be best for me to change classes. It meant that the following school year, I had to walk into a class of 30 new students and start afresh. Can you imagine how an 11-year-old girl feels just thinking about it? I felt both excited (or maybe relieved) and terrified.

But I will never forget the counselor's affirming words on my first school day: "It's your chance to have a fresh start. Go and grab the bull by its horns. Good luck!" (Truthfully, I only understood the part about the “bull” years later.)

Starting a New Chapter

We go through many situations in life and experience a colorful palette of emotions. If our lives were books, we would start and finish many chapters. I believe that a “fresh start” involves the same process as actually reading a book: the excitement of starting to read something new often takes over, and we're eager to jump in as soon as possible. New stories, thrilling adventures, and new characters await!

When you think about it, this is also true when it comes to our lives and new experiences ahead. We are often ready and excited to jump into new situations, challenges, opportunities, and life changes. Though there are times when we feel uneasy, overwhelmed and reluctant to start. Perhaps there are even times when we feel what Germans call "Reisefieber" – excitement, agitation or anxiety before an upcoming trip – and we’re anxious to start a new chapter of our lives, work or project.

Well, an 11-year-old girl would tell you it might be more difficult to start than to finish a chapter. There are often negative emotions and experiences holding us back, the fear and beliefs that prevent us from opening to a new start. We're humans, not robots – we can't simply be decoded and rebooted. We need to push ourselves and our brains to come to terms with the past and "program" ourselves for the fresh start we deserve. A fresh start doesn't simply mean closing a chapter or book we've finished, but mentally and physically preparing ourselves for what's ahead. If we don't take time and space to process, evaluate and come to terms with the past experiences and emotions that might trigger us in the future, we'll be dragging extra baggage into what's supposed to be a fresh start.

Managing New Beginnings

"A “fresh start” isn’t a place, it’s a mindset."

Rachel Wolchin

Preparing ourselves for a fresh start (of any kind) is helping us close the chapter behind us and open our minds to new perspectives. It's difficult to open yourself up for new experiences if your thoughts are "stale" or if past emotions are still festering inside you. In the words of my grandmother, who was the most amazing cook and baker, "You can't prepare food to nurture you if the ingredients are stale, old or rotten. No amount of magic, spice and effort can change that." Fresh is the key ingredient to every start.

So what can we do to allow ourselves a fresh start?

For me, there’s a simple yet effective exercise that I’ve found useful with many students and clients I’ve worked with. I call it a trajectory (course/path) exercise that you can put into practice when you feel stuck, are unsure of how to proceed, or simply don’t have the courage to start.

Often, things that are real and right here and now might seem scary, so this exercise is a good way to:

  • Detach ourselves from the situation and emotions.
  • Gain a broader perspective and expand our thoughts.
  • Look at a fresh start from different standpoints.
  • Give ourselves the space to actively co-create what we wish to experience.

How to Prepare for a Fresh Start

Think of a trajectory or a roadmap – for example, take six months or a year, whatever time period you're comfortable with. Then imagine you’re sitting in a cinema in the director’s chair, and you’re viewing your trajectory on the big screen. You have the canvas and the means (your knowledge, experience, information, and your imagination) to create and envision what you’d like to see and/or experience. You can start putting together a “fresh start” for yourself, keeping in mind the factors and circumstances you can or can’t control.

When you've mapped it all out, with what's possible and viable, ask yourself what are the first, most important steps that you need to take to make this vision a reality. Don’t think leaps or grand gestures, but baby steps – small changes or actions you can make today, to set your fresh start in motion.

After establishing this, think about the next two important phases. How will you monitor your progress, to know whether it’s working? What are possible ways to adapt and change the course or trajectory if needed?

You might experience difficulties in starting this exercise or get stuck doing it. It’s a normal process, because you're stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new – and not just the exercise. You’re looking inwards, trying to reframe your emotions, feelings and past experiences that could have held you back. It's hard work to overcome those challenges. Yet when you look at the rewards – a fresh start, a clean slate, a new leaf in your book – they outweigh all the negatives in the process.

In the end, few things on the outside might change, but the biggest change happens inside you – your mindset has changed, and you’ve opened up to new possibilities, new horizons ahead. Opening space for “new” in your life now holds infinite possibilities. And, with “fresh eyes” and a new attitude, you’re the creator of what lies ahead!

A Fresh Start – Managing New Beginnings

During our most recent #MTtalk Twitter chat, we discussed why we like beginnings, why they make us scared, and how to manage them. Here are all the questions we asked, and some of the best responses:

Q1. What is exciting about a fresh start?

