Posts tagged “basic needs

Power Causes Brain Damage

“If power were a prescription drug,” the article began, “it would come with a long list of known side effects.” It has been said that power can corrupt, but it can also intoxicate, misinform, blind, traumatize, and, simply, egotize.

Studies out of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, and UC Berkeley seem to affirm how historian Henry Adams described power as “a sort of tumor that ends by killing the victim’s sympathies.” The Berkeley study (spanning two decades) revealed that subjects under the influence of power “acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury—becoming more impulsive, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view.” The McMaster study may provide clues to the “power paradox” – which states that once we have power we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place. When heads of the powerful and not-so-powerful were placed under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine, it was discovered that power impairs a neural process called mirroring. Mirroring contributes to our ability to empathize with another person.

Once we have power we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place.

The power paradox has been studied in creative ways. “A 2006 study asked participants to draw the letter E on their forehead for others to view—a task that requires seeing yourself from an observer’s vantage point. Those feeling powerful were three times more likely to draw the E the right way to themselves—and backwards to everyone else.” George W. Bush may have demonstrated this tendency when he held up the American flag backwards at the 2008 Olympics.

Power, it turns out, makes us socially obtuse or worse, and professionally it leads to short-term success at the expense of relationships. Choice Theory confirms that certain kinds of power do exactly that.

Every human being, according to Choice Theory, is born with the Basic Need for power, although not all power is the same. Consider the difference, for instance, between power to and power over. Both kinds of power are attempts to fulfill the power need, yet the results can be markedly different.

We fulfill our power need by being able, competent, and successful in what we do. It is need-satisfying to achieve what we set out to accomplish. The power need, though, can also be met by having power over other people. Power over shows up in boss management styles that rely on punishment and reward and that seek to make others do what the boss wants them to do. It is difficult to create and maintain caring relationships when power over is part of the equation.

According to Choice Theory, our Basic Needs strengths are hardwired at birth. There is nothing good or bad about the Basic Need strengths – a high Basic Need for love and belonging is not necessarily good and a high need for power is not necessarily bad. As individuals our need strengths are what they are; the stronger the need, the stronger the urge to have that need met. The thing about the need for power, though, is that we can choose to stay in the power to mode, rather than the power over mode. A high power need person can still focus on being successful and achieving goals, just not at the expense of another person.

Like a prescription drug, power has side effects. It can get things done, often more efficiently, but it can also harm 1) the person doing the bossing, as well as 2) the person being bossed.

Tired of empathy deficiency?

            Let go of power over

                                   and embrace power to.


* The article, Power Causes Brain Damage, can be found in The Atlantic (July/August 2017) magazine.


A really wonderful group of teachers (and a wonderful pastor) took The Better Plan 1 class at Pacific Union College this past week (June 26-29). They may have learned a few things from me, but I learned just as much from them.

Had a meaningful and memorable week with these guys!


What Do Women Most Desire?

What do women most desire? Some would say the answer to this question is elusive, even though we have known for almost 600 years. Indeed, the answer was clearly shared within the 15th century romance tale – The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle. Few are aware of this important tale, but through unique advantages that I possess as a professor in a teacher credential program I have learned the secret.

One of my roles involves the supervision of student teachers. I set up student teaching placements in local schools, and then coach and mentor students toward mastering the essentials of teaching. One of the benefits of being a supervisor is that I get to be in classrooms. I get to observe classrooms in action. From the elegance of Math problems to the English class challenge of writing an impactful paper on the book The Chocolate War; from the fun of learning to hit a forehand on a tennis court in Physical Education to a Social Studies debate on the issue of building a wall along the U.S. / Mexican boarder, these are the kinds of rich learning experiences I get to observe. It is common for me, actually, immediately after leaving a classroom in which I have been observing, to get out my iPhone and order a book I just saw the classroom discussing. Their dialogue inspired me so much that I had to read it, too. Such was the source of my learning of The Wedding and, more importantly, the secret of what women most desire. For it was a high school English class that was studying the tale I am about to share with you. As a result of learning the secret, whether you are man or woman, your life may never be the same again.


The tale tells of an adventure during the time of King Arthur, a time when “chivalry was paramount.” It begins with King Arthur on a hunting trip. Separated from his knights while chasing a particular deer, he comes upon a knight not of his group, a knight of great might and fully armed. The knight intends to kill King Arthur for a wrong done many years before. Arthur delays the knight’s intention by talking with him and trying to convince him that it is no great thing to kill him when he isn’t in armor or armed really at all. So the knight agrees to let Arthur go for exactly one year, with the agreement that Arthur would return at the end of the year and tell the knight “what women everywhere love best.” If Arthur returned with the answer, he would live, otherwise he would die.

