Starting a whole new physically invigorating, nutritionally virtuous, mentally balanced life isn't so hard (how many times have we all done it?). Staying started is the trick. We asked Ariane de Bonvoisin, who runs a Web site that coaches people through the first make-or-break month of any new enterprise, to pick a posse of experts and get us going—the right way.
Beginnings are so seductive. What's as intoxicating as a new leaf, a clean slate, a fresh calendar? Jazzed and hopeful, you get rolling on that weight loss or job hunt or home repair or relationship rehab. And you think, This will be the start of something big!
Maybe too big, you think not long after that. Exhaustingly, paralyzingly big.
Nobody doubts the wisdom of the Chinese adage "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." It's just that we can't stop focusing on the "thousand miles" part. We start wondering where we'll get the energy for step two. And then there we are, teetering on one foot, 999.9 miles from our goal.
But suppose that journey were to begin with a month's worth of 24/7 guidance from experts? Ariane de Bonvoisin, a management consultant and former Time Warner executive, has launched a Web site to provide just such support. She's the founder and CEO of first30days.com, which offers compassionate but no-nonsense advice for successfully navigating the first difficult month of a huge range of challenges, from getting married to adopting a baby to living a healthier life.
"I'm used to coping with change," says De Bonvoisin, 33. As the daughter of a journalist mother and an international banker father, she lived in six countries before she turned 18. "Still, I noticed some years ago that every time I started a new job, I went through an initial period of anxiety, insecurity, and confusion, thinking, I'm not good enough for this job. They're not giving me any work. Maybe I made the wrong decision." A lightbulb went on, she says. "I thought, Either I'm not growing up or this is pretty much inevitable and universal." Curious to test her theory, she conducted surveys at Starbucks and Home Depot, asking new employees to track their first 30 days. "They all felt the way I did at the start of a new job."
De Bonvoisin decided to organize a bank of experts and an online support group to help people soar through the first month of a job and other changes that seemed even more overwhelming—getting fired, for example, or coping with a serious illness or making your biggest dreams come true. "Thirty days was a manageable chunk of time," she says. "Not so long that it seems impossible, not so short that you don't get some momentum going." Narrowing the horizon was a way to make things doable and thus sustainable. Science confirms her intuition: Researchers have found that new habits, practiced diligently, can be cemented in three weeks; that's how long it takes the brain to create fresh neural pathways that hardwire the new behavior.
I thought what people need most when they're going through change," says De Bonvoisin. "It's information, the right resources, and inspiration from others who've been through the experience." The site is designed as an interactive community, with places for people to share their mistakes and discoveries, give one another encouragement, and get advice from credentialed professionals. O asked De Bonvoisin to tap some of the experts featured in the site's 30 Days to Living Healthier section. Check out, for example, methods for sticking to a fitness regimen from Brad Pitt's personal trainer, ways to eat better from Andrew Weil, MD, and suggestions from a Stanford University sleep researcher on getting a good night's rest—as important to health as eating well, she says. You may find that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step...and a double click.
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