@Midgie_MT It is an opportunity to discover and learn new things and new ways of being. Also to shift ourselves out of 'unconscious habits' and mindless actions into 'conscious' ways of doing things.

@ColfaxInsurance (Alyx) A fresh start can be so exciting because it feels like a chance to start from scratch and not be constrained by previous ideas or boundaries. Everything is a possibility.

Q2. What do we fear about beginnings?

@BRAVOMedia1 Beginning again one can go two ways: Fear or Faith. I'm choosing faith!

@_GT_Coaching It can be different for everyone, but many people talk about being worried about uncertainty. Some people don't fear new beginnings.

Q3. How do we, individuals or organizations, know that it's time for a fresh start?

@MikeB_MT Making the same effort and getting diminishing results. Failing to meet changes in the market. Declines – in revenue, morale, efficiency. Any of these may signal a time to embark on a fresh start.

@ColfaxInsurance (Alyx) If it feels stale or stagnant. If your employees and clients are asking about what you're going to be doing that's new. If you're taking over for previous management. These could all be indicators that you need to make a fresh start.

Q4. In your experience, what causes organizations to change direction?

@SoniaH_MT In my experience, some things that cause organizations to change direction include: country, state, or local politics; younger or new employees with convincing ideas; tragedies; and favored, emerging leaders among peers w/ strong success record.

@BRAVOMedia1 Change is inevitable. One can either embrace change or let go. My motivation: keep moving forward.

Q5. What are the advantages of a fresh start?

@ZalaB_MT As Rachel Wolchin said, "A 'fresh start' isn't a place, it's a mindset." It opens you to new thinking, possibilities and challenges. It's a way to test your curiosity, and openness to learning and evolving. It's an empty canvas to work on.

@Midgie_MT Advantages include a "new and improved" way of doing things, increased energy and excitement, plus more clarity and focus.

Q6. What are the discomforts that come along with a fresh start?

@_GT_Coaching Some people experience a strong connection to the past change which can be challenging during the transition period of change.

@ColfaxInsurance (Alyx) Fear of failure, the normal discomforts of trying something out of your comfort zone, growing pains, feeling like you're going against your loyal clients/audience by changing anything, etc.

Q7. What mindset is helpful when going through the transition from old to new?

@Yolande_MT Never stop thinking - your brain is your most important ally. But don't do without heart either.

@BRAVOMedia1 An abundance mindset helps to keep moving thru transitions. Also, knowing we are not alone.

@Dwyka_Consult I won't carry the mountain I was meant to climb. I'll climb the mountain and carry survival gear.

Q8. How would you manage a fresh start in an unfamiliar environment?

@_GT_Coaching I don't personally view things as a fresh start as such because I believe people never start again from zero. Embracing change for what it is can be useful and not being attached to an outcome can help with acceptance.

@ZalaB_MT I think it's important to focus on what you CAN control and not on what you can't. What you can control is: your mindset and attitude towards change; your emotions and reactions; your effort and willingness to change, start fresh; and your inner critic.

Q9. How have you dealt with a fresh start gone slightly wrong (as they often do)?

@ColfaxInsurance (Alyx) Oh definitely! Part of life is to learn and adapt when things go wrong, either wildly or just a little. Sometimes all you can do is take a deep breath and take small steps in the right direction until everything straightens out.

@Yolande_MT I learned to take a step back, feel what I feel (frustration, sadness, grief) and ask myself, "What can I do NOW in order to move forward?"

Q10. How will you make change smoother for yourself and your team members?

@_GT_Coaching Involving people in change can help in facilitating change and also empower them to influence change.

@BRAVOMedia1 As a solopreneur I'm keeping my focus on: new ideas, good mental health, nutritious foods, caring people, exercise, self care, and being gentle with oneself.

@MikeB_MT Times of change call for maximum empathy and communication (with a focus on listening). Build in times to reflect and celebrate. These are valuable steps whether my fresh start affects hundreds or just me.

To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat.

Resources for a Fresh Start

Here are some resources to help you think about fresh starts. (Note that you'll need to be a Mind Tools Club or Corporate member to see all of the resources in full.)

Overcoming Fear of Failure
Using Affirmations
Cognitive Restructuring
Starting a New Job
Personal Mission Statements
Just Start

Coming Up

Beginnings and endings go together – one can't happen without the other. During our next #MTtalk, we're going to chat about endings: what's good about them, and how to cope with endings that make us sad.

This week we’d like to know how you tend to think of endings. Relief? Sadness? Anger? Acceptance? Leave your vote in our Twitter poll.

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