This Arthur agreed to, including that he wasn’t to tell anyone of their deal. But when he went back home many people could tell that he wasn’t himself. Finally, one of his most noble knights, Sir Gawain, approached him and asked what was wrong. Arthur ended up telling him about the unfortunate incident in the forest and the need for him to come up with what women truly desire most.

Gawain quickly came up with a plan. He would get on a horse and ride in one direction and Arthur would get on a horse and ride in the other direction, whereupon, as they rode far and near, they would ask people what their answer would be to this question. Surely, the answer would eventually come out of all this wisdom. The king liked the idea and they each set upon a journey of many months seeking the answer to this important, yet puzzling, question.

While on his journey Arthur met a lady that was as loathsome a creature as he had ever met. “Her face was red, and her nose dripped snot; her mouth was wide; her teeth were completely yellowed, and she had bleary eyes larger than a ball. Her mouth was overly large; her teeth hung over her lips.” There were many more details describing her foulness, but you get the picture.

Quite quickly the lady hailed the king and confidently explained that she knew the answer to his plight. She knew the secret; she knew what women most desire. “Grant me, sir, just one thing, and I guarantee you will live.” The king was not pleased with this lady, but he inquired as to what she wanted. In reply, she said “You must grant me a knight to marry. And his name is Sir Gawain.”

The king said he couldn’t do this and that it wasn’t for him to decide who Gawain would marry. But the lady was adamant, stating again that she could save his life. So the king reluctantly agreed to see what he could do.

When the king met Gawain he was discouraged, certain that he would die. Soon he shared with Gawain the offer of the foul lady and the deal she wanted in trade for her wisdom. As noble a knight as ever was, Gawain quickly agreed to marry her. “I shall marry her and marry her again. Even is she were a fiend. Even if she was as foul as Beelzebub. I will wed her, or could I really be your friend?

And so the king met again with the foul lady, whose name was Dame Ragnelle, and let her know that Gawain would indeed marry her. “Now,” said Arthur, “tell me your answer at once and save my life.” Ragnelle reviewed aloud many of the things that men thought women wanted – to be beautiful, to be in friendship with many wonderful men, to have pleasure in bed, to wed often, to be young, etc. “But there is one thing,” she said, “that we all fantasize about. Above all other things we desire from men to have sovereignty.” By this she meant that women want the ability to choose, whatever the situation may be. Sovereignty.

So the king went on his way and at the appointed time, exactly one year after first meeting the awful knight, met him where they had met before. Arthur told the knight what women most desire and the knight had to agree that it was a right and good answer. Arthur’s life was spared.

Gawain, though, believing in chivalry as he did, had to go ahead and marry Ragnelle. In spite of her ugliness, Gawain pledged his fidelity to her. People cried at the wedding for Gawain, but he married her nonetheless. During the reception banquet, true to her loathsome ways, Ragnelle ate more than any other guests. She probably ate more than any three guests put together.

Later that night, Gawain and Ragnelle were in their chamber when Gawain turned to her and instead of seeing an ugly, loathsome woman, he saw the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He rejoiced at her beauty, and embraced her, but she interrupted him.

“Sir,” she said, “thus shall you have me.
Choose one—may God save me,
My beauty will not be permanent—
Whether you will have me fair at night
And ugly by day to all men’s sight,
Or else to have me fair by day
And at night one of the foulest women.
One of these you must have.
Choose one or the other.
Choose one, Sir Knight, whichever pleases you more.”

“Alas,” said Gawain, “the choice is hard.” And he thought about which choice would be best, the advantages and disadvantages to each. In the end, though, he said –

“My beautiful Lady, do as you please.
I put the choice in your hands.
Just as you wish—I give you control.
Free me when you choose, for I am constrained.
I give you the choice.”

And because he honored her in this way, the sorcery placed on her by her stepmother was broken. For until the best man in England had truly wedded her, she would appear as the exact opposite of what she was. So courteous, chivalrous Gawain came to her rescue. Out of love for his king and a willingness to keep his promise he came to be with the beautiful Ragnelle.


The tale, thought to be written around 1450, reveals a great, enduring truth – the human race was built for freedom. We function best, whether man, woman, or child, when we have autonomy and the ability to weigh our choices.

The tale is also a good example of curriculum content that can serve as a springboard to teach the elements of Choice Theory. In this case, the tale could be used to –

+ emphasize the basic need for freedom.

+ identify the Caring Habits and Deadly Habits of characters in the story.

+ examine the role of gender through the centuries since the tale was written.

+ discuss the factors that can contribute to unhappy marriages.

+ consider the concept of chivalry and its relationship to the basic need of freedom.

