Posts tagged “choice theory

Glasser’s Beliefs Continue to Influence

It has been four years since William Glasser passed away on August 23, 2013, but not a week goes by, or even a day, that I don’t think about him or one of his ideas. It is interesting just how important his ideas have become to me. For instance, when it comes to wanting to be in a better place psychologically and emotionally, I continue to look through a Choice Theory lens. The principles of Choice Theory are a wonderful mirror from which to self-evaluate.

Choice Theory ideas seem to be important to other people as well, or maybe I should say the principles of Choice Theory, since I continue to see articles and books that point in the same direction he pointed to throughout his career. Whether you want better schools, better parenting, better relationships, or just a better psychology to guide your life, Glasser continues to be a lighthouse guiding the way.

The article links that follow will show you what I mean, plus they are good articles in their own right. Click on the article titles to read for yourself.

1) A New Kind of Classroom: No Grades, No Failing, No Hurry

The article describes a grass-roots movement in which 40 schools in New York City have adopted a program that has students focusing on achieving grade-level skills rather than receiving traditional letter grades. And rather than being mandated to make this shift, all 40 of the schools have adopted the program voluntarily.

A student stays after school to keep working on her own.

“Mastery-based learning, also known as proficiency-based or competency-based learning, is taking hold across the country,” the article informs, with Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Illinois, and Idaho also phasing in the new approach.

It is impossible for me to see phrases like competency-based learning and getting rid of grades without thinking of my mentor and visionary friend, Bill Glasser. Since his early days with Bea Dolan at the Ventura School for Girls and his first books, including Reality Therapy (1965) and Schools Without Failure (1969), Glasser recognized how learning needed to be organized. Throughout his career he was driven to help schools make this shift.

And of course, his clearest statements regarding competency-based learning can be found in his book, Every Student Can Succeed (2000), where he emphasized the need for students to achieve competence, and the strategies schools can employ to support them in the process.

“The real world asks for competence
and usually gets it when what they ask the worker to do
is useful and they treat the worker well.”
William Glasser

2) When Schools Forgo Grades: An Experiment in Internal Motivation

The article describes the efforts of teachers and students at the Integrated Global Studies School in NYC to move away from traditional grading and instead implement narrative feedback on work in which students want to be involved. IGSS is a small school (160 students) within a much larger high school (over 4,000 students) in which administrators, teachers, and parents wanted to see if grading differently would make a difference in learning. It turns out it makes a huge difference!

Escaping from the cage

Kirby Engelman, a junior at the school, describes how “It felt totally different. It opened my mind to education as something more of, rather than learning content, you were learning how to learn. It opened my mind to my potential as well as the potential of humans and the world.”

It’s about “learning how to learn.”

Engelman admits she was hesitant to give up the traditional model at first. It was all she knew. And while at first she opted to receive traditional feedback, too, she explained that “Grades or no grades you get a written narrative about every assignment and how you are as a student, which showed me how unnecessary grades were,” she said. She also found the system more motivating. “Rather than just learning information and learning specific facts, we were learning how to learn and that felt a lot more meaningful.”

Glasser began describing this very process in Schools Without Failure (1969), his first book on schools specifically, and stuck with this message his entire career.

3) Good Genes Are Nice, But Joy Is Better

Harvard researchers began tracking the health of 268 sophomores in 1938, hoping the longitudinal study would reveal clues to leading healthy and happy lives. While 19 of the original 268 are still alive, many more subjects have been added over the years, and altogether a lot of impressive data have been collected. So what matters when it comes to leading a satisfying and happy life?

“The surprising finding,” began Robert Waldinger, the director of the study, “is that our relationships have a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care, too. That, I think, is the revelation.”

This finding would come as no surprise to William Glasser or anyone else into the ideas of Choice Theory, as he believed that all significant psychological problems were based in relationship problems.


“Close relationships,” the study continued, “more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives that social class, IQ, or even genes.”

4) Loneliness Epidemic Growing Into Biggest Threat to Public Health

Also commenting on the topic of happiness, or lack thereof, this short article points out the importance of being socially connected. Examples from the article include –

+ Being connected to others is a fundamental human need.

+ According to an AARP Loneliness Study, over 42 million Americans suffer from chronic loneliness.

+ Another study showed that greater social connection is associated with a 50% reduced risk of early death.

+ There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality.

+ Greater emphasis should be placed on social skills training for children in schools.

+ Doctors should be encouraged to include social connectedness when medical screening.

+ People should be preparing for retirement socially, as well as financially.


Like a lighthouse alerting ships to navigational information, Glasser alerted me, and many others, to information that contributes to health and well being. Four years after his passing he is still missed, especially by those closest to him, yet his ideas continue on. Ideas that matter as much as his tend to do that.


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.

Dog Saliva, Pecking Pigeons, and Children

Gwen Webster is standing in the open doorway of her fourth-grade classroom. One moment she is looking out to the playground where most of her students are playing and the next moment she turns to look into the classroom where two students continue to sit. She has kept the two students in because they have not finished their assignment. She had certainly warned them of this possibility, but they wouldn’t get to work, so now she has determined to “increase their concern about finishing the work.”



Except, as she looks back into the classroom, neither Vaughn nor Laurel seems the least bit concerned about their work. And so Gwen stands in the open doorway, fretting just a bit about the cold of the winter morning air exchanging places with the warmth of the heated classroom through that open door, and fretting just a bit that she can’t be with her colleagues, whose classrooms shared this recess time, chatting in a small group out by the playground equipment.

