Motivation gets you started, habit keeps you going.

It sounds like a fortune you might find in a cookie after dinner at Bo Ling’s, but unlike some cookie fortunes, this one’s true!  Any good habit you want to take up — or bad habit you’d like to shake — starts with simply wanting to do it for a good reason.

If you want to stop smoking so you can spend more time with your grandchildren, that is super motivation!  If you want to learn to play the piano so you can entertain your friends, that’s pretty good motivation.  If you want to save a thousand dollars so you can hire a hit on your neighbor’s yappy dog, that may not be healthy, but it is motivation!

The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

It’s not an ancient Chinese secret, but experts agree that the primary key to success in habit-changing is to start small and set attainable goals for yourself.  A close second is to build in rewards for yourself when you achieve a goal, regardless how small.  If you want to improve your diet, start by replacing dessert with an extra serving of vegetables twice a week.  Then every other night.  Before you know it, you’ll look forward to a colorful, healthy plate nightly and dessert will be an occasional treat.

But if you tell yourself on Monday morning that you are officially through with all sweets, you may find yourself polishing off a quart of ice cream in bed on Wednesday night.  Our brains are just not built for that kind of sudden change.  We are, at our very cores, more deal-makers.  When you work with your natural inclinations instead of fighting them, you are much more likely to stick to your new habit.

Research shows that it takes approximately two months for a new habit to become automatic — for you to feel wrong not doing it instead of apprehensive about doing it.  But in as little as 21 days, you can fall out of a healthy routine and have to start your training all over again.

Among the trickiest things about changing life habits is learning to give yourself breaks while  remaining positive.  No matter how “easy” and “attainable” the goals you set for yourself are on paper, you are probably going to blow it.  And that’s okay — if (and only if) you forgive yourself and get back on track quickly.

Remember that you are charting movement in a particular direction, not instant perfection.  Healthline magazine says, “Instead of focusing on your end goal, remind yourself that anything you do that’s more of what you want is good.”  Like all the best things in life, the finish line is even sweeter when you appreciate the journey.

A burden shared is half a trouble, happiness shared is joy made double.   

Nope, not another fortune.  Just good advice.

We are made to be in community and that is never more true than when you are making a life change.  There are two benefits to sharing your goal and your action plan with people who care about you.  You build a cheering section and you’ll have people to celebrate each little victory with.  But you will also begin to feel accountable, and you will strive to do everything you can to have good news to share.

Slow and steady wins the race.

We all have habits — both good and bad — but we are not our habits.  Some things we do without thinking, we have been doing for a really long time.  And it will take a while to change them.

Brace yourself for change, accept your missteps along the way and invite friends along for the journey.  You’ll never regret it.