The Motivator

An annual research review of Motivation and Behavior Change Science

The Mission

In 2014, Omar teamed up with Habitry co-founders Steven M. Ledbetter and Vanessa Naylon to work on our mission of "helping the most people to help the most people" by making products for health coaches.

Once Habitry was running with Habitry iOS, Habitry Professionals, and Essentials of Habit Coaching, coaches began asking for a research review to learn the latest in Motivation Science. It was the most common request that we received since starting the Motivate Summits, so we thought it was worth testing demand with a single issue.

A Learning Design Problem

Thanks to Motivation and Behavior Change Science, we've known how to help people change their behavior for over 40 years.

Yet the practical know-how from this vast evidence base has remained out of the reach of coaching professionals.

Because building coaching competence takes time, resources, and a high-touch, costly approach. So the coaching industry remains filled with quackery, employee disengagement, and turnover.

What if there was a beautiful and practical research review that delighted readers and supported their learning journey?

The Approach

This project was more straight forward than other Habitry projects: research what else was out in the market, then make something 10x better on a ridiculously short time span.

This time we used an Agile UX approach. We gave ourselves 1 month, divided into two sprints, to research, design, write, produce, and sell the initial issue to see if there was enough demand to make more.

Plus, Omar had done this before. He'd recruited a team to publish a research review for HR managers in graduate school. So he brought that experience to bear on The Motivator.

Sprint #1: Research & Vision

Content Analysis

At this point, Habitry had developed a Facebook community of over 600 health coaches. This was a treasure trove of data from what we had discussed in the Facebook group over the previous year. Omar did a content analysis of this data to uncover the most common questions, favorite topics, and recurring problems.

Next, we asked them about other research reviews they were reading. Once we had our list of what else was out there, we purchased copies of the reviews they had mentioned and dissected what we thought we needed for an MVP. We then took those ideas back to our community to see if we were in the ballpark on what they wanted.


Using notes from this process, we developed a list of must-have features we knew we needed to include, but something else jumped out at us when we looked at all the material that health coaches had been consuming: they were all hideous.

It became clear to the team that we only wanted to make this thing if it was beautiful.

This meant an MVP couldn't be a word document or a two-column PDF all in Times New Roman. We wanted to differentiate ourselves by make something that took our customers' breath away. It needed to be a Minimal Beautiful Product.

For Stevo, this presented a larger challenge. He had done the graphic design for dozens of Habitry web, mobile, and small print projects, but he had never designed a magazine. He didn't even know what software one could use to do such a thing. But that had never stopped him before.

And besides, we had a whole 17 days left to do it.

Sprint #2: Ship It & Build It

Defining Requirements

Making a Magazine in 17 days

We knew we wanted to make something beautiful, but we had also learned what other features our "MBP" would need to have.

Requirement Description
1 Be beautiful (duh)
2 Contain an enchanting editorial
3 Easy to digest and compelling for non-academic audience
4 Be faithful to the evidence
5 Contain reviews of current research with quotes from the researchers explaining the application
7 Be available in PDF and print

Design Process

The 13 Steps

While Stevo started work to make sure The Motivator would be filled to the brim with enchantment and beauty, Omar began the content research process.

Step Description
1 Scour the top 25 journals in Motivation and Behavior Change Science
2 Highlight and export the vital parts to knowledge management system
3 Green Hat ideas on practical uses in the Habitry #content slack channel
4 Review content analysis of Habitry community comments
5 Pick the most interesting and relevant studies
6 Check studies for internal and external validity
7 Rewrite each study using The Feynman Technique
8 Relate study methods and results to reader's experience
9 Create practical case studies
10 Pick an attention-grabbing headline
11 Contextualize the study with real-world examples
12 Final proofread
13 Sprinkle enchantment pixie dust

Killer Feature: Researcher Interviews

Since finishing graduate school, Stevo and Omar have been attending conventions and sharing the stage with lots of awesome Motivation and Behavior Change Scientists. They put those connections to use when they were gathering studies for The Motivator and emailed the researchers for exclusive blurbs and comments on how they believed the research could be applied in a health-coaching context.

The Product

Feel free to click on any image above to look at the magazine in all it's beauty.


In 2016, Habitry sold The Motivator as part of Habitry Professionals to Lift the Bar in the UK. We now publish an issue a quarter in Lift the Bar Magazine and consolidate that into an Annual edition. Now thousands of health coaches read The Motivator that wouldn't have been exposed to it otherwise.