As her frustration grows, Gwen Webster begins to think about other ways to make these kids get their work done. Tony got his work done, although as she looks at the disheveled worksheet that he thrust into her hand before zooming out the field to play football with his classmates she realizes that what he completed barely merits a passing score. Yet he turned something in. What is with these other two kids? she thinks to herself. And so she stands in the doorway, her left side feeling the warmth of the classroom, her right the chill of the winter air, and continues to think about what she needs to do to get Vaughn and Laurel to finish their assignment.

She looks at Laurel, who is quietly reading a book at her desk, seemingly oblivious to her teacher’s concern. And then she looks at Vaughn, who is quietly yet angrily sitting at his desk. Well, he can be as angry as he wants, she again thinks to herself. As far as I’m concerned, he can sit there until the cows come home, but that assignment will get done. She looks at her watch. Still 10 minutes to go for recess.



This excerpt from Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Educators (2005) is based on a common classroom occurrence – that being, students don’t complete work so the teacher comes up with a response intended to make them do it. Let’s continue with the excerpt and see what we can learn from Gwen Webster.


   Earlier in the morning she had threatened to keep students in from recess if they did not finish their assignment. A number of the students got to work and finished it on time. Was it wrong for Gwen to think that she made them do their work? They hadn’t been doing their work, but she intervened and made them do it. Right? As you are thinking about this, let’s examine the experiences and thinking of several of Gwen’s students, including Laurel and Vaughn, who are still sitting at their desks.

Avery is one of the students out on the playground. He is an excellent student and actually was enjoying the social studies worksheet. He does well in all of his subjects, even the ones he doesn’t particularly like. He likes to read and is good at organizing his thoughts and writing them out afterward. He knows he is considered smart by others and wants to continue to be viewed that way. The approval of his teachers and parents is important to him. When his teacher was threatening his classmates to get to work, Avery was so focused on completing his assignment that he was only vaguely aware of what she was saying. He was now out on the playground, but the fact that he was out there had nothing to do with his teacher threatening him and making him do his work.


Kendra is also out on the playground, even though she is not known for being an excellent student. Kendra is actually quite bright and is, in fact, gifted in the areas of music and art. She isn’t that exited about reading, and struggles a bit with writing her thoughts out, unless it is lyrics to a song. She was one of the students that got to work when her teacher threatened to keep people in who didn’t finish the assignment. She likes recess and figured the work wasn’t that big of a deal. She also didn’t want to get on her teacher’s bad side. Better to do it now, she figured, than to have to do it at home later. One of her favorite TV shows was on that evening, and there was no sense in jeopardizing that. She didn’t consciously process all of these thoughts, but regardless, she ended up choosing to finish her work on time.

Tony was another matter. He is kinesthetically gifted and seems to be a classroom leader, although his leadership is not always appreciated by his teacher. Actually, he is smart in other ways, too, but so far people have caught only occasional glimpses of the kind of quality work he can produce. He is a good reader and writer when he wants to be.


On this particular morning he and some of the other boys had been talking about the football game on TV last night, and that had led to some bragging and such; next thing you know, teams had been divided in preparation for the “big game” during the morning recess. Tony took this pretty seriously and was working on getting ready for the game, assigning positions for the guys on his team and making new plays instead of completing his assignment. When he first heard his teacher threatening to keep students in from recess, he looked at the clock and figured he would have time to get it all done. But as recess time grew closer, his thinking changed from I still have time to get this done to She won’t really make us stay in if we don’t have it done.

A conversation Tony overheard between his teacher and Vaughn convinced him that she was serious, though it was too late. Tony panicked as he saw that only kids handing Mrs. Webster a completed assignment could head to the playground. His powers of intelligence kicked in and he scanned the paper to assess what he could do to fix the situation. He quickly realized that while reading the assigned section in the textbook would improve the quality of the answers, one could actually answer the questions without doing the reading. This he quickly proceeded to do.

He presented the assignment, a bit crumpled and a bit hurried, to his teacher while glancing out to the playground to make sure that the teams looked right. “Oh, all right, go ahead,” Gwen Webster said, indicating for Tony to head for the door of freedom to the playground. She could see that his answers were hurried, but he did turn something in. His worksheet might have been hurried, but the three pages of football plays stuffed in his pocket were really quite good.


All of Tony’s plays were designed on the principle of faking out the other team. Send all of your players to the right, except for a halfback who delays and then goes out to the left. The play is meant to make the defensive team think that the play is heading a certain direction when actually it is going the exact opposite direction. Gwen Webster had just been faked out. As she stood in the doorway telling Tony he could go out to the playground she wasn’t satisfied with the quality of his work, but she did feel that she had succeeded in “making him” do it and turn it in. In fact, this was not true. Tony had reasons of his own, motivations that were important to him, that prompted his choice to get his work done.

That brings us to Laurel and Vaughn, still at their desks, and still not having started the assignment. Laurel sits with her knees curled up to her chest (not easy to do on a classroom chair) and reads a book she has brought from home. She is an excellent reader and a good student, even an excellent student at times. She has an inner strength about her that is noticeable, a self-awareness, if you will. Her answers are thoughtful and usually come from a perspective that is unique compared to that of the rest of her classmates. Her classmates are important to her, and she is also aware of and talented with social connections. She has a tendency to be “up” or “down,” though, which can be hard to figure out until you get to know her.

