Just one week into 2013 and already 25 percent of us have given up on our New Year's resolutions.
That's the grim statistic out of the University of Scranton, which found that only three-quarters of us maintain our resolutions past the first week, and only 46 percent are still successful at six months.
Yet despite the abysmal success rate, you have to hand it to us Americans. Even with the odds against us, we remain doggedly optimistic about our ability to change, which is why more than 60 percent of us continue to make resolutions year after year, a percentage that has risen since the early part of the 20th century.
We're a hopeful bunch, and our most popular goals reflect this overly ambitious - some would say wildly unachievable - can-do spirit. According to the Scranton survey, the top resolutions in 2012 were:
1. Lose weight
2. Get organized
3. Spend less, save more
4. Enjoy life to the fullest
5. Stay fit and healthy
6. Learn something exciting
7. Quit smoking
8. Help others in their dreams
9. Fall in love
10. Spend more time with family
Many of these resolutions, it's worth noting, are only tangentially within our control. How can you pledge to "fall in love" in the next year? Or to "help others in their dreams?" Even if you join match.com and start inserting yourself more frequently into other people's business, you're still not guaranteed to achieve them.
Other resolutions are so broad, you can't possibly measure success. How do you know whether you've "enjoyed life to the fullest" or "learned something exciting"? Isn't that a pretty high bar? Wouldn't it be enough to just have a really great year with lots of happy moments, good times and maybe some unexpected adventures?
Looking at the list of resolutions, it's no wonder so many Americans fail at keeping them. Most are too unspecific or too lofty to achieve. Experts say you have a better chance of achieving your New Year's resolutions if you set very specific goals, such as "exercise three hours a week" instead of "lose weight." But still, we Americans make vows from the 30,000-foot level.
A cynic might say we pick such amorphous goals precisely so we can't measure our success or failure. But since I'm vowing to be less cynical in 2013, I see the bright side in our ambitious pledges.
We Americans are defined by our unwavering optimism. At the close of 2012, our nation reeled from partisan divisiveness, fiscal cliffs and economic uncertainty. We ached from a Connecticut school shooting that showed us the darkest side of humanity. We continued to be at war in foreign lands as unrest raged in the Middle East.
Still, we entered 2013 full of hope, making New Year's resolutions designed to make ourselves better even if we've failed at them in the past, even if the promises themselves are impossible to achieve. The most popular resolutions may not be practical or even measurable. But they reveal what's important to us - purpose, family, health and love. We want to help others. We want to be better people. We want to feel fulfilled intellectually, financially and spiritually.
So even if the vast majority of us fall short of our goals, what's impressive is that we keep at it, year after year, aspiring to make ourselves better and - in so doing - to make our world a little better, too. Even if we don't succeed, let's all pledge in 2013 to keep trying.
Renee Moilanen is a freelance writer based in Redondo Beach.