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Fresh Starts

Calendar changes can represent what behavioural scientists call a ‘fresh start’ opportunities. While the change of calendar to 2021 hasn’t felt all that fresh, the real lesson from the research is that anytime can be a fresh start.

Why not now?

This newsletter started in ‘beforetimes’ when our challenges might have seemed less important (not at the time, of course). But what reflecting on those times does is remind me of what a fresh start can be. Whether its an event, an anniversary, a season or something else what really changes is our mind, perception, and attitude. That is within our reach anytime.

With that in mind, let’s start again and look at how we can take what we know and love about change-making and focus on ourselves and the difference we want to make. This issue is a fresh start and hopefully helps you with starting up something special.

Be well, keep safe, and create, Cameron

Start Here

There is a reason there are New Years Resolutions and not January 27th Resolutions. New Years Eve brings together calendar changes, seasonal celebrations, and other ‘temporal markers’ that can help us to focus our change efforts. What Katy Milkman and her colleagues have found is that these ‘markers’ can just as easily be designed and that we can use anything of significance to create a time for change.

That lesson means that whatever success or perceived failure you’ve had in creating change in the past can be cast aside with the promise of a new date. Make today your New Years Eve and start over. This means organizations can do the same thing - avoid the arbitrary 5-year cycles and focus on meaningful markers and move from there.

Grow

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”

- Closing Time, Semisonic

Once we start it’s important to recognize that we bring our experiences, preferences, biases, and strengths along with us. This is our baggage and it’s both our gifts and limitations (so it’s OK to have it). Psychotherapist Emily Griffiths has looked at how starting up new companies can take on their founders ‘baggage’ and how that can, in some cases, be detrimental to companies and the leaders.

Just like individuals, companies can ‘eat their feelings’ in times of stress shows research from organizational psychology.

The lesson is that we need to look at ourselves to help guide where we grow. If our organizational is having difficulties growing (developing), it’s worth a look and putting ourselves and organizations ‘on the couch’ — not to necessarily fix, but to learn.

Crystallize Change

One of the biggest behavioural pillars to change is forming habits. Habits are what we do consistently.

In addition to using ‘fresh starts’ and learning about yourself, there are other things that can help you grow.

NPR has pulled together some great examples of what creates good habits and motivators in helping you create change in yourself.

James Clear has pulled together an enormous catalogue of research on habit-formation and habit creation. His website and book — Atomic Habits — are excellent resources for learning how to instill habits

Dan Ariely is both a stellar behavioural scientist and funny, engaging communicator of that science to the world. His research group and public speaking. His recent TED Talk provides a 15-minute masterclass in self-reflection, honesty, and change.

How to change your behavior for the better | Dan Ariely

Another approach to making habits stick is to create your challenges into a game. Kelly McGonigal is a game designer and psychologist who has developed an entire system for turning your challenges into changes. Her site and book - Superbetter - brings her personal experience with healing after injury with her understanding of behavioural design together into something a little more playful and effective.

Mind Change: Resources

While Censemaking is designed to provide a coffee-break for inspiration and information, there are other newsletters that are worth following up on as well (although keep reading this one!).

Samuel Salzer’s Habit Weekly newsletter lives up to its billing as the best source for behavioural design on the web. It’s filled with great insights every week and is written in an engaging, practical, and lighthearted way.

Mark Manson might not be on many academic’s list of references due to his sometimes foul-mouthed approach to life, but his background work and content is top-notch. He’s another great synthesizer of lessons made for practical consumption and use every week.

I’ve started a new experiment writing short reflections on practice — what it means to live and be an innovator — using Substack. It’s part blog, part journal, and a place to record some thoughts on what it means to DO innovation work. If that interests you, sign up to receive it in your inbox.

Lastly, I want to return to Katy Milkman who has a podcast focused on the things she’s interested in: change-making and decisions. It’s a little different from others out there and worth a listen.

Transform

With so much happening around us the need to understand change and ourselves has never been greater. It’s — to use that old saying — the one true constant. Thank you for reading and your interest in this journey and process of innovation.

Just like the world is transforming, so too are the ways that work to help you learn. This newsletter is one example and it will continue to change and evolve along with the conditions we face and the needs we have to learn from each other.

Thank you. Stay safe, be well, and may you find, create, and nurture some healthy changes in your life, work, organizations and communities.

Until next time….Cameron

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