These are just a few classroom applications from the story. I would love it if you would respond and suggest additional teaching applications. If you have stories that you are already using in this way, it would be great if you could share them with us as well.


The month of June is just around the corner and with it comes The Better Plan classes that I teach at Pacific Union College as a part of the summer school schedule. Those dates are –

The Better Plan 1   June 26-29

The Better Plan 2   July 5-7


The Better Plan workshops can also be scheduled at your school, conference, or district. Let me know if you are interested.

There Was This Teacher


The current cover of Educational Leadership, the journal for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, headlines just two words – Relationships First. I love it that thousands of teachers across the U.S. and beyond are being reminded of this essential learning element. There is no getting around it, no shortcuts to it, and no technology that replaces it. When it comes to learning, relationships matter.

Care is in the eyes of the receiver; care doesn’t exist unless those being cared for truly experience it.   Elizabeth Bondy


Glasser emphasized the importance of 3 Rs when it comes to kids learning in schools – Relationships, Relevance, and Relf-Evaluation. (Ok, it was really two Rs and an S, but it isn’t as catchy as 3 Rs.) From the outset of his career and his work at the Ventura School for Girls, basically a prison school, he recognized the absolute importance of positive connection. This connection is especially needed with any of the students we work with who have struggled with school, who have been traumatized in their past, or who are English Language Learners. One of the keys to Reality Therapy’s success, Glasser’s approach to counseling, was his emphasis on what he called involvement between patient and therapist. By involvement he meant a warm, caring connection. In 1965, when he introduced Reality Therapy to the world, this therapeutic emphasis on connection was fairly unique. The point here, though, is that whether in the classroom or the therapist’s office a positive relationship is vital.

The most urgent questions students ask as they begin a new school year are Am I safe? and Do I belong?   Rick Wormeli

I began attending workshops in cooperative learning from David and Roger Johnson almost 30 years ago, yet I still remember some of their key points like it was yesterday. They explained that there are three important relationships in every classroom – 1) the relationship between the students and the material, 2) the relationship between the students and the teacher, and 3) the relationship between the students themselves. Not to devalue the importance of the other two, especially the relationship between students and teacher, but the Johnson’s felt the most important relationship that exists in any classroom is the relationship between the students. This stuck with me and during my years as teacher, principal, and superintendent, I came to agree with them. Students enter a classroom unsure about how they will fit in and unsure about how they will be treated by others. Until they experience a classroom environment where they feel safe, learning takes a backseat. Threats and sanctions regarding lower grades or trips to the vice-principals office only contributes to their performance being worse.

If you find yourself frustrated with a student, try to find something that you genuinely like and respect about that student and repeat it to yourself.   Lisa Medoff

Rick Wormeli, who contributed the lead article, What to Do in Week 1?, in the recent Educational Leadership, shared something that Rabbi Harold Kushner said during a 1998 interview –

Often I will read about someone from the most unpromising circumstances – inner city ghetto, drug family, single-parent home, abandoned by father, abandoned by both parents sometimes – and the child will have grown up to be a star athlete, a successful politician, or a doctor. The reporter will ask, “How did you get to be who you are?” And the answer will always begin with the same four words: “There was this teacher.”

It’s true. Whether it’s about our relationship with students as teachers or their relationship as students with each other, relationships matter. And rather than relationships being touchy-feely fluff, they directly impact learning.

I realized very early in my career that to successfully and thoughtfully teach my students, I needed to imagine life through their eyes.   Cherish Skinker

In Choice Theory Speak, as teachers we want students to place us in their Quality World and we want them to place our subject matter and our classroom in their Quality World, as well. We can’t inject ourselves into their Quality World. We can only behave in a way that invites students to place us there. We can only create classrooms that students come to value. Coercion has no place within this dynamic.


As I write this it is early in the morning in Cicero, Indiana, where I am giving a two-day in-service on choice theory to the staff at Indiana Academy. They had already read Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Educators, so I am now joining them in their journey toward a non-coercive life and a non-coercive classroom. Yesterday we focused on Glasser’s Big Four – the Basic Needs, the Quality World, Creativity, and Total Behavior. Today we’ll focus on application of the ideas here at the academy.


The Indiana Academy campus is well kept with sprawling lawns leading to classic brick buildings. It feels peaceful here.


The school is located north of Indianapolis and is the academic home for 129 students.


A quiet hallway at the end of the day. So busy between classes. So empty now.

The Quiet Crisis

I am teaching a summer school class this week on secondary reading. Some of you just zoned out at the very thought of taking such a boring class. I’d rather have a needle stuck in my eye than take that class you might be thinking. Memories of thick textbooks, “overpacked” with information and with questions at the end of each chapter, drift across your glazed eyes. A class in high school reading may as well be a class in *static omnibetoline. (Who cares? Right?)

