The concept of the basic needs is one of the core beliefs of choice theory. As you read today’s blog post you will come to see just how basic and how important these needs are. A quick review – choice theory describes how everyone is born with a unique set of basic needs. I believe these needs include a physiological need, that being the need for survival, and several psychological needs, that being the need for purpose and meaning, the need for love, belonging, and connection with others, the need for success and the power to achieve worthy goals, the need to be free, and the need to experience fun and joy. From the moment we are born, all of our behavior is an attempt to meet one or more of these needs. During the Soul Shapers workshop, after we have more carefully reviewed the basic needs, I ask the question, “Which need do you think ultimately is in the driver’s seat? Which need do you think has the greatest influence on our behavior?” Usually, the responses quickly indicate that the survival need would have the last word when it comes to our behavior. The feeling is that we are programmed to survive and the survival mechanism would therefore have the greatest influence.

Headlines from this past week reminded us that this is not the case. New sobering and disturbing statistics reveal that more people are taking their own lives than ever before in the U.S. Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that over the last year more people died from suicide—38,364—than in motor vehicle accidents—33,687. That is nearly 5,000 more deaths. It is significant, too, that it is middle-aged Americans, the baby boomers, making by far the biggest leap in the suicide increase.

One thing we can take from this statistic (and this is a statistic that should very much get our attention) is the incredible power of the psychological needs. Our logic wants to believe that the need for survival would ultimately hold sway, yet this data is a stark reminder that this just isn’t true. Each of the psychological needs, when perceived as not being met, could lead a person to overrule his/her need to survive.

One of the reasons I so strongly believe in choice theory is that people who understand it’s principles and begin to implement the principles in their lives enter into a kind of personal stability from which they can process life more effectively. Choice theory doesn’t offer a perfect stability, but it helps. I personally have melancholy tendencies and am very capable of choosing to get “down in the dumps” or of choosing to depress, yet coming to understand and appreciate my choice power has helped a great deal. It is this choice power, including the concepts of the basic needs and the quality world that I so much want teachers and students to understand and practice, as well.

From a secular perspective, choice theory offers hope. We can come to recognize when a basic need isn’t being met and begin to take steps, no matter how tiny those steps might be, that will bring us closer to stability and happiness. When choice theory is understood and implemented from a spiritual perspective the results can become even more hopeful and even powerful. Students can be taught about the basic needs and the ways in which those needs urge us to behave. Students can be taught the concept of the quality world and the central importance of the pictures we place in our quality world. I see this kind of understanding as preventive mental health of the highest order.

A bumper sticker worth noting read, “Don’t Always Believe What You Think.” Choice theory helps us to understand how this bumper stick, especially relevant regarding today’s topic, might be true.


Remember to sign up for the upcoming Soul Shaper workshops taking place next month at PUC. Encourage your colleagues to experience the workshop, too. When more than one teacher or staff member at a school understands choice theory, significant changes can occur. Soul Shapers 2 is designed to be re-taken more than once. Get in the habit of taking Soul Shapers 2 each summer and re-charge the choice theory battery.

Soul Shapers 1 meets from June 17-20

Soul Shapers 2 meets from June 24-27

Sign up for either course at


Let others know about The Better Plan blog. After close to six months of being in existence there are 67 people officially “following” the blog. I think more than the 67 are reading the blogs, but let’s try to get the number higher. The goal is to create and support a non-coercive, choice theory community. I’m always glad to hear from you. Let me know if you have helpful ideas.