Posts tagged “choice theory

We Will Get Through This Together

The picture of the Middletown sign burning last weekend became one of the iconic photos that captured the seriousness of the Valley Fire and its effect on the towns of Cobb, Middletown, and Hidden Valley Lake. I shared it in my last blog (The Valley Fire and Fitting Your Life Into a Car) for that very reason.

The picture that came to represent the devastation of Middletown during the first night of the fire.

The picture that came to represent the devastation of Middletown during the first night of the fire.

It turns out that this very sign (which I had forgotten) is located directly in front of the Middletown Seventh-day Adventist church and school. Early reports indicated that the church and school were lost in the fire (maybe because people saw what happened to the sign), but now we know that quite the opposite is true. A video taken a couple of days after the fire had passed through the area shows that while everything around the church and school property (and I mean right up to the property line) was charred black, other than a pump house for the water, neither the church or school was damaged. (The video on Facebook has gone viral with over 188,000 views at the time of this writing.)

Middletown SDA School, taken before the fire. Things around it look different, but the school looks the same.

Middletown SDA School, taken before the fire. Things around it look different, but the school looks the same.

Besides “favoriting” the video, many have shared comments along the lines that God and His angels prevented the fire from coming any further, and that they are praising God for His selective protection. I don’t think these comments are exclusively from SDAs. I had a sense they are from the greater Christian community. I am starting to notice other comments that are reacting to this view with concern and even disgust. At least three people were killed in the fire and close to 600 homes have been destroyed (I am close to some of the people who lost their homes and I know them to be friends of God). Are we to assume that God didn’t send His angels to protect them?

Posters like these abound, but are they accurate?

Posters like these abound, but are they accurate?

I don’t presume to understand or to be able to explain God’s involvement in our affairs. There seem to be “rules of engagement” that affect even Him. For millennia people have tended to believe that God is responsible for everything that happens, but I don’t see it that way. (Examples of this way of thinking can be found in Luke 13:4 where people wondered if 18 people who died when a tower fell on them were worse sinners, and in John 9:2 where people wondered if a man had been born blind because of his own sins or because of his parents’ sins.) I am convinced that God aches with each of our hurts and losses and that He has a way of comforting and strengthening and fixing that is incredible. I am also convinced that it is important to keep two things in mind –

One: Our planet is struggling through the effects of sin. The rebellion that began in heaven (of all places) got a foothold on earth (thanks to our ancestors’ choices) and the results have been awful. Manmade things wear out and break, leading to hurt and death, and even nature itself seems to be falling apart.

And Two: We are a planet marked by free will and personal choice. God designed us with free will and He has gone to great lengths to preserve our choice power. This power is awesome when people use it for good and terrible when they use it selfishly. (Choice theory appears to me to be a part of God’s original design.)

My own belief is that from the minute the fire began God started working miraculously on people’s behalf. I don’t presume to know how or where that exactly happened, but that is my sense. Sin and its architect want to destroy; God wants to protect and heal.

One thing that is apparent, as people affected by the fire begin to pick up the pieces of their lives, is the incredible outpouring of support and donations by the public. May that outpouring become a deluge of services, things, and money! May our mantra be We Will Get Through This Together!

We Will Get Through This Together

PS – I am glad that the Middletown church and school were not destroyed by the fire and I hope that they become a place of even greater service and support for their community, rather than in any way smugly coming across like God protected them while not protecting others.

What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?

Mary Harris Jones, who came to be known as Mother Jones, was an Irish-American trade union activist and a child labor opponent. The Mother Jones magazine was named after her and is know for its journalism to inform a more just and caring world.

Mary Harris Jones, who came to be known as Mother Jones, was an Irish-American trade union activist and a child labor opponent. The Mother Jones magazine was named after her and is know for its journalism to inform a more just and caring world.

A recent article in Mother Jones explains that negative consequences and punishment just make bad behavior worse. The following link allows you to check out their explanations for yourself.

What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?

The article was a good read for me, thought-provoking, not reflecting my views in every detail, but overall very much reflecting the principles of choice theory. What follows are some of the key points the article makes, which may provide you a shortcut to hearing what the article has to say.


School-to-Prison Pipeline
Chronic trouble-makers at school all too often become involved in the court system, which all too often leads to a lifetime of incarceration. The expression school-to-prison pipeline has become more common in the literature as data consistently exposes the connection between misbehavior at school and the criminal justice system later in life. This school to prison connection is especially significant with Hispanic and African American students. The article makes the point that “Teachers and administrators still rely overwhelmingly on outdated systems of reward and punishment, using everything from red-yellow-green cards, behavior charts, and prizes to suspensions and expulsions.” (In 2011-2012, records indicate that 130,000 students were expelled in the U.S., 7,000,000 were suspended; and 250,000 received some form of corporal punishment, even though only 25 of the 50 states still allow it.) The article emphasizes that external control responses to student misbehaviors may appear to gain momentary peace, but in the long run these strategies make the problem worse.