The secondary reading class at work.

The secondary reading class at work.

But that is just the thing. Literacy skills, which include reading, are the life blood of learning. Reading connects us to classroom success, but by learning to read well – to read with a purpose, to be able to identify the key points, and to comprehend what is read – it also connects us to an incredible world and a lifetime of discovery and learning. Rather than contributing to boredom and irrelevance, a skillful teacher can select WHAT is read and then coach students on HOW it is read in a way that ignites an interest and lures students into engagement.

The teachers in the class represent schools in Arizona, California, and Oregon.

The teachers in the class represent schools in Arizona, California, and Oregon.

I haven’t mentioned Choice Theory in the class yet this week, yet Choice Theory has been an important part of what we are learning. Known as the “quiet crisis,” data indicates that 25% – 40% of high school students are unable to access information in a textbook. There are multiple reasons for this, many that we have discussed in class, but the key is how can we as teachers enable students to be more successful? The Basic Needs framework provides a great viewpoint from which to consider possible solutions. For instance –

We honor a student’s need for Power and Success when we explicitly teach reading strategies.
Even if a student can read, we don’t assume that she/he knows HOW to read for comprehension. Being able to do things like 1) identifying the key idea, 2) comparing and contrasting different viewpoints, and 3) summarizing what an author really wanted to say can be taught. In fact, skills like these have to be taught, and probably re-taught. Human beings have a basic need to be successful in what they attempt. When we expect kids to know how to do complex tasks without teaching them how to complete the task their response is predictable. While a few students will ask for help or clarification, many students will act like the book is stupid or the assignment is dumb and doesn’t matter. “Who would want to do this ridiculous task?” they mutter with some disgust. Let’s not be faked out by their feigned coping mechanism. Instead let’s give them the tools to be successful.

We honor a student’s need for Purpose and Meaning when we make available or assign articles and books and other resources that are relevant to teenagers.
This is the challenge of teaching – connecting the learning to the learner. The casual observer doesn’t get this. You tell someone something, maybe you show them how to do something, and that should be it the casual observer thinks. But that isn’t it. It is nowhere near it! High school students, like everyone else in the world, latch on to ideas that matter to them. They engage in ideas that for them are important. Believe me, high school students care, they have intense opinions, and they want to make a difference. They yearn for school experiences that are not boring and irrelevant. Keep the following graphic in mind –



We honor a student’s need for Freedom and Autonomy when we design choice into assignments and projects, including choices in what materials are read and researched.
This is not as hard as it may sound, and even if it initially adds to your “to do” list the rewards will be worth it. Not only can teachers come up with more than one book or article to complete the same assignment, it is also possible to create a rubric for an assignment or project, which includes the students themselves coming up with the appropriate reading or documents.

We honor a student’s need for Love and Belonging when we provide opportunities for talking about what is read with other students.
This can’t be overstated! Classrooms need to be places of safe, supportive connections. The connection between teacher and student is very important, however I believe the connections between the students are even more important. Students achieve success to the extent they feel supported and encouraged, by the teacher as well as by each other. Creativity flourishes in a safe environment. Real engaged learning often involves getting out of our comfort zones and risking a bit. We are much more open to risking when we feel safe and connected with others. (The importance of this need being met is even more important for English Language Learners.)

The classroom abuzz with students talking presenting their cultural heritage projects to each other.

A classroom abuzz with students talking presenting their cultural heritage projects to each other.

We honor a student’s need for Joy and Fun when we select reading materials that are enjoyable to read and when we provide an environment for reading that is welcoming and relaxing.
Some learning tasks require hard work and extended effort, but hard work doesn’t make a task less satisfying. Usually it is just the opposite. Our satisfaction increases when we are engaged in a challenging task in which we see value. Glasser viewed fun as the payoff for learning. The human brain is a natural information seeker, always on the lookout for the interesting, the novel, the important, or the sacred.

Baiting the Reading Hook (Educational Leadership, October, 2010) is an article that describes the possibilities of how a school can create this environment for students. With a little effort we can help to change the way adolescents view reading.

It is a privilege to work with the dedicated educators who are a part of this secondary reading class. It was need-satisfying for me to see the material ignite ideas and inspire changes for next school year. In the process I learned, too, and will be making changes in my own classes. The goal for each of us to help students – regardless of their academic skill set – to become better at the literacy skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking.


The Better Plan 1 (formerly Soul Shapers 1) begins on Monday, June 20, here at PUC. If it’s possible, I would love to have you join us and become part of the class.


I was recently sent the following question: Is there a test to take to find out your basic need strengths / weaknesses?

How would you respond to this query? I may take a stab at it this weekend.


* static omnibetoline – a totally made-up, fabricated, fake topic or condition

From the Mouths of Kids – Thanksgiving and Choice Theory

If you remember this popular daytime TV show you'd be .  .  . as old as me.

If you remember this popular daytime TV show you’d be . . . as old as me.

When elementary students (who had been taught about choice theory) were asked “What is choice theory about Thanksgiving?” this is what they had to say.

“If the need for survival is about food, well, Thanksgiving is about food.”   Nash, 6th grade

“I get to stay up as long as I want during vacation and staying up late is in my quality world. Well, not as late as I want  .  .  .  but late.”   Molly, 5th grade

“I love my aunts and uncles and I feel like I belong when I am with my cousins.”   Megan, 4th grade

“My freedom need is thrown out the window during Thanksgiving break, since I am trapped in a car forever driving to my grandparents house.”   Dak, 8th grade

“I let Aunt Helen kiss me. I think that’s love.”   Ryan, 3rd grade

“It’s deadly habits day at my house. My mother always invites a lot of people over and she’s all freaked about the food situation, and then my dad is spaced out watching football all day. Not a good situation.”   Becky, 7th grade

“I feel powerful when I help my mother make a lot of pies.”   Kalin, 4th grade

“My dad gets a couple of days off of work so my fun need is met being with him.”   Brett, 5th grade

“Mashed potatoes and turkey are need-satisfying on so many levels.”   Grady, 8th grade

“I think about how much I have when so many other people have so little. It’s not right when people’s survival need isn’t being met.”   Heather, 5th grade

“People bring us bags of food, which is nice. But it’s a little embarrassing, too. It doesn’t feel very powerful when you need people to bring you food.”   Amy, 7th grade

“Black Friday is about chaos. Wait a minute, chaos isn’t a basic need.”   Darcy, 8th grade

“I get a good feeling when I think about Thanksgiving leftovers. What choice theory thing would that be about? Quality world pictures? Yeh, that’s it.”   Brad, 7th grade

“My parents seem to get along better during Thanksgiving. I guess that’s love and belonging, right? Or maybe the caring habits. Whatever it is, I like it.”   Madelyn, 6th grade

“Everything would be good about Thanksgiving if it wasn’t for the yams. I do not feel powerful and I do not feel free because of the yams.”   Ethan, 3rd grade

“Thanksgiving is about love! That’s just it.”   David, 1st grade


The Glasser biography, Champion of Choice, would make an excellent Christmas gift. Get in touch with me for a signed copy at

Now priced at $17.49 on Amazon.

Now priced at $17.49 on Amazon.

You can also get copies through Amazon at –

Remember that electronic versions of the biography are available at –


Detachment is not that you should own nothing. But that nothing should own you.
Ali ibn abi Talib

Love and Belonging: Same Side of the Coin?


I am trying to wrap my head around something Glasser wrote in Choice Theory (1998, p.96) about how to measure the strength of our need for love and belonging. “It is important to understand,” he began, “that the strength of this need is measured by how much we are willing to give, not by how much we are willing to receive.” At first glance this seems easy enough to understand, but as I think about what this really means I begin to sense something deeper and more important.

I teach about the Basic Needs as part of the choice theory workshops I facilitate each summer, including asking participants to try to identify their own Basic Need strength levels.

When participants assess their personal need for Love and Belonging I am pretty sure they focus more on their perceived need to belong than on their need to love. Belonging has to do with our need for connection, and I think that is where participants go when they self-evaluate in this area. “To what extent do I need to connect with others?” they are probably wondering.


But that’s not really how to measure this strength, at least according to Bill. Belonging is about our need to “receive” from others, to be affirmed through membership within a group or from a relationship with another person, and to be included. Love, on the other hand, is giving affection and caring about others, without regard to receiving favors in return.

As the Love chapter in 1 Corinthians says –

Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
It does not demand its own way.
It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
It does not rejoice about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.   ! Cor. 13:4-7


There seems to be a distinct difference between love and belonging. Both are about relationships, yet one is about what we take from the relationship, while the other is about what we bring or give to the relationship.

Glasser hits this theme again when he describes the Solving Circle for marital discord. (He actually recommended drawing an imaginary circle on the floor that spouses would enter before beginning their conversation.) “Step into the circle,” he coached, “and tell each other not what you want but what you are willing to give.” (Choice Theory, p.98)

So what do we do with the Love and Belonging need? Is it possible to have a high need for belonging and a low need to love? Given Glasser’s view that the strength of the Love and Belonging need is how much a person is willing to give, it would seem the person with a low need to love and a high need to belong ends up with a lower score for Love and Belonging. Does that make sense? I am really thinking about how to process this piece in future workshops.


