What are temporal landmarks, and how can they be used for personal growth?

The Science Behind Our Clean Slate Starting Points

Ever feel like starting your whole life over with a clean slate, a new start? Or even just making a needed change?

Have you felt this pull on specific days or in certain patterns?

If the answer is yes, you, my friend, have already been introduced to a beautiful piece of psychological science called temporal landmarks.

 

What are they?

 

Temporal landmarks are points in time that our brain deems significant enough to create a new beginning. The demarcation in time makes it seem significant in our life, like we can restart.

Scientists typically break temporal landmarks into two categories: social and personal. Social are those shared by all of culture, so the start of a new season, month, week, et cetera. Personal are unique to you; this could be the anniversary of a breakup, the start of a new job, or anything that stands out in time.

 

How do they work?

 

We as humans have a hard time starting in the middle. We like our beginnings and endings. We love living in a world clearly defined and organized by time.

Thus, having mental ‘starting points’ allows us to actually create personal change. While there may be the few that could wake up on a random Thursday morning and think, “Hey! I’m going to change my entire life today!” they are the exception and not the rule.

A temporal landmark serves as that mental starting point. We all know the tug of a new beginning that is felt each first of the month, each Monday morning. Temporal landmarks provide the endings and beginnings we desperately crave.

 

Why utilize them for personal progress?

 

Although knowing how our brain gets psychologically tricked can make us want to rebel, it is to our advantage to lean in and make the most of the temporal landmarks in our life. We can do this in so many ways:

  • Creating MORE temporal landmarks. Wednesdays could turn into the last half of the week, Fridays, the start of the weekend, etc. Making simple days significant can help us get back on track with good habits when we tend to slip up.
  • Look at the calendar and plan for changes you want to see. Trying to start that 30 day challenge on the 17th of the month is going to be a lot less effective than on the 1st or even the 15th.
  • Recognize which personal temporal landmarks you have in your back pocket, and put them to work. Social ones are easy to determine, personal are less so. However, they may make the most impact in your life when it comes to making change and seeing goals accomplished.

Here’s to tricking our brains into being motivated to change. Go psychology, go.

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