The fresh start effect: Kickstart your D&I journey strong this year

Ruby Dark

Jan 4, 2022

It’s the season for goal-setting! If the new year inspired you to start a new habit or to kick a bad one, you’re not alone. The good news is you chose a perfect time to make the change. Your brain naturally responds well to the feeling of a clean slate. So why not give your diversity and inclusion a boost in the new year too? Here’s the science behind fresh starts, and how you can harness that power in your D&I efforts this year.

New years’ resolutions

Happy new year from Fair HQ! After a break for the holidays, we’ve emerged feeling refreshed and energised for everything coming our way this year. It’s the season for resolutions, fresh starts and promises.

Are you feeling motivated to shake things up in the new year? If so, you join 27% of British people who made a New Year’s Resolution (in 2020).

Ever wondered why so many people like to welcome in the new year by promising to change? Maybe you haven’t even thought about it before — it just feels sort of natural. Actually, it’s more than just a feeling. There’s science behind the power of “fresh starts”.

The Behavioural Science behind fresh starts

Timing is crucial for successful behavioural change. People are more likely to commit to making a change and to stick to it when they can start with a blank slate.

New beginnings prompt us to reflect on the past. We ask ourselves, “What can I do differently this time?” to overcome the obstacles that held us back before. When the past seems further away, we feel like it’s easier to do something different now.

It’s not just the start of a new year that gives us that fresh start feeling. It could be graduating, moving house, starting a new job or having a baby. These are the sort of milestones that prompt us to make changes.

It doesn’t always have to be a big life event though. The start of a new quarter or setting a new round of organisational goals also feel like meaningful moments for us to depart from the past.

Meaningful moments have a powerful psychological effect on our willingness to change.


In one experiment, researchers found that people are 20 to 30% more likely to commit to saving towards retirement…


  right after their birthday

  at the start of spring

👎  at an arbitrary date in the future

The power of setting goals

Goals are a powerful motivator. We naturally want to work towards achieving goals — they draw attention to the gap between where we are now and where we need to be. When targets are spelt out so clearly, we feel motivated to achieve them.

A man leaping over a gap in a sandy gorge.

It’s not just eating healthier, reading more books or learning a language that benefit from clear goals.

You can apply the same behavioural science to your D&I journey.

We set goals across all other business outcomes. You’ve probably already settled on some targets to guide your work in Q1. If you’re keen to make a real difference with diversity and inclusion in your organisation this year, now’s a great time to (re)establish your commitments.

Grab your calendar and find a time this month to review where you’re at on your Equality, Diversity and Inclusion journey as a business.

🧐 When did you last collect diversity and inclusion data?

🧐 What conversations are taking place? Is anything waiting for sign-off?

🧐 What initiatives are ongoing?

🧐 If any of your D&I actions got put on hold, how could you unblock them?

Use this fresh start to re-engage your team around your common goal to create a fair and inclusive business, where everyone gets a chance to flourish.

Someone crouching on a racetrack, getting ready to sprint.

Going strong already?

Take a moment to reflect on your D&I journey so far. Have you been hitting your targets and continuously driving meaningful change? If so, you deserve a pat on the shoulder! Keep doing what you’re doing, and share your wisdom with us.

But if you’re struggling to hit targets, or if you don’t even know where to begin with D&I, then a reset could be just the boost you need to get it right.

Diversity and inclusion takes work. Change doesn’t happen overnight, you need to commit to embedding equality in everything you do. To set you up for success this year, check out our guides on involving managers in DEI goals, monitoring progress and motivating people to hit targets.

At Fair HQ, we help businesses identify exactly where to drive impact with diversity and inclusion.

Let's kickstart your D&I journey strong

Backing it up

Beshears, J., Dai, H., Milkman, K. L., & Benartzi, S. (2021). Using fresh starts to nudge increased retirement savings. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes167

Dai, H. (2018). A double-edged sword: How and why resetting performance metrics affects motivation and performance. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes148