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First Things, October 2016

October 5, 2016
As the church year begins, we’ve been talking in worship about the “fresh start effect.” Psychologists notice that when people come to a “time landmark” like a birthday, or a new job, they experience increased levels of power, optimism, and life satisfaction. A time landmark allows us to make a new beginning. We make a clean break from the past and re-create a new identity for ourselves.
The Jewish High Holy Days provide a wonderful example of a time landmark: the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, begins at sundown on October 2. And the High Holy Days lasting 10 days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur offer a ritual opportunity to intentionally create the fresh start effect by confronting our past and recommitting to a future that better reflects our highest aspirations.
“Confronting the past” doesn’t only mean asking forgiveness for our sins and promising to do better. We can also be proud of a successful past, and still recognize that past versions of ourselves are not necessarily who we need to be now. In other words we can move from success to success, but still acknowledge that new situations require a change.
The best part about the fresh start effect is that the time landmark that brings the change doesn’t have to be as big as a new job or a new year. Psychologists can measure the effect even in time landmarks as small as the change of seasons (welcome to Fall!) or the first day of a new month (it’s October!). Claim for yourself that feeling of power, optimism and satisfaction. Make a fresh start.
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