On this morning a couple of things are on Laurel’s mind. One is not so important, the other is very important. The less important thing is the fact that she left her house this morning without her jacket. She thought she had left it in the car the day before, but when she got to the car it wasn’t there, and they were already running late, so she arrived at school without it. The more important thing has to do with the fact that she and Stephanie are in a tiff, and now some of their mutual friends are involved. Laurel thinks, is sure, in fact, that they are going to snub her at recess. Stephanie is acting as if I should apologize to her and it telling our friends that, when in fact it should be Stephanie apologizing to me, Laurel thought to herself as she sat at her desk, curled up and reading. She didn’t want to have anything to do with any of them. So there! she added silently, yet emphatically.


Without insightful probing, there isn’t much chance that Gwen would know what is going on in Laurel’s thinking. And the issue for us at the moment isn’t what Gwen could have done or said as much as it is the need for us to realize that Laurel is motivated by thinking and perceptions that are important to her. The teacher’s threats did not overrule the fact that she did not have a jacket and didn’t really want to go outside, or that she was in a tiff with her friends and would just as soon not have to deal with them right then. Laurel is an example of a person who makes a choice, even in the face of threats or punishment, for reasons that have to do with internal motivation.

Vaughn is another such example. Vaughn sits at his desk, still and seething. His little heart is beating a bit faster, and if he had a pencil in his hand at the moment he would probably break it. Vaughn is actually quite bright, but most people miss his brightness and focus on his troubled life. Vaughn is at school because his grandmother is paying for the tuition (she can barely afford it on her fixed income, but the church is helping a bit, too). He lives with his mother (another story in itself) and his little sister. No one seems to know anything about the missing dad.


Although young, Vaughn already feels that he has to fight to get his “place in life.” He lives by the adage that “it isn’t important that you get good attention or bad attention, as long as you get attention.” To be sure, most of the attention that Vaughn gets is bad attention. Other students care about what their teachers think of them; Vaughn doesn’t seem to. Other students want to go to this school; Vaughn doesn’t. He seems to range from defensive to aggressive, and adults seem to talk a lot about what to do with Vaughn.

He doesn’t read much, as there are almost no books at home. He doesn’t write much either, although he is certainly capable of both. He looked at the social studies worksheet when the teacher handed it out, but nothing on the worksheet grabbed him. It was just one more thing that he was supposed to do in school. He delayed a bit in getting started, since he was somewhat involved with some of the football talk going back and forth. Ted had encouraged him to get his assignment done so that he could be on Ted’s team.

Vaughn was actually getting his textbook out of his desk to get started when Mrs. Webster first announced that anyone not finishing the assignment would not go out to recess. The more he thought about what she said, the more it bugged him. People are always trying to make me do stuff, he thought to himself. I don’t want to do this stupid worksheet anyway. She can’t make me do it. Better yet, maybe they’ll kick me out. At his young age Vaughn had only a vague appreciation for his own reputation, although that sense was growing. Something inside was driving him to be unique, to be himself, to create his niche.

“People behave for TOTALLY personal reasons.”

   Gwen was beginning to engage in a “fight” with Vaughn, though not on purpose. She would not have described it as a competition, but that is what it was. If pressed, Gwen would have said that “for Vaughn’s sake I am going to win this thing.” Again, the key at this point isn’t reviewing what Gwen was doing. The key is understanding that Vaughn sat there seething and determined for reasons totally inside of himself. Regardless of her arsenal of stimuli, Gwen was not going to make Vaughn do much of anything.


The story of Gwen Webster, Laurel, and Vaughn explains how people behave for totally personal reasons – not occasional personal reasons, not some personal reasons, not even for mostly personal reasons. Again, people behave for totally personal reasons. This is the key to internal control psychology. It is a key to understanding and applying Choice Theory.

Boss-managers firmly believe that people can be motivated from the outside:
they fail to understand that all of our motivation comes from within ourselves.
William Glasser

This excerpt from Soul Shapers is taken from a chapter entitled – Dog Saliva, Pigeons, and Children – which explores the effects of stimulus-response strategies in homes and classrooms. Soul Shapers can be easily accessed through Amazon. I was recently informed by my students that a cheap digital copy of the book is available through Google Books.


How Can I Be Wrong when I Think I’m Right?

An 11 minute TED talk provides insights into how people can get to the point of being so wrong, all the while thinking they are so right. It turns out motivated reasoning is to blame.

I first wrote about motivated reasoning in November of 2013 in a blog post titled Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian? One of the key points of the post is that people choose what to believe. Choice Theory proposes that we are always involved in the process of creating and maintaining a reality that works for us. Check out that post below –

Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian?


Two other blog posts also commented on our being “right” and our having a direct pipeline to Truth.

Three Types of People – Awesome, Dangerous, and Run

Melting Self-Justification

Three Types of People

Julia Galef, the TED talk speaker, explained the difference between a warrior mindset and a scout mindset. The warrior is driven toward one goal, to survive through defending or attacking, while the scout is driven to understand and to gain a complete and accurate picture of the facts. The book I recently completed, The Anatomy of Peace, explained the difference between a heart at war and a heart at peace. As choice theorists we can be thankful that more and more people are coming into an awareness of the human ability to create our perception of reality, and more importantly, our ability to choose a more effective reality.


This Is Your Life


The two days labeled as December 31 and January 1 are two of the biggest choice theory days of the year! We make a big deal out of these two days – one day representing a reflective farewell, the other representing a determined new beginning. There can be other important days in our calendar year, unexpected challenges that call on our choice theory prowess, but these two days roll around every year. And every year they seem to invite us to take a look back, to take stock of ourselves, to self-evaluate, and then to make a plan and set a course toward goals we see as important.

