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Avoiding false hope for the New Year
Barbara Young gave her mother-in-law, Sherry Young, a gratitude box to solidify a New Year's resolution. - photo by Sherry Young
This is the time of year, after the Christmas and New Year's breaks, that we gird up our loins, make all kinds of resolutions, face the facts of January with its bills and reality, and start on another year's journey.

Grit and I chuckled as we pulled up to the gym the day after the holidays. The parking lot was filled with cars at 4:47 a.m. waiting for the person with the key to open the door. Once inside, it quickly filled with determined people ready to face the holiday music.

Now, a few weeks later, the crowds are thinning. I would be lazy without Grit as a driving force, as he never strays from his path. With the lingering morning darkness and the cold weather I prefer to snuggle right down in bed instead, but Ive learned Im happier when I get up and go.

New Years is a good time for a clean slate and a new beginning. However, unless resolutions are done in the right way they tend to recycle themselves, like my failure at learning to speak Spanish.

Ray Willimas provides a good explanation of why we fail on the Psychology Today website.

Williams quotes researcher Timothy Pychul saying that "resolutions are a form of cultural procrastination, an effort to reinvent oneself.

Williams also mentions the false hope syndrome. Identified by psychology professor Peter Herman and his colleagues, it occurs when people make significantly unrealistic resolutions that are out of alignment with their internal view of themselves.

He explains, This principle reflects that of making positive affirmations. When you make positive affirmations about yourself that you dont really believe, the positive affirmations not only dont work, they can be damaging to your self-esteem.

In other words, we think that by making the resolutions we will magically change our bad habits and become a different person. When we fail, we feel bad about ourselves.

My daughter-in-law Barbara gave me a realistic resolution. It is a box titled A Year of Gratitude, a kit to inspire 52 weeks of giving thanks. It wouldnt be hard to put one together on your own.

Life is filled with things to be grateful for," the fly page reads. "Some of them burn so bright that they bring us to tears. And some of them are quiet joys that can find us only in still moments and small ways. Once you begin to notice them, deep heartfelt gratitude seems the only appropriate reply.

There are 52 thank-you cards and 52 envelopes. Also included is a small notebook to list each person I send one of the cards to and advice on how to start on the journey. I am to:

1. Start noticing and listing things I am grateful for.

2. Include things I normally take for granted.

3. Keep track of the thank-you notes I send each week.

4. Write down the ways my life changes. (This could be my pitfall.)

My first thank-you went to Barb for the gift and also for all the other amazing things she brings to our family circle. The next four will be easy. First my daughter, and then our other three sons wives who contributed not only great genes but also wisdom and fun to our family tree.

I may get bogged down after that. But one of my best qualities is, likely because I grew up in the era of World War II, I dont like to waste anything. Im determined not to drop off like the gym traffic.

And besides, if Im focusing on being grateful and giving thanks for a whole year, it can't hurt.