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Ever wish your students were more motivated? If you’re like most of us, you have tried an array of rewards and punishments to motivate kids. There’s only one problem: it doesn’t work. At least it doesn't work well enough. People (yes, even students) aren’t motivated from the outside so rewards and punishments only work to a point. We are internally motivated. That’s why it's essential to engage and inspire students to be motivated to succeed in school (and life.)

If you’re ready to move beyond the reward/punishment model and embrace a whole new way to understand motivation, I encourage you to come back regularly. It’s time to challenge the status quo and create schools and classrooms based on what really motivates behavior.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

“Feeling Frustrated? Good For You!”

It’s not uncommon for people to complain about feeling frustrated. After all, it’s frustrating! But frustration can actually be a good thing.

(Aside: Those of you well acquainted with Choice Theory know that Dr. Glasser would probably encourage us to say we are “frustrating” or “choosing to frustrate” rather than saying we are “feeling frustrated.” That’s to remind us that all behavior - even uncomfortable behavior like “choosing to be frustrated” - is a choice. We may be most aware of the feeling component (“feeling frustrated”), but “choosing to be frustrated” includes acting, thinking, and physiological components as well. Still, since most people don’t engage in “CT-Speak” they are more likely to say they are “feeling frustrated.”)

Humans are driven to experience a match between their quality world pictures – how they want the world to be at that moment – and their perception of the world at that moment. Feeling frustrated is the perceptible mismatch between what we want and what we are getting and motivates us to act. If we weren’t aware of the mismatch – if we weren’t “feeling frustrated” – there would be no internal signal motivating us to change.

Even though none of us likes feeling frustrated, the discomfort serves us well, motivating us to change our behavior to get more of what we want.

What are the implications for the classroom? To start with, an all-nurturing environment, one completely free of stress and struggle is counterproductive. When there is no perceived discrepancy between what students want and what they are getting, there is no frustration, no internal distress signal, and no reason to change their behavior. The inevitable result is a failure to grow and learn.

The most effective classroom environment is one where the mismatch between what students want and what they have is sufficient to motivate them but not so great as to overwhelm them. The best learning environments are ones where learners want more than they have while remaining confident they can experience success with reasonable effort. I want students thinking to themselves, “If I work hard I will succeed and in order to succeed I must work hard.”   That’s an environment that promotes student growth and achievement.

Frustration: it may be uncomfortable, but it is a helpful signal that initiates change.

As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

Bob Sullo

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit

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