Consequences Have Consequences
Ed Deci’s research (Univ. of Rochester) has found that “teachers who aim to control students’ behavior, rather than helping them control it themselves, undermine the very elements that are essential for motivation – autonomy, a sense of competence, and a capacity to relate to others.” (To a choice theorist that sounds like Freedom, Power, and Love & Belonging.)
Carol Dweck (Stanford) has “demonstrated that rewards-even gold stars-can erode children’s motivation and performance by shifting the focus to what the teacher things, rather than the intrinsic rewards for learning.”

Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset, whose research is having a growing impact across the US and beyond.

Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset, whose research is having a growing impact across the US and beyond.

Harshest Treatments for the Most Challenging
We consistently treat students as if they don’t want to behave when maybe it isn’t that at all. Maybe they don’t have the tools to take in a social setting and respond appropriately, or to be aware of their own emotions and manage them in a way that works for them and others. It turns out there is now an entire population of kids who are “overcorrected, overdirected, and overpunished. They have habituated to punishment.”

Focusing On the Real Problem, Rather Than Punishing
Talking with students and really listening to them, in fact, helping them to communicate what the real problem is can be incredibly meaningful in the life of that child. As our attention shifts from to “meeting a student’s needs to simply trying to control their behavior,” the results are tangible and profound.


The Goal Is Self-Control
Students can be taught to create a personal success plan for any of the challenges or misbehaviors at school. Their plan, then, isn’t something imposed on them by someone else, like a teacher, but instead is something they have thought through and developed. The teacher can be a resource during the process, but isn’t there to make the child do something.

Making Things Worse
Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child and Lost at School, as well as the founder of the non-profit Lives in the Balance, has been an advocate for students who misbehave to be treated differently. “Behaviorally challenging kids,” he says, “are still poorly understood and are still being treated in ways that are adversarial, reactive, punitive, unilateral, ineffective, and counterproductive. Not only are we not helping, we are going about doing things in ways that make things worse. Then what you have to show for it is a whole lot of alienated, hopeless, sometimes aggressive, sometimes violent kids.”
Greene was initially trained in the Skinner method of behavior modification, but his early work led him to question what he was trying to do.

Dr. Ross Greene

Dr. Ross Greene

Things Can Get Better
Brains are changeable. Students can learn new skills and tactics that affect their own behavior and motivation. Positive relationships are one of the key factors contributing to this kind of change. Prison guards at Long Creek Youth Development Center, a correctional facility in Portland, Maine, complained after receiving training in Greene’s methods, but they changed their minds as they attitudes change and recidivism rates plummet. One guard said later, “I wish we had done this sooner. I don’t have the bruises, my muscles aren’t strained from wrestling, and I really feel like accomplished something.”

Focus On the Difference You Can Make At School
Educators can be quick to blame the students’ homes for the students’ inability to perform at school. Greene points out that this focus is fruitless. What teachers can do is focus on the six hours they have students under their influence during the school day. Glasser would certainly agree with that! He learned from the girls at the Ventura School for troubled teenagers that their getting involved with the criminal system and eventually getting into prison wasn’t because of their poor homes. The girls explained that their homes might not have been that great, but they weren’t necessarily that terrible either. What got them on the road to real trouble, they said, was when they failed at school and then dropped out. That’s what put them on the streets, which then led to their collision with the juvenile court system.

So, what if everything you knew about disciplining kids was wrong? It’s possible to change. A growing number of educators are seeking more humane ways to work with students, especially those students who misbehave. The ship is turning as more schools pursue beliefs and strategies like those of Glasser’s Choice Theory and Greene’s Collaborative and Proactive Solutions. I’m glad you’re a part of the journey!



I’ve been in Bermuda since last Wednesday, and had the privilege of presenting choice theory concepts to the staff of the Bermuda Institute of Seventh-day Adventists, a 12 grade school on the island. It is an impressive operation, reminding me a little bit of the schools I visited in Beirut, Lebanon. They are a team of incredibly committed educators and I wish them the best as they begin the new school year on Monday! I hope to stay in touch with them in the future, this blogsite being one of the easy ways to do just that.


New copies of Soul Shapers are now being published by the Pacific Press, instead of the Review & Herald. The quick copies that were created for the recent Atlantic Union in-service sported a simpler cover (no graphic of a heart-shaped cookie cutter), yet I think the content of the book remains the same. Some of you were getting in touch with me because you were unable to find copies anywhere. Hopefully, that problem is solved now.

This original cover may be a thing of the past. We'll see what the Pacific Press does with the book.

This original cover may be a thing of the past. We’ll see what the Pacific Press does with the book.

Top Five Deathbed Regrets


In a thought-provoking article posted on The Unbounded Spirit, a nurse, Bronnie Ware, shares the top five regrets that people talk about on their deathbeds. These five regrets represent what many people would want to change if they could get another shot at life. For those of us not on our deathbeds, could these regrets instead represent how to begin living right now? Why wait until our deathbed to regret not living life authentically, lovingly, and happily? There is a lot of good choice theory lurking in what follows. Take it away, Bonnie Ware –

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.


When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

One – I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself — not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try to honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.


Two – I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

Three – I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.


Four – I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

Five – I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice!  It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly, and choose happiness.