A song called This Is Your Life seems to capture the most important element of this reflection and self-evaluation. The lyrics acknowledge yesterday – the new wrinkle on our forehead and the way in which we may have let others down – but they emphasize that today is really all we have. “This is your life” the lyrics remind, and then just as powerfully ask, “Are you who you want to be?”

Our minds may be thinking about a lot of different things – how to eat better, exercise more, love others more fully, be less selfish, reach out to others more, do something for yourself once in a while, do better at arriving at appointments on time, talk with your mother without getting upset, watch less TV, to name a few. We can get so caught up in these “symptom” behaviors that we lose sight of the bigger picture. All these smaller behaviors revolve around the big question, “Am I who I want to be?”

One thing choice theory points out is that it is possible, in fact, likely, that we will have conflicting pictures in our Quality World. The Quality World represents the area in our brains where we store pictures of any person or any thing that satisfies a Basic Need. There is nothing that says we can’t place things in our Quality World that satisfy a need, yet aren’t good for us. I can have a picture in my Quality World of not eating high fat, high sugar food, and I can have a picture of cake in there, too. (Maybe the incredible lemon cake I described in the June 14, 2014 blog post.) Both of these pictures are need-satisfying in some way. I like the idea of eating healthy food, and I like the idea of eating unhealthy food.

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

The apostle Paul seemed to really capture the angst of conflicting pictures in his letter to the Romans when he wrote that –

I want to do what is right, but I can’t.
I want to do what is good, but I don’t.
I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. Romans 7:18, 19

A lot of us can relate to this angst.


Choice Theory agrees with Switchfoot, the band who wrote This Is Your Life, in that today is indeed all we have. Fuming about the past or worrying about the future will not empower us to answer the important question, Are you who you want to be? With this in mind, here are a few things to keep in mind as we let go of 2015 and plan for 2016.

Admit It
It’s good to admit that for some reason ineffective behavior is need-satisfying. Ineffective behaviors are often (maybe always) self-medicating. Healthy or unhealthy we do these behaviors for a reason.

Make a Plan
Make a plan that is realistic and reachable. Overnight, complete makeovers don’t qualify as realistic or reachable. A good starting point might be just selecting a time during the day when you can center, balance, and focus on the important. Call it meditation, call it devotional time, call it whatever, but set a private time for centering and strengthening.


Replace Ineffective Pictures
Instantly eradicating a need-satisfying behavior, even one that is destructive, is hard to do. It is more doable when we come up with a new or different behavior to take its place. This takes some creativity, but it is worth the time.

Small Steps Are Fine
Taking small, consistent steps toward a goal is a good way to make significant change. Huge, immediate victories are great, but such a mindset can lead to huge defeats, too.

Don’t Let Slip-Ups Derail You
Don’t let slip-ups and mistakes keep you from re-evaluating and re-engaging in the plan. Slip-ups are common and are to be expected. You will sleep in instead of going to the gym; you will criticize a loved one; you will eat the lemon cake. Instead of guilting yourself and throwing out the plan because of your mistake, celebrate that it didn’t feel right when you behaved the way you did – whether it was overeating or vegging out in front of the television – and get back on track with a new plan.

Never give up
Never give up on yourself and never give up on the important people in your life. Every day of the year can be a December 31 when it comes to self-evaluation and change.



For those who may be interested, here are the lyrics for This Is Your Life:

Yesterday is a wrinkle on your forehead
Yesterday is a promise that you’ve broken
Don’t close your eyes, don’t close your eyes
This is your life and today is all you’ve got now
Yeah, and today is all you’ll ever have
Don’t close your eyes
Don’t close your eyes
This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be?
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose
Yesterday is a kid in the corner
Yesterday is dead and over
This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed that it would be?
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose
Don’t close your eyes
Don’t close your eyes
Don’t close your eyes
Don’t close your eyes
This is your life are you who you want to be?
This is your life are you who you want to be?
This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you dreamed it would be
When the world was younger and you had everything to lose
And you had everything to lose


If you have read the Glasser biography, Champion of Choice, I encourage you to post a brief review on Amazon. More reviews will encourage others to check out Glasser’s ideas.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser's ideas and his career.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser’s ideas and his career.

Joy for Thanks

There’s something very healthy about being thankful.

Fortunately, being thankful isn’t something that hits us once in a while; instead it is a state of mind that we choose and that we nurture. The effects of thankfulness are profound, as our minds are happier and our bodies have more energy.


Thankfulness as a state of mind is a powerful example of Choice Theory in action. Total Behavior – one of the key elements of Choice Theory – describes how our behavior is made up of four parts – 1) the thinking part, 2) the acting part, 3) the feeling part, and 4) the body or physiology part. It further describes how two of these parts – our thinking and our acting – are under our direct control, while the other two parts – our feelings and our physiology- are under our indirect control. In other words, when it comes to our thoughts, we decide the patterns and topics on which we will dwell. This does not mean that we won’t have thoughts of sadness, resentment, fear, or anger. It just means that instead of allowing these negative thought patterns to settle in and take up residence in our heads, that we will choose to think differently, to maybe identify reasons for which to be thankful, and to focus on the people and things that are need-satisfying in our lives.

I tried what you talked about in class, the idea that we can choose to be grateful, instead of marinating in the sad and angry stuff. It was mostly dark when I first woke up this morning. I laid in bed and kind of got my bearings, thinking about the day ahead, thinking about my life, in general. I started thinking the usual thoughts, the my-day-is-going-to-suck stuff, which then led to my relationship with my wife sucks, my relationship with my kids sucks, my job is driving me crazy, my spiritual life is dead-end, etc. You get the point. The thing is, maybe because of our discussion in class, I actually became aware of my thinking and took a kind of inventory of it. I actually thought a little prayer to myself that went like, “Jesus, I am thinking crappy thoughts right now, thoughts that I think are a distortion of my life. I ask for your help in recognizing the good in my life.” I then chose to reject the crap and think about the blessings – my relationship with my wife is better than I give it credit for; my kids are amazing human beings that I treasure; my job can be hard, but I have a job; the day did look challenging, but I realized that solutions would come and I would survive. My outlook shifted, my spirit, perilously close to becoming sour, became more optimistic instead. I guess I just wanted you to know that what we talked about in class works. At least it worked for me.   Gabe


It is amazing that we have this kind of thought power! As much as anything else this power demonstrates the truth about Choice Theory, a truth that is also pointed out in Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy. The book Education (1903), a classic, states that –

It is within the power of everyone to choose the topics that shall occupy the thoughts and shape the character.     p. 127

And in his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul describes how –

I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Phil. 4:11-13

“Learning to be content” is such a great phrase! It seems to capture an element of the Choice Theory journey. To me, it reveals the process of learning to make particular choices, like the kind of choices Gabe made in the dim light of dawn as he laid in bed at the start of the day.

10229-ea_joy_thrives thankfulness soil design - Copy.png

I recently read something pretty powerful in its own right, an insight from the November 24 entry of the Jesus Calling book. The author, Sarah Young, imagining Jesus talking to us, writes –

Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity. That is why I have instructed you to give thanks for everything. There is an element of mystery in this transaction: You give Me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances).

Whether we choose to be thankful as an act of faith or not, such a choice will 100% of the time improve our lives. There are few things in life with 100% guarantees, but this is one of them.

On this day of Thanksgiving 2015 may we choose to think about the people and things in our lives for which we can be grateful.

Happy Thankfulness Day!!


A recent article from Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives highlighted 9 Things Grateful People Believe. Those nine things are –

1 – Everyone has something to teach or offer me.

2 – There’s something valuable in every challenge.

3 – Even if I don’t have what I want, I’m fortunate to have what I need.

4 – The “little things” are the big things.

5 – I don’t have to have it all or do it all to be happy.

6 – Everyone’s blessings are different, and that’s okay.

7 – Things can – and will – change.

8 – It could always be worse.

9 – Life itself is a gift.


The Glasser biography – Champion of Choice – can be a great holiday gift! Get copies through Amazon and through the Glasser bookstore. Get signed copies from me at

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser's ideas and his career.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser’s ideas and his career.

A.I. vs R.I.

The buzz over artificial intelligence, a topic that until recently only ultra-techies cared about, has hit the mainstream media big time! The buzz is actually well-deserved. Once the stuff of science fiction (e.g.- HAL, the computer in 2001: A Space Odysey; C3PO and R2D2, the droids in Star Wars; Ava in Ex Machina; Sonny in I, Robot: and Wall-E in, well, Wall-E), artificial intelligence (AI) is entering our everyday lives in breathtaking ways and at breathtaking speeds. Examples include self-driving cars, machines that can do everything from performing surgeries to building cars, drones that can deliver packages, and on-line assistance for just about anything you need (think Siri). We are no longer surprised by what computers and machines can do. Even the sky seems not to be the limit.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Star Wars (1977)

Star Wars (1977)

Wall-E (2008)

Wall-E (2008)

In spite of the impressiveness of these developments, some experts would say that they are not examples of AI at all, but instead are software running comprehensive “if/then” programs. Computers are capable of amazing feats when enough if/then commands at their disposal, even driving a car. Universities like Stanford and MIT, funded by huge grants, are in pursuit of true artificial intelligence, yet no breakthroughs have happened yet. “While there has been progress on autonomic functions,” one expert admits, “real artificial intelligence progress has been disappointing and limited.” None-the-less the lure of AI is so strong that newcomers are jumping on the bandwagon on a regular basis. Just this month Toyota announced a five year, $1 billion dollar AI research and development effort headquartered in Silicon Valley.

Google's self-driving car

Google’s self-driving car

Amazon drone prototype

Amazon drone prototype

With so much attention being given to artificial intelligence, though, it is interesting how little we talk about real intelligence. If A.I. is more and more impressive the closer it gets to R.I., why aren’t we just as impressed, if not more impressed, with the real thing? We’re all abuzz about the artificial, the “fake”, when the real is all around us, in fact, inside of us!

Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.
Genesis 1:26

It is incredible when you think about the attributes of real intelligence – individuality, the power to think and not merely reflect, to create, to weigh evidence, the power to choose, and even the power to yield or withhold obedience – that God actually created us with this amazing level of freedom! Whether creating us with intelligence and freedom in the first place or dying to preserve our freedom on the Cross, God has always been about freedom.

It would have been simpler for Him to create robots with “if/then” programs designed to respond to external circumstances. But such a design would not accurately reflect His character. The little book Steps to Christ explains that –

The government of God is not, as Satan would make it appear, founded upon a blind submission, an unreasoning control. It appeals to the intellect and conscience. “Come now, and let us reason together” is the Creator’s invitation to the beings He has made. Isaiah 1:18 God does not force the will of His creatures. He cannot accept a homage that is not willingly and intelligently given. A mere forced submission would prevent all real development of mind or character; it would make man a mere automaton. p. 27

I cannot claim that choice theory is a perfect explanation of how God designed us. I can say that choice theory is the best explanation of human behavior that I have come upon to this point in my life. And while choice theory was not developed with God in mind, it loses none of its clarity when studied through the lens of Scripture or the Spirit of Prophecy.

Screenshot 2015-11-21 18.24.54

Whether from a secular perspective and current therapeutic theories and research studies, or from a moral perspective and the character of God, choice theory offers insights into what makes us tick and why we do what we do. Ultimately, for me, choice theory underscores the importance of choice and freedom. On both a personal and professional level I want to do better and better at living in alignment with those values.

Even though artificial intelligence is artificial it is still pretty cool. It’s impressive what programmed machines can do. Let’s not let being enamored with the artificial, though, distract us from being amazed and appreciative of the REAL.


It was so good to spend time this past week with the educational administrators of the Lake Union Conference of SDA’s in Berrien Springs, Michigan, just down the road from Andrews University. Welcome to those of you who signed up to be a part of The Better Plan blog!


If you have read and enjoyed Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Educators, why not take a moment and write a review on Amazon. Such testimonies go a long way toward alerting others to the book’s message. Thanks.

Young, Future Teachers “Get It” When It Comes to Choice Theory

Ethical Dimensions class in action.

Ethical Dimensions class in action.

We hear from two of my students in today’s blog post. They both are candidates in the teacher credential program at Pacific Union College, and are enrolled in Ethical Dimensions of Teaching and Learning, a course I teach during Fall quarter. One of the short essays represents a creative response to a chapter on Fearing in Ted Sizer’s book, The Students Are Watching. The other two are pretend Diary Entries in response to reading the chapter on Being and Becoming in the book, Soul Shapers. The Sizer book does not overtly refer to Glasser or choice theory, yet students in our Education program are more and more coming into a deeper understanding of choice theory principles and it shows up in their writing. The Soul Shaper book is an introduction to choice theory for teachers and parents.

Each of the cards have responses on the other side. (A student creation from Ethical Dimensions.)

Each of the cards have responses on the other side. (A student creation from Ethical Dimensions.)

The actual assignment for chapter four in Soul Shapers went like this –
After reading the chapter on Being and Becoming, pretend you are an experienced teacher that has taught in traditional, controlling ways, and write a Dear Diary entry revealing his/her thinking as they begin to see the implications of their current teaching strategies. Remember to weave key chapter points into your entry.

From Ashley –

Dear Diary,
There are days when I am just so frustrated with the behavior of students in my classroom. There are times when I feel myself repeating over and over for someone to “sit down” or “stop talking.” I try warnings and consequences. Some students have just accepted that they will sit out recess or run extra laps. I’m pretty sure some of the boys have even made it a competition to see who can get the most laps in one day. I take away privileges and have talked to some of their parents. Why can’t they just listen? I guess that is where I need to start.
While I wonder why they repeat bad behavior over and over, the better question, though, is why are they even doing it in the first place? I am always so focused on punishing bad behavior sometimes that I forget to get to the source of the problem. If I could figure out why they are misbehaving, I can come up with a better strategy for solving it.
I also need to stop focusing only on my students, and maybe focus on myself as well. I admit that my attitude has a huge impact on the attitude of my students. Are there days when I just want to pack up and go home early? Of course. Do I do it? Of course not. But when I choose to stay, do I also choose to change my attitude? I care about each and every one of my students, but do they know that? If I want to create an environment where my students care about each other, I need to set that tone in the classroom. If I expect respect, I better be willing to respect my students. It isn’t always about them being a problem; it often times is about me and how I am as a model.
As a model, I also need to act in the way I want them to become. If I want them to write neatly, I need to write neatly. If I want them to keep a clean classroom, then I need to keep a clean desk area. My goal is to guide them on their journey to becoming respectable adults who are accountable for themselves, and in order to do so, I have to be one.
So next time someone acts up I need to take a breath, think about my attitude, and try to understand why there is an issue. If I can convey to the students that I am trying to work with them and not against them, so many battles will be avoided and my job as an educator can only get better. With patience and prayer, I got this.

One of the key themes in chapter four is the idea that as teachers (and parents) we need to BE what we want our students to BECOME. Ashley’s Diary Entry captures the angst a teacher feels as she searches for clues and insights on how to accomplish it.

BEing what we want our students to BECOME.

Lenny’s Diary Entry captures the difficulty of letting go of what feels like control, as well as where such a focus leads –

Dear Diary,
I don’t know what to do. I feel like a failure. I love what I do, I love working with children, teaching them and mentoring them, but it’s not working. There’s something that happens in someone’s heart when the children they love don’t respond to them in kind. I know they’re not mine biologically, but they’re mine all the same. I love them all, but one in particular stands out. Ethan.
Today started out normally, adhering to the strict schedule created for optimal efficiency. I believe that for students who struggle to learn, the only way to move past it is efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. It’s simple math; the more information I can get to them, the more information they will retain. There are simple rules that need to be followed to reach the highest possible level of efficiency: silence, stillness, and focus. All it takes is a little discipline. Ethan, however, has a hard time staying still. And in the process of not being still, he breaks the silence, which in turn ruins the focus of the class. I don’t know what got into me, but today was the last straw. All I want to do is help him. I love him. But he won’t let me help him. He won’t listen. He won’t stay still. The others can do it, why can’t he? Perhaps I went too far. He was so angry, so embarrassed. All that work, all that progress, I feel like it was for nothing.
I must not falter. It is my responsibility to hold him accountable, no matter how he feels about me. I know what is best. I’m the teacher. I know what is best. Sometimes a thing must be broken to be put back together again, correctly. It will hurt me as much as it will hurt him, but I will break him. I have to.

