By Cathi Douglas     1/3/2017

If you fail year after year to keep even one of your New Year’s resolutions, take comfort that you are not alone. In fact, in the 4,000-plus years that civilization has kept this custom, many millions of people have broken even their most fervent New Year’s vows.

A January 2015 post in “Mental Floss” explains the history behind the tradition, noting that the ancient Babylonians celebrated the earliest-known festivity honoring the coming of a new year with a commemoration lasting 11 days. “The festivities were dedicated to the rebirth of the sun god Marduk, but the Babylonians made promises in order to get on the right side of all their gods. They felt this would help them start the New Year on the right foot.”

When Julius Caesar created the Julian calendar – which closely represents the calendar we use today – he declared January 1 the first day of the year to honor the god of new beginnings, Janus, and the Romans celebrated the New Year by offering sacrifices, “Mental Floss” says.

In modern times, New Year’s resolutions are the goals that guide success in work, sports, competition and life, notes Theo Tsaousides in “Psychology Today.” Goals give us clarity, providing us with a vision and direction. They help us plan for the future. Goals give life meaning through purpose, which motivates us and moves us to take action. “Goals are what drive advances in science, education, medicine, public policy, law and government,” Tsaousides writes. “Progress in all these fields happens when people set, pursue and achieve goals. If there are no goals, there is confusion. And confusion can delay or thwart progress.”

We know that the most common resolutions after the indulgences of the Christmas season are to exercise more, eat healthier and lose weight. But New Year’s resolutions also offer Catholics the opportunity to work with a clean slate to advance their spiritual growth.

Some of these ideas are adapted from an article posted in the “Huffington Post” last year, and others I’ve added. All address our desire to deepen our relationship with Jesus. The most important thing to remember is that even small steps are valuable – even if we fail to meet our goals every time, the ongoing efforts keep us moving toward our goals.

Ÿ Pray a little each day. Subscribe to email services that offer daily prayers, say a quick Rosary, or meditate on the saint whose feast day it is. Calm your breathing and ignore the tug of your phone for 10 minutes. Think spiritually instead.

Ÿ Spend quality time with friends and family, in person or on the phone, at least once a week.

Ÿ Take time to write down and express gratitude to God for the positive things happening in your life.

Ÿ Pause during the day to reflect on the big and small ways people are helping you.

Ÿ Mend relationships by forgiving those who hurt you and seeking forgiveness from those you have hurt.

Ÿ Communicate mindfully. Practice speaking in a way that is honest and helpful but doesn’t offend or hurt others.

Don’t let anger get the best of you. Take deep breaths when you feel your ire rising. Count to 10 slowly and concentrate on each number. Give yourself a little time to think carefully about what you say next.

Along the way, take heart in the knowledge that fewer than 40 percent of people have stuck to their resolutions by the time July rolls around, according to a 2013 Google survey. Still, notes Tsaousides, goals keep people connected. “Common goals are the foundational block upon which we build communities. From families to sports teams, from small start-ups to large corporations, and from social movements to entire nations, the success of a group depends on how much its members believe in a common goal.”