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The Odds Of Actually Keeping Your New Year's Resolution

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As the authors of Book of Odds, a collection of statistics about everyday life, we love the New Year. The slate is wiped clean and we get to look at what resolutions people make and how long the keep them. According to a study by the University of Scranton, the top 10 New Year's resolutions for 2014 are:

1. Lose Weight
2. Getting Organized
3. Spend Less, Save More
4. Enjoy Life to the Fullest
5. Staying Fit and Healthy
6. Learn Something Exciting
7. Quit Smoking
8. Help Others in Achieving Their Dreams
9. Fall in Love
10. Spend More Time with Family

1. Lose Weight
Since 1 in 2.8 (35.6%) of adults in the US is obese and 1 in 2.6 (38.5%) of adults believe he/she is overweight, it's not surprising that losing weight is the top resolution for 2014. Barbie and Ken haven't gained a pound since 1959, but alas most of us have.

2. Getting Organized
The average office employee spends 1.5 hours a day (6 weeks per year) looking for things. Americans spend 9 million hours looking for things. The top five items men look for in their homes were clean socks, remote control, wedding album, car keys and their driver's license. For women, the top five items were a favorite pair of shoes, child's toy, wallet, lipstick and the remote control.

3. Save More
During 2013, the personal savings rate or savings as a percent of disposable personal income, was about 4.5%. Thus the odds a dollar of personal income was saved in 2013 was 1 in 22.2. Current levels of saving are an improvement over the 2007 rate of 2.6% (1 in 38.7) but still a far cry from the 1971 height of 13.3% (1 in 7.5). What are the odds an adult has no savings at all? 1 in 3.2 or 31% of American adults.

4. Enjoy Life to the Fullest
We work way too hard. The odds an American doesn't plan on taking all his or her vacation are 1 in 4, and half of those who vacation work or think about it during their time off. Play is as important to us as it is to cats. The odds an hour of a man's day will be spent at leisure or play are 1 in 4.1. The odds an hour of a woman's day will be spent at leisure or play are 1 in 4.8

5. Staying Fit and Healthy
Staying fit and healthy is an aspiration but less than half of us are willing to do much to achieve it, especially as they get older. In the US, 1 in 1.7 adults 18-24 get the recommended amount of exercise a week and the odds drop as people get older, to 1 in 1.9 of those 25 to 34, 1 in 2 for those 35 to 64 and 1 in 2.5 for those 65 and older. If only paying for a gym membership did the trick by itself!

6. Learn something exciting
The Department of Labor estimates that the average worker will switch careers 3 to 5 times during their working life. Continuing education can help a person pick a career that matches their abilities and interests. Not everyone attends continuing education classes for professional reasons. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people enroll in personal enrichment classes every year to learn new things and meet new people.

The odds an employed person is engaged in:
• In career- or job-related courses: 1 in 2.6
• In apprenticeship programs: 1 in 71.4
• In personal interest courses: 1 in 4.6
• In informal learning activities for personal interest: 1 in 1.4

7. Quit Smoking
In 2011, 19% of people 18 and over (1 in 5.3) smoke. In 2013, most people who smoked wanted to quit smoking all together (1 in 1.4 or 70%) but 1 in 2.5 (40%) will try to quit this year. However, a small minority, 1 in 14 or 7%, will succeed in quitting on their first attempt.

8. Help Others in Achieving Their Dreams
Americans are remarkably generous with their time. Over 64 million people volunteered in the last year, which is more than the population of the U.K. That's a lot of dream help!
The odds a man volunteered in 2012 were 1 in 4.3, and the odds a woman volunteered in 2013 were 1 in 3.4.

9. Fall in love
The odds an adult believes in love at first sight are 1 in 1.9, over half of us! The odds an adult believes there is any number of people with whom she or he could fall in love are 1 in 4.2.

10. Spend more time with family
About 23% (1 in 4.4) of adults spend time helping household members, while about 20% (1 in 5) spend time helping their children. The average time spent per week on each of these activities is two hours. One of our favorite family activities is reading to kids at bedtime. The odds? A wonderful 1 in 1.2 parents read to their 3 to 5 year olds weekly.

The Bottom Line
Of the 317 million adults in the US only 1 in 2.2 make a New Year's resolution. Of these 1 in 8 or 17.8 million will keep it for a year. Don't lose hope though. It turns out people who make a New Year's resolution are 10 times more likely to change their lives than those who don't.

Amram Shapiro, Louise Firth Campbell and Rosalind Wright are the authors of Book of Odds, From Lightning Strikes to Love at First Sight which collects the odds of everyday life and published by HarperCollins and William Morrow.