I gave this Diary Entry full credit and added, “A compelling read. You capture conviction and determination. Yet in the end so sad. For all involved. Wow!

It is sad when teachers get caught up in thinking based on “I’m going to win” or “I’m gonna control this kid.” When we are tempted to go there I hope we can remember the axiom that You Gain Power As You Give It Away!

A total behavior car made from a paper towel tube. (Created for one of the Ethical Dimensions assignments.)

A total behavior car made from a paper towel tube. (Created for one of the Ethical Dimensions assignments.)

The Sizer chapter talked about schools and teachers using fear to motivate students. The assignment went like this –
After reading the chapter on Fearing, and in the tradition of The Breakfast Club (1985), write a one-page essay on the use of fear in school. Write the essay in 1st person voice from the perspective of a high school student. Creatively weave at least two elements from the chapter into your essay.

Once again we hear from Lenny on the topic of fear in school –

They tell me that they are here to help me. They tell me they care about me and about my future. Some even say that they love me. But that is not what I see. What I see is a system designed to keep me in my “place”. This system is creating unrealistic standards for me to meet in order to motivate me to keep working harder and faster. They treat me like a donkey with a stick tied to my back and a carrot dangling in front of me. They say it’s for my own good, the hours and hours of studying. But I see through them. I know what’s really going on.
The fear they are creating in me and my peers is their natural response to the fear within themselves. Their fear of failure as a teacher. Unlike other professions, a teacher’s success is abstract. They do not produce anything concrete, anything palpable, anything visible to the human eye. There is nothing to be inspected. Their success as a teacher is tied inexorably with the success of their students. Of my friends. My success is their success. My failure is their failure. When I falter, they falter. They feel the same fear I feel when they set unreasonable goals as a means of motivation. As a means of striking fear into the hearts of their students.
The irony of course is that both fears are paralyzing. If they would just relax and treat us like human beings instead of a means of personal success or failure, everything would run so much smoother. We would have attainable goals and feel better about ourselves, and as the teacher of a successful class, they in turn would feel better about themselves.
But until then, I will not subscribe to their methods of control. I will do what I must to break the chain. I am the student, they are the teachers. It is not my job to placate their fear, it is theirs to placate mine. So until they figure it out how to do their jobs, I refuse to do mine.

I wish you could read all of the papers for these two assignments and get caught up in the joy of seeing candidates like these move ever closer to having their own classrooms. I am privileged to see every day the beliefs and talents of the young teachers about to take their place on the stage of the educational system. These short essays (remember they are pretend responses to a hypothetical prompt) are examples of their insight, which I hope will prompt and provoke your choice theory thinking. Blessings!


If you find it difficult to get a copy of Soul Shapers, let me know and I will quickly ship a copy to you.

Choice theory from a unique perspective. Original and practical.

Choice theory from a unique perspective. Original and practical.

A Gun and Winter Survival


With so much attention being centered on guns, my mind recalled a group exercise in which I participated years ago. I was completing a degree in Educational Leadership and the exercise was meant to “compare the effectiveness of five different methods of group decision-making.”* The exercise, which placed group members in a hypothetical survival scenario, revealed the communication habits of not only groups, but also specific members within the group. Our focus today, though, will be less on the communication patterns and more on the survival scenario on which the exercise was based.

After organizing the groups (and each group is given a unique set of instructions) the following scenario is distributed –

You have just crash-landed in the woods of northern Minnesota and southern Manitoba. It is 11:32 am in mid-January. The light plane in which you were traveling crashed on a lake. The pilot and copilot were killed. Shortly after the crash the plane sank completely into the lake with pilot’s and copilot’s bodies inside. None of you is seriously injured and you are all dry.

The crash came suddenly, before the pilot had time to radio for help or inform anyone of your position. Since your pilot was trying to avoid a storm, you know the plane was considerably off course. The pilot announced shortly before the crash that you were twenty miles northwest of a small town that is the nearest known habitation.

You are in a wilderness area made up of thick woods broken by many lakes and streams. The snow depth varies from above the ankles in windswept areas to knee-deep where it has drifted. The weather report indicated that the temperature would reach minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime and minus 40 at night. There is plenty of dead wood and twigs in the immediate area. You are dressed in winter clothing appropriate for city wear – suits, pantsuits, street shoes, and overcoats.

While escaping from the plane, several members of your group salvaged twelve items. Your task is to rank these items according to their importance to your survival, starting with 1 for the most important item and ending with 12 for the least important one.

You may assume that the number of passengers is the same as the number of persons in your group and that the group has agreed to stick together.


The items to be prioritized are as follows:

______ ball of steel wool
______ newspapers (one per person)
______ compass
______ hand ax
______ cigarette lighter (without fluid)
______ loaded .45-caliber pistol
______ sectional air map made of plastic
______ 20-ft by 20-ft piece of heavy-duty canvas
______ extra shirt and pants for each survivor
______ can of shortening
______ quart of 100-proof whiskey
______ family-size chocolate bar (one per person)

Ok, so your task is to rank these from 1-12, from most important to least important. Think, too, about how you would defend your rankings to your fellow group members. (One way to do the activity is to have individuals complete the ranking and then have the group complete a group ranking. The group score needs to be the same for each group member. Each member then compares his individual ranking and group ranking to the answer sheet, noting the numerical difference between their scores and the right score. For example, if Joe lists the compass as #1, and it turns out to be ranked #12, that would be a difference of 11. If the group ranks the compass at #9, the difference then would be 3. Like golf you want the lowest score possible. When the score sheets are all completed, with the differences noted, you can begin to see how well the group functioned.)



Welcome back. You’ve finished your ranking scores, right?

Fortunately, a small expert panel weighed in on how to prioritize the items, along with a rationale for their ranking. There are surprises, but that is part of the fun of the exercise.

For instance, the top three items in order of their importance are –

+ the cigarette lighter
+ the ball of steel wool
+ and the extra shirt and pants for each survivor

The gravest danger to the group is exposure to the cold; therefore the greatest need is creating a source of warmth. The lighter, even without fluid, is essential in that it can still create sparks. The steel wool is the best substance to catch a spark and support a flame. The second greatest need is for signaling devices. According to survival experts, the importance of the rest of the items on the list would be in the following order –

+ the can of shortening (the lid would be an excellent reflector)
+ the large piece of canvas
+ the hand ax
+ the chocolate bars
+ the newspapers
+ the loaded pistol
+ the bottle of whiskey
+ the sectional map
+ the compass

It is interesting to me that the loaded gun appears toward the bottom of the list. It has some value as a signaling device, and the gunpowder from the shells could help in starting a fire, but these advantages are significantly outweighed by the danger a loaded gun contributes to the dynamics of the group.

Surviving a plane crash in a life-threatening environment, especially with two people killed in the crash, is traumatic. With people in shock, clear-headedness and reasoning may be all that stands between life or death. The gun represents quick access to power and control, not good when the group needs to work together to survive. As the group waits to be rescued, members will need to deal with fear, anger, irritability, and even lapses in rationality. The presence of the gun brings a substantial danger to the group under these circumstances.

It seems to me that guns bring a similar level of danger to the everyday situations across the country in which fear, anger, or irritability are present.


The Winter Survival Exercise is an excellent activity from which individuals and groups can learn to communicate more effectively. Why do some people try to force their wrong answers on others? Why do others with the correct answers silently sit in the background? On what basis do we allow some to influence us, while we ignore others? These are important questions that can be addressed within the choice theory classroom. There are many such exercises. Others include Stranded in the Desert, Lost on the Moon, and Lost at Sea. Each of them are based on the same group format.

* All quotes in this post, as well as all of the specific material related to the Winter Survival Exercise, have been taken from David and Roger Johnson’s classic book, Joining Together: Group Theory and Group Skills (1994).


Reading Glasser’s biography is one of the best ways to learn about choice theory. Access an electronic version of the book ($10) here. Access a hard copy of the book through Amazon by clicking this link. Or you can get in touch with me at for an autographed copy of the book.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser's ideas and his career.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser’s ideas and his career.


Launching Better Versions of Ourselves

(Image by Karen Gately)

(Image by Karen Gately)

One of the great gifts we can share with students is to help them develop an awareness of their own identity and purpose. How we answer the question Who am I? is important to all of us.

The Who Am I? project idea is a great way for students to explore ideas related to their own purpose and identity. Their quality world pictures, like a finished jigsaw puzzle, will provide them with clues about what they value and who they are becoming. The project is powerful, even though the directions are very simple.



+ Provide students with a sheet of poster paper. Bigger is better.

+ Explain that they will be creating a personal collage of pictures that in some way answer the following questions –

What motivates me?

What are my best abilities?

How do peers influence me?

When am I at my best?

Who are my best sources of help?

How can I do more of what will best help me to succeed?

+ They can cut out pictures from old magazines or take original pictures themselves that give clues to the answers for these questions.

+ They can also cut out words from headlines and advertisements that can add to the message they are trying to convey.

+ The pictures and words can then be taped or glued onto the poster. Encourage them to arrange the pictures strategically in some way.

+ Finished posters can form the basis for brief student presentations and then be displayed afterwards.

I walked on this trail to work yesterday, a picture I would include in my own Who Am I? collage.

I walked on this trail to work yesterday, a picture I would include in my own Who Am I? collage.

The Who Am I? project is a great, but simple way to introduce (or maintain) choice theory into the classroom! Our quality world pictures are important to us and being able to focus on them is a pleasure to people of all ages. The collage process also gives teachers a reason to talk about the concept of the quality world with students. Another important choice theory principle is the process of self-evaluation, which is what answering these questions is all about.

Another process that can help with identity and purpose is journaling. For instance, how could you use the following writing prompts?

+ I used to be .   .   .   but now I am .   .   .

+ I used to think .   .   .   but now I think .   .   .

You can even add to the prompts for even more helpful focus. For instance –

+ I used to think that trying does not matter, but now I think .   .   .

+ I used to think that school was pointless, but now I think .   .   .

+ I used to be afraid of what others think, but now I am .   .   .

Again, this takes a common classroom activity and infuses it with some choice theory opportunities. There are many ways throughout the day that we can help students understand their own identity and purpose better. Keep in mind, too, that positive change always comes out of a strength area, not by focusing on eliminating a weakness. This goes for us adults as well. It is from our strengths that we launch better versions of ourselves!

(Inspired by and adopted from an excellent Edutopia blog by Maurice Elias on Helping Students Start the Year with a Positive Mindset.)


Get to know the architect of choice theory, and a lot more about choice theory in the process, by checking out his biography. Click here to link to Amazon books.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser's ideas and his career.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser’s ideas and his career.

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