10 Amazon reviews; can we make it 11?

10 Amazon reviews; can we make it 11?

For U.S. customers, get a signed copy of Champion of Choice for $20 + $6 (shipping). Send your check, along with any special instructions (e.g.- if the book is a gift), as well as your shipping address, and I will get the biography out to you right away.
Please include your email address, just in case I have questions about your order. My address is P. O. Box 933, Angwin, CA 94508


Relevance Captured in a Simple Graphic


We can make it more complicated, but this is what it boils down to, especially for teachers and parents.

Like every human being on the planet, students crave relevance. They yearn for their learning and experiences at school to be meaningful. Teachers face this challenge every day, and it can be a daunting challenge. The curriculum standards are formidable and textbooks can be over 1,000 pages long, yet from within these resources teachers must find relevance.

Choice theory reminds us that relevance is need-satisfying. It meets our need for power and success when we are immersed in something that matters to us. It also meets our need for joy. It is just plain fun to be involved in an interesting, relevant project.

Relevance is so important that when, as teachers, we go about creating lesson plans, whether on a Friday afternoon or a Sunday evening, if we cannot see that relevant link between the topic and the students, then we need to let that topic go and move on to a topic in which we can find the relevance link. Teaching irrelevant topics is a waste of time. Teachers should always strive to find relevance, but when they can’t find it they need to feel that they have permission to find a topic that is relevant.

The stairs leading to the front door of the Education building. I'm not sure which class in which this idea was used, but I like it!

The stairs leading to the front door of the Education building. I’m not sure of the class in which this idea was used, but I like it!

Quick ideas that add relevance to common topics –

Write a series of story problems for others to solve.
Do a survey of students’ likes and dislikes and then graph the results.
Learn addition and subtraction through drum beats.

Language Arts
Learn to read, write, and decipher code language.
Play vocabulary words “Pictionary.”
Use a “human graph” to see where a group stands on an issue

Social Studies
Find examples where “history repeated itself.”
Have imaginary talks or interviews with people from the past.
Hold a historical period / costume / food day.

Science / Health
Make up an imaginary conversation between parts of the body.
Create the rotation of planets with the class as the solar system.
Find five different ways to classify a collection of leaves.

Without relevance, teaching can be drudgery; with relevance, teaching can be a blast!


For U.S. customers, get a signed copy of Champion of Choice for $20 + $6 (shipping). Send your check, along with any special instructions (e.g.- if the book is a gift), as well as your shipping address, and I will get the biography out to you right away.
Please include your email address, just in case I have questions about your order. My address is P. O. Box 933, Angwin, CA 94508


We just entered double figures — there are now 10 reviews of Champion of Choice on Amazon.

5 Reasons Choice Theory Works 100% of the Time

The view when I walked out of the Education building.

The view when I walked out of the Education building.

As I walked out of the Education building at Pacific Union College yesterday afternoon, a large plume of smoke caught my eye. It seemed to be very close and in the direction of my house. It was the kind of hot, windy afternoon that fires love, and intensified by months, and even years, of drought here in California. Colleagues came out onto the front porch of our entryway and joined me in expressing concern and a bit of worrying.

I didn’t think I would get very far, but I decided to head toward the smoke and see what I could see. Sirens had been wailing as fire vehicles sped by the college, so I figured the appropriate blockades were in place. I headed toward Pope Valley and made it all the way to the top of Pope Valley Road, which surprised me. The cloud, although more blocked by trees, still loomed large.

From the top of Pope Valley Road.

From the top of Pope Valley Road.

I decided to head down the hill and see how close I could get to Pope Valley. Remarkably, I thought then, I was able to wind my way to the bottom of the hill and park my truck so that I could walk to the best vantage point. The smoke cloud, still large, was in plain view further down valley than I had thought it would be. Somehow it looked smaller as I got closer.

From the old Pope Valley gas station at the bottom of the hill.

From the old Pope Valley gas station at the bottom of the hill.

Standing across the street from the Pope Valley Fire Department, I could clearly see the orange colored clouds billowing up from the ground; I could see the spotter planes begin to circle over the fire, getting the exact bearings on the fire’s location and I assume helping to organize the efforts to contain it; I could see the bigger planes come in, the ones that dropped retardant on the flames; and I could see fire trucks begin to rapidly appear from Cal Fire and nearby communities. Instead of speeding by to the fire, though, the trucks always pulled into the wide area in front of the Pope Valley Fire Station, sometimes several of them there at the same time. After a few minutes, sometimes longer, the trucks and their crew would turn onto Butts Canyon Road and head north toward the fire.

Waiting to be called in. There would soon be a lot more trucks here.

Waiting to be called in. There would soon be a lot more trucks here.

This was interesting to me and I wondered aloud to a friend standing near me why the trucks seemed to be wasting time when they could be getting to the fire sooner. “Oh,” he explained, “the trucks always wait until they are called in with specific instructions on exactly where to go. It would be a mess if all the trucks just raced to where they thought the fire was.” It made perfect sense after he explained it. I thought again about the coordinated symphony of man and machines – planes, helicopters, ambulances, police cars, fire trucks, personnel trucks, and a host of other support vehicles – and all of the experience that went into knowing how to attack a large fire in a remote area. The fire fighters, whatever their role might be, know what works. There are proven fire-fighting principles that they apply. Their lives depend on these principles.

My friend, Tom Amato, is a strong believer in the principles of choice theory. As director of the Napa Valley Youth Advocacy Center, Tom works to improve, and sometimes even save, the lives of children and teens. Whether a kid is struggling in school, struggling at home, having run-ins with the law, self-medicating with drugs, or developing anti-social behaviors, Tom is relentless in his desire to connect with him/her, to listen, to support, and even to provide opportunities to become engaged in meaningful service to the community. It’s amazing, really!

One thing Tom has said to me more than once is that when the principles of choice theory are correctly and consistently applied, they will work 100% of the time. It is true. There may not be an instant change in those with whom we work, but the principles lead to change. We can count on them as surely as the fire fighters count on the principles of fire fighting.

We know, for instance, that –

+ a positive relationship means everything. We must get and stay connected to the kids we are working with.

+ a need-satisfying environment is important. Rather than on changing the kid, we can focus on providing a need-satisfying structure in our classroom or teen center or wherever it is that we work with himher.

+ the caring habits really work! At-risk kids, when interviewed about what helped them turn things around for the better, consistently mention that they just needed an adult to listen to them, to accept them, and to seek to understand them. As human beings we all respond to the unconditional regard of the caring habits.

+ to get into another person’s quality world, we can only be invited and placed there by the person himself. If we work with kids it is important that we are in their quality world, but we can’t force our way in. We can only behave in a way that the kid will put us there.

+ kids need structure, but not structure designed to accentuate a power struggle. Kids appreciate coercionless-structure.

Of course, it isn’t just kids that respond these principles. We all do!

Here’s to the fire fighters, who make our world a safer place!

And here’s to choice theory, whose principles make our world a better place, too! (With special thanks to Tom Amato.)


Have you read William Glasser: Champion of Choice yet? If not, I will soon be offering signed copies right here from The Better Plan website. Stay tuned.

I am planning on bringing some copies to the 2nd International Glasser Conference next week in Toronto. Hope to see you there!


The Drive Home


Soul Shapers 1 class, summer of 2014; a talented group of teachers who taught me a lot.

Soul Shapers 1 class, summer of 2014; a talented group of teachers who taught me a lot.

I want to give a big thank you to the Soul Shapers 1 group from this past week! I said a few things, facilitated a few activities, and led a few discussions, but it was their openness, creativity, and insight that really made the week a fun and meaningful experience. For instance, the following chart presentation examples were all created by them.

Chart presentations: A teacher-created small booklet could by used by students to identify their basic needs.

Chart presentations: A teacher-created small booklet could by used by students to identify their basic needs.


Chart presentations: Puppets can be used to help students process their behavioral center choices.

Chart presentations: Puppets can be used to help students process their behavioral center choices.


Chart presentations: A creative role play format leads to a better understanding of total behavior.

Chart presentations: A creative role play format leads to a better understanding of total behavior.

Most of the classmembers headed out for home after class ended on Thursday afternoon, although not all of them. A few of them are sticking around for the weekend so that they can continue in Soul Shapers 2, which begins on Monday. One of the those heading home didn’t have far to go, as she works right here at PUC. Others from the class, though, had longer trips – five from locations around northern California, three from central California, two from southern California, and three from Salt Lake City.

