Steve Heisler

Teacher Author Speaker


"Every single child wants to be successful. The problem is, if they can't be successful at being successful, they'll be successful at screwing up. Our job as educators is to change the latter to the former."    

- from the The Missing Link by Steve Heisler

​Motivate This, You Yo-Yos!


I mean to take nothing away from all of the ‘motivational’ speakers out there. Although I may be one on those 92% of people who make up statistics on the spot, I think 87% of persons that advertise themselves as speakers, regard themselves as motivational speakers.

And so they might be. In truth, many of them have powerful and even inspiring stories to share. Often those stories do the job of exciting and motivating people, including me, to act. However, let us not over-estimate the value of inspiration.

In reality almost any dynamic speaker can be said to be motivational. Certainly I was proud to have been deemed motivational in an anonymous comment received after recent presentation. However, what I know is that exhorting people to act, especially those who are available to be convinced to act, is not in and of itself a magical act. Helping maintain motivation, keeping up the same level of commitment long after the initial ‘action high’ has become the grind of churning out inches of progress, is really the larger victory.

In this regard helping develop habits, rather than motivating, is the gift that keeps on giving. Indeed, any immediate change in behavior or emotion can often be easily accomplished but intensely difficult to maintain.

“Quitting smoking was not the least bit difficult,” Mark Twain said, “I quit at least a hundred times last week alone.”  Thinking about trying to lose a couple of pounds?  The first ‘yo’ is motivation and frankly, once motivated, it is often easy to get through that first watchful day. It’s that second ‘yo’ that is the tough one. In part, the difficulty of that second ‘yo’ is why so many of us become ‘yo-yo’ dieters,

Habits are a tough nut but when we are seeking change, or trying to motivate others to seek change, we’d better be able to make some plans for help and motivation beyond the first yo!  This is precisely why, in schools especially, I advocate for commitment to facilitation and coaching long term because real change - meaning change in habit - takes time, commitment, fortitude and a constant means of renewing that initial motivation. Real accomplishment, after all, is messier on the ground that it looks in one’s plans.

Face it: unless the elasticity of motivation, a critical first step, eventually becomes the steel of habit, we are all bound to be yo-yos!