Practical tips to integrate Self-Determination Theory into your existing product workflows

Recently, Habitry was approached to design a mental-health chatbot. The company is quite new and didn’t have a pre-existing design process that we were slotting into, so they basically asked us, “how do we even Motivation Science?” from scratch. This was a fun problem to think about and we thought they might be a useful example for others out there looking to work Practical Motivation Science into your products and services.

Since we mostly work with start ups, you’ll find a lot of references to Lean and Agile, but the principles (and the Mantras) will apply to any methodology.

Three Mantras

As…


Three Tips to Improve Your Scripts

“The most ordinary conversations are fraught with life and all its meanings.” — John Haugeland, Having Thought

Habitry gets asked to help out with a lot of chatbot design. We got our start teaching health coaches about how to have need-supportive conversations with their patients and clients, so there are a lot of obvious similarities. For example, both coaches and chatbots attempt to use words to influence human behavior. And despite good intentions, both coaches and chatbot designers have no control over the impact those words will actually have.

But here are three things we’ve learned to really up the…


Why theory and interventions have to be developed together

This weekend, two giants in the field of Behavior Change Research, professors Martin Hagger and Mike Weed had a debate at the 2018 Meeting of the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity in Hong Kong. (Oh, you didn’t know? Did you miss the Super Bowl commercial?) The topic was pretty controversial:

Do Interventions Based on Behavioral Theory Work in the Real World?

This is not a stupid question. As Dunton (2018) points out;

Evidence is lacking on intervention strategies to maintain these health-protective behaviors over sustained periods of time. Intervention studies promoting physical activity and healthy eating typically…


Or what to do when your Father-in-Law’s house burns to the ground

On Thursday, May 3rd 2018, my wife and I got a call from her Father that started with, “where are you?”

He was calling to tell her that he and her brother were OK, but at 1:00 in the morning the home my wife grew up in had burned to the ground. The home Leon had spent more than 40 years in was gone.

In the 5 years we’ve been together, my wife and I have gotten more than our fair share of bad news. We’ve lost loved ones (my Grandfather, her Mother, her childhood friend), pregnancies (3), jobs (2)…


In 1995, I became a man. I don’t mean that in a creepy way (I was 12), but in my 12 year-old mind I became a man because that Summer while at Skymont Boy Scout Camp, I passed the Knife Safety Course. And it was this achievement of getting all the answers on a multiple-choice test which granted me the permission (and sacred responsibility) of carrying my first pocket knife.

Growing up in the South, every man I knew carried a pocket knife. They had pens in their breast pockets, hankies in their back pockets, and little tools tucked away…


I read a few non-fiction books a week. At any given time, I’m actively reading between 3–10 of them. And since it’s something I’ve been doing since 5th grade, I thought I’d about write how I do it. I’ll get into logistics, but first let’s talk about goals.

Know Why You’re Reading a Book

In grade school, there was a program in my school called, “Accelerated Reading.” You could accumulate points by checking out books from the library, reading them, and taking a test on a computer to prove that you read it. …


The Greek word for philosopher (philosophos) connotes a distinction from sophos. It signifies the lover of wisdom (knowledge) as distinguished from him who considers himself wise in the possession of knowledge. This meaning of the word still endures: the essence of philosophy is not the possession of the truth but the search for truth. … Philosophy means to be on the way. Its questions are more essential than its answers, and every answer becomes a new question. — Karl Jaspsers

Most of my job is answering questions. Advising companies on behavior change science pretty much means being paid to answer…


Last year, I was on a panel at a conference. The kind where all the speakers from the weekend sit on stage and pass a microphone back and forth to answer questions from the audience. Most of the questions were directed at specific speakers, but a few were, “what do you all think of…” questions for the whole panel where we passed the microphone down the line and took turns answering with statements that usually started with, “to echo what [person who had the mic last] said…”

At some point in this Q&A, an audience member asked a Panel Question…


In 1949, my Grandfather was called to see the commanding officer of the Air Force base on which he was stationed for an investigation. My Grandfather had just taken the Air Force’s selection exam to become a pilot and there was a suspicious problem.

“Lt. Varnell. Have you been informed of your score on the exam?”

“No, sir.”

“Would you be surprised to learn that you are the first person in the history of my command to have only got a single question wrong on this test?”

“Yes, sir, I would be. Which question did I get wrong?”

This is…

Steven M. Ledbetter

A.K.A "Coach Stevo." CEO of Habitry. Motivation Science Nerd. Guy who makes the bettercast.

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