The trip home after experiencing a choice theory workshop can be an intense time of reflection. So many new concepts that have us thinking about our motivations and evaluating our behaviors. I haven’t checked in yet with this class about their trip home yet, but former participants have shared things like –

“Well, my head was kind of spinning, that’s for sure. The choice theory ideas, plus the Scripture and Ellen White stuff, it was pretty clear, and it made sense to me. But hearing this stuff for the first time, I was like, now what?   RG

“Well, to be honest, I was a little bit discouraged as I drove home. I had great memories from the time in class, the new friendships and all, but as I really thought about how I had been showing up with others, especially my own children, I just felt a little bad. I really want to get rid of the deadly habits and use more of the caring habits.”   HR

“Hmm .  .  . the trip home? I think I was pretty obsessed with the whole concept of how we control for our perceptions, you know, the idea that we place a picture in our quality world and then live in a way to make that picture happen, including manipulation as needed. That really nailed me for some reason.”   PA

“I was pretty excited, actually! I was thinking of ways that I could present the choice theory ideas to my students. I agree with you that doing the ideas ‘with’ them will be way better than doing the ideas ‘to’ them. If all I did was teach them about their Basic Needs and the Quality World, that would be such a gift for them. I plan on doing more than that, but just those two concepts would make a huge difference!”   AS

“I found myself thinking about the classroom management things I am going to change next school year.”   DS

“It hit me how much I was in the habit of blaming others for stuff, which kind of absolved me from any role in helping to make things better. Like I would blame the kids’ homes for not raising them right, and I would blame the kids for their lack of performance in class. Of course, with this way of thinking it never occurred to me that how I set up the classroom and the learning may have had something to do with their poor performance.”  JJ

Choice theory does indeed invite us to reflect on our own thinking and our own behavior. Instead of our musings being aimless, though, or negative, choice theory helps us reflect in a positive way that leads to effective change. I look forward to checking in with the latest classmembers about their reflections as they traveled home.


If you have read William Glasser: Champion of Choice, I encourage you to write a review of the book on Amazon. Together we can get the word out there that Glasser’s story and the ideas he championed are worth paying attention to. It’s not hard to contribute a Review of the book on Amazon and it doesn’t have to be long. Think about it.


If you haven’t read Champion of Choice yet, then put it on your reading list for this summer. Besides a good story, you will learn a lot about choice theory and how to live your life.



The Incredible Lemon Cake

A piece of cake from the Social Work consecration reception at PUC yesterday.

A piece of cake from the Social Work consecration reception at PUC yesterday.

A magical cake was served at yesterday’s Social Work reception and during the celebration and visiting I was reminded of the power of choice and how all behavior is purposeful. It is graduation weekend at Pacific Union College and several of the subject-area departments have special ceremonies for their graduates. The Social Work consecration yesterday also included farewell messages to Dr. Monte Butler, longtime faculty member of the department, who has accepted a position at Loma Linda University. So, back to the cake.

I guess it could be described as a lemon cake, but this simple label falls far short of how good this cake really is. It is so moist, and so just-right tart, with cream layers in between the lemon cake layers, that it can only be described as epic, even life-changing. It comes from somewhere in Canada and is shipped frozen to fortunate buyers across the country.

My wife organizes the reception and I was helping her and some students get the cake out on the serving tables. The first person to arrive at the reception area after the consecration service was a woman who came directly to the cake table and picked up one of the plates on which sat a beautiful piece of the magical lemon cake. I was close by and pointed out how her life was about to be changed by a cake that was beyond good. She mentioned how hungry she was, as she was about to bring it to her mouth, but I stopped her. I wanted her to fully appreciate the culinary excellence she was so close to enjoying. She paused, but then bit into the richness. “Wow!” she affirmed, with a faraway look of reflection on her face, taken to that place where only a few all-star food items can go. The she looked at me, though, and asked, “Is this citrus .  .  .?”

I replied, “It’s lemon.”

“Because I’m allergic to citrus,” she continued. “I’ll break out if I eat this.”

I pointed to the chocolate cake that was also on the serving table, thinking that this was a pretty good secondary option under the circumstances. However, she looked at that magical lemon cake again, then at me, then back to the lemon cake, and quietly admitted, “But this is too good. I’m gonna eat this anyway.”

She had exclaimed, “Wow!” just a moment before, and now I was privately thinking “Wow!” to myself as she walked off and continued to eat the incredible lemon cake. A part of me was curious as to how long it would take for the breaking-out process to occur, but I got busy with other reception duties and am unable to report on that.

What I can say is that our brains are wonderfully complex organs that at times defy logic. The human quest to satisfy our basic needs, and the uniquely personal ways we develop to meet those needs, is a powerful process. This lady’s decision to eat the cake, a thoughtful decision as she paused with the cake on her fork, in spite of her body’s negative reaction to it, is an important reminder of our ability to make choices. We each face similar decisions every day. Choice theory doesn’t make us make good decisions, but it does reveal our purposefulness in the decisions we make, which is a good thing, a very helpful thing. Choice theory is also empowering, sometimes frustratingly so, since we can’t blame circumstances, other people, or even an incredible lemon cake, for the choices we make.

This particular lemon cake came pretty close to being blame-able, though.



%d bloggers like this: