The dawn of a new year often makes people want to put away their bad habits and start good ones. While making resolutions is a New Year’s tradition for some folks, so is breaking them.

Brent O’Bannnon, a local life coach, said the key to keeping those resolutions is clearly defining the goal and then setting intermediate goals to accomplish on the way to that big change.

O’Bannnon said starting the resolution off right can impact one’s likelihood for success. For starters, he said, make sure the goal is one you really want to achieve. Deciding to lose weight just because some chart says you should be 10 pounds lighter might not give one sufficient motivation to make a change. However, wanting to drop a few sizes to improve one’s health and live longer to see a grandchild graduate high school could be enough incentive to drop the pounds.

Still, just saying one wants to lose weight might not be enough. He suggests breaking that down into a clearly defined goal like dropping 20 pounds by the end of the year.

O’Bannon said writing that goal down on a card and saying it out loud to oneself at least daily will help. He said it is important to write those goals down in the present tense and to keep it positive. For instance, he said, instead of saying “I don’t want to smoke,” say “I am smoke free.” He said the brain picks out negative affirmations before positive ones so it is important to reinforce the positive whenever possible.

O’Bannon said it is then important to break all goals down into manageable mini goals and repeat the first of those goals out loud each day until it is done. Achieving each of those small goals on the way to the bigger goal, O’Bannon said it is important to make oneself a vision board and see oneself accomplishing those goals. That step, he said, could be as simple as a 3 inch by 5 inch card with a photo of what you want to achieve or as complicated as a Pinterest board with images that represent the goal. The key is to reinforce the verbalization of the goal with something visual.

O’Bannon said it is also important to surround oneself with people who are there to support that goal. A friend, coach or therapist that can help one hold his or herself accountable for achieving that goal is important, he said. That person can be a sounding board if one gets stuck on the way to the goal and a cheerleader on those occasions when the track to that goal isn’t running smooth.

He said it is very important to remember that the overall goal is progress and not perfection. Don’t give up, O’Bannon said, just because things don’t happen easily. Getting back on the program repeatedly reinforces your ability to handle setbacks.

If the change one is seeking is a new habit, O’Bannon said, it can often be helpful to attach it to a habit that one already has and wants to keep. For instance the habit of living a healthier lifestyle by getting more exercise, he said, can be attached to the habit of watching a favorite television show at night. He said adding the goal of doing 25 jumping jacks during each commercial break of that program can be one way to get more exercise.