Have you heard the saying, “It’s easier to stay in shape than it is to get in shape”? I was thinking about that the other day while at the dentist. If your teeth and gums are in good shape, it also makes it easier to keep them that way. But if they’re not in good shape, it will be more difficult—and painful—to get them healthy again.

The same thing holds true in other areas of life. It’s easier to maintain a great team that’s already working well together than to turn a poor one around. It’s easier to keep an already clean house tidy than when there are piles of dishes or laundry or clutter to deal with. It’s easier to take care of a yard or garden that’s already in good condition than when it’s become overgrown. It’s easier to maintain a good relationship than trying to repair a fractured one.

This is true for multiple reasons. First, regular maintenance doesn’t require a lot of time at once. And therefore, it’s not only easier to do but getting started is less overwhelming. But there’s another factor to consider.

Sometimes something’s in good condition because you received it that way; sometimes it’s because someone else intervened; and sometimes it’s the result of habits you’ve formed. You regularly invest and maintain and improve, and you reap the benefits. And in those cases, the habits that helped you get it into good condition can also help you keep it that way. Without the right habits in place, though, it can quickly go back to the way it was before.

So, if you really want to change the state of something for the better, focus on the habits required to get it there. That’s the place to start. Not only will those habits help you move it in the desired direction, but they’ll continue to help you maintain that state once you arrive.