There is a wide spread shared experience a this time of year in resolving to make oneself healthier, wealthier or better people in some way or another.
But as the gym marketers will admit: the average life of a brand new gym membership taken out in the first week of January is just eight weeks. Good intentions do not seem to stand up to the reality of really changing you life style.
Neither people of faith, nor secularist, seems to have a way of combating our natural inclinations to return to more comfortable ways of living.
And the problem is that most of us go about achieving short term life goals in a manner almost guaranteed to fail.
First we tell all our family, friends and neighbors (- well those who stand still long enough to be told) what our New Year's resolutions are going to be. We get all the positive feed back before we even start, and scant little after the campaign begins.
We do it in the theory that we are making public our own set goals, so that failing will be harder to do. But we never go around telling everyone that we have given up - so there is little or no negative feed back for failing. And even if it is really obvious you have failed - a lit cigarette in your hand for instance - a simple self depreciating shrug is usually all that it takes for the whole "This I am ..." to be forgotten.
The second thing is that we try far too hard at the beginning - as if, overnight, we have miraculously acquired the ability to do a 60 minute aerobic workout without one single ache or pain the morning after. It is fairly obvious that if you aspire to compete in a marathon before the year is out, the master plan is not to do a 26 mile run every day by way of preparation.
But when it comes to lesser goals, setting the bar too high in the early days is very common. Leading to early heart ache and the quiet return of gym shoes to the closet.
And then - horror of horrors - if we do make some progress it is far harder than we expected and a lot less fun. When you sit down at the keyboard for the fifth straight day to master both hands playing "When the Saints Come Marching In" - and it is not fun, and the fingers do not coordinate, and you will never be able to play even this simplified of simple tunes .... the thud you hear is of the teach yourself book hitting the trash can.
In general, people start the new order of doing things with a bang. Every day for a whole week, and then, little by little, drift away from it. The typical January new gym member goes to the gym four or five times in the first week, and reduces the number by one or so a week over a couple of months.
It is the drifting out that is so hard to keep in check.
So: if you don't make big announcements about new year's resolutions, set modest goals, and keep track of achieving them, when you tell people that you have met a modest goal - that is the time to get some positive feed back.
It is not easy. I must have given up smoking a dozen or more times before I finally became tobacco free. And I am not a role model you should aspire to, Just an example of even the most desperate cases can win through if hope is never completely lost.