Improving All Students’ Mental Health Outcomes: Start with Why & Remember Learning to Ride a Bike

I knew my purpose for learning to ride a bike and it was so compelling that I was going to do whatever it took to get there. Long before reading Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (2011) or watching his “Golden Circle” TED Talk (third most viewed TED talk ever!), I learned to ride a bike because I started with my “Why” – my goal, my purpose, my motivation, my belief. We all did. We learned to ride bikes because we wanted to go someplace. We endured and triumphed over the litany of details that comprise riding a bike because we were excited about our Why. We didn’t persist in our attempts to ride our bikes just to not fall off and not get hurt; we persisted so that we could achieve our Why— independence, exploration, going someplace.

The Elephant and the Rider: Engaging in Challenging Change

Whether it’s change in our personal or professional lives, true lasting change is difficult. Why is it so difficult? According to Chip and Dan Heath (2010) in Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, the main hindrance is that our brains have two independent systems that are always working and can fiercely disagree. The first system is the emotional side. This side is instinctive; it feels pain and pleasure, but wants comfort. The second system is the rational side. This side is contemplative; it ponders and scrutinizes and wants change. There is a natural tension between these two that can result in stasis.
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