A New Year of Acceptance and Gratitude

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“None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.”

— Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

With every new year, it seems like time is passing by just a little faster; a year doesn’t seem nearly as long as it used to. We go about our lives as usual on a daily basis, and suddenly there are holiday songs on the radio and Christmas decorations for sale at the local convenience store. There’s something about the holiday season that makes us realize the days have all kind of flown by. All of the sudden, we’re met with another New Year’s Day, another chance to hit the restart button. We make elaborate promises to ourselves at the start of each year to do better and be better. Most of us never see the gym as packed as at the turn of the new year.

Many of us start the year with a fresh sense of motivation to do everything we want to do. But after the New Year’s celebration, the end of the holiday season, and a few appearances at the gym, we all seem to go back to doing what we usually do. Our motivation dwindles, and we fall back into the same patterns until the next holiday season comes. I’m not being a Debby Downer about this; I’ve seen it countless times. But why does this happen? Because people make changes based on fantasy and short-term motivation, not on the basis of their true values and goals. We make superficial New Year’s resolutions that die out faster than the amount of time it took to conjure them up.

When we decide to make real changes in our lives, it shouldn’t be because we’re on a time crunch, or because it’s a particular time of year. It should be because we truly want to make those changes to better our lives. What we don’t realize is that merely deciding to make a change isn’t the hard part. Sure, it takes some guts and self-awareness to understand what we need to change about ourselves; but most of the work happens out in the field. You can decide to make healthier food choices and lose some weight, but the real work happens when you start cooking those healthy options, resist the cookies, and hit the gym 5 days a week. Knowing what needs to change is great and all, but actually making the change is a different ball game. And nothing will truly change unless you’re fully committed to putting in the work (all year around) and are totally prepared to live your life differently.

Instead of wishing for a completely different year or thinking about what I want to change, I’m committed to spending my 2019 practicing acceptance and gratitude for what’s present in my life now. What I’ve come to realize is that every year brings bad days, good days, boring days, and exciting days. A wise man once told me that even if your good days come with an equal number of bad ones, you’ve still lived a good life and have something to be grateful for. No life is free of bad days. I carry that lesson with me, taking the good with the bad, not fighting what is, and knowing that each new year, with its many possibilities, will also bring disappointments and tragedy. It’s how I decide to act in those moments that defines who I am.

So maybe change begins with acceptance and gratitude for what is. Maybe it starts with appreciating the good, the bad, and the ugly, knowing that there’s no magic in those New Year’s resolutions, just a sense of awareness that we can all do better. Maybe this year we can do just a little bit more to be our best selves.

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Talk soon,

Dr. Ilene

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  • Greg

    Great article!