When we come face to face with an overwhelming problem, it’s natural to look for a quick fix.

But often the only way out of these kinds of situations is the same way we got into them: one step at a time.

Our health, our finances, our relationships, our character—these usually don’t collapse overnight. If they fall apart, it’s usually the result of poor habits over time. A little bit here, and a little bit there, until one day we’re facing a much bigger problem than we even realized.

Maybe we’ve been eating poorly and not moving for years, and now we’re experiencing significant health issues. Or we’ve neglected those closest to us, or treated people terribly throughout our lives, and now our relationships are in shambles. Or we’ve long been careless with our money and now we’re finding ourselves barely staying afloat in the mountain of debt we’ve accrued.

And although it’s possible for a single moment or realization to have a dramatic impact on our direction, full recovery from these kinds of problems is going to take time: time for the body to heal, or for relationships to be mended, or for debts to be paid, or for trust to be built.

Because if the challenges we’re facing today are the result of poor habits over time, the only way to address these issues is through changing those habits. And building new habits will require time.

This requirement of time is important to remember. Otherwise, if we try to make changes and don’t see immediate results, we can soon grow disillusioned and give up before we make the progress we want.

Progress is indeed possible. But often it comes bit by bit–the same way we got to where we currently are.