Met wonderful new friends today at The Better Plan in-service at the Atlantic Union teacher meetings in Lancaster, Massachusetts. We continue here tomorrow, and then on to the Bermuda Conference on Wednesday.

What Would You Fight For?

What do you hate so much you could fight someone over it?

The question is stark, to the point, in your face. What do you hate enough to fight against it? Government that favors the rich? A bully who takes advantage of the marginalized? A dog trapped in a locked, hot car?


This question does a couple of things. It causes us to actually consider what is important enough for us to fight for, and it leads us to identify or more strongly embrace our purpose.

I believe the need for purpose is one of the basic needs of life. When our purpose is clear we are full of direction and energy, and eager to attack the day and whatever it brings. When our purpose is unclear or missing we feel confused, discouraged, and lacking in confidence to overcome even normal obstacles.


A well-crafted question that helps us self-evaluate is very much a part of choice theory. Choice theory is about how humans are internally motivated and controlled, and questions invite us to evaluate our own inner thinking and values. The importance of questions may be why I was drawn to a recent article entitled, Six Simple Questions To Help You Discover Your Purpose.* Toby Nwazor, the author of the article points out how fortunate people are to really know their purpose, but how many seem to go through life wondering what they were born to do. “The quest to give meaning to our lives is a universal one. It is a deep yearning with no respect for age, color or social background.”

+ For more good question ideas, check out 45 Absolutely Great Questions+

“So how do we discover,” Nwazor continued, “what we are supposed to do with our lives? In my opinion it is not rocket science. To discover the important things we are supposed to do with our lives, all we need to do is answer these honest and simple questions.” And with that in mind here are the six questions, along with an occasional choice theory comment –

One – What do you hate so much you could fight someone for it?
Pay attention to the things that you choose to anger about. Maybe there is an “activist” inside of you that you have been dousing or deflecting, not realizing it might have something to do with your deeper purpose.

Two – What do you dream about?
What are the things you keep imagining yourself doing? It could be that others don’t share or believe in your dream, but if it won’t go away maybe you should pay attention to it.

Three – What makes you feel most alive?
It is interesting how when we are doing something that fulfills our purpose in life, the task or job is re-charging us rather than draining us. We can be working really hard, putting in long hours, thinking about nothing else as we wake up or go to sleep, yet we can feel like we are in a zone of creativity and energy. What do we think about, not because the pay is good, but because we just can’t help it?

Four – What are you naturally gifted at?
The list of possibilities are endless, but I am confident that each of us is gifted in something. Maybe others have even noticed and affirmed a special gift you possess.

Five – Where do you make the most difference?
What are things you do that seem to be the most appreciated and affirmed by others? These things can be pointers to your purpose.

Six – What have you always wanted to do?
Bucket lists are popular because they represent things we want to do or places we want to visit. More than if we want to visit the Grand Canyon or ride a zip line in Costa Rica, though, this question represents our ultimate bucket list. It’s less about what you want to do and more about who you want to be!

+ Do you have purpose questions to add to this list? Share them with the rest of us by using the Reply feature. +

The quest for purpose is as real as any of the needs we strive to meet each day. When our purpose need is being met it contributes to the other psychological needs being met, too. This may be because our sense of purpose has so much to do with our identity. If it feels like you are on a lifelong quest to find your purpose, don’t get discouraged. Our search for purpose and meaning is ongoing. As with the other basic needs the strength of our need for purpose doesn’t change. How we meet the need at different stages of our life does change.

+ Another great list of questions can be found in the post, 25 Ways to Ask Your Kids “How Was School Today?” +

what is my purpose - spiritual and philosophical question in vintage wooden letterpress printing blocks isolated on white

* The original article can be found at

Me Management

A role play during The Better Plan 2 class, which just ended yesterday.

A role play during The Better Plan 2 class, which just ended yesterday.

I am getting more requests to share The Better Plan with principal and teacher groups. The invitation follows a similar pattern – someone reads the Soul Shapers book, or hears me giving a short talk somewhere, and they ask their principal or superintendent if my sharing The Better Plan in their neck of the woods could be arranged. The person doing the inviting, the superintendent or director, may not have read Soul Shapers, yet here they are about to give the hearts and minds of their educators to someone they don’t know much about. And so I get asked, “Now what is it you present?”

Classroom clean-up almost done following The Better Plan 2 class. It has been a very meaningful week.

Classroom clean-up almost done following The Better Plan 2 class. It has been a very meaningful week.

I was actually responding to an invitation this past week at the same time that The Better Plan 1 class was in session. So I explained the situation to them and asked them to write a half page on what they saw as the essence of The Better Plan. They were asked to write to one of the following prompts:

The Better Plan is –
What I learned from The Better Plan is –

Their responses, which appear below, are instructive and invitational to each of us.

The Better Plan is about empowering individuals to choose. Unlike a classroom management class, which focuses on children being better controlled by the adult, I actually found it to be a me-management class. It makes a case for abandoning traditional methods and embarking on a new adventure – an adventure of becoming what we want our students to become.   Karie

What I learned from attending The Better Plan is that although we have been engrained with external control, we actually were created with free will. Choice theory, it turns out, compliments the way we are wired.     Lisa

What I have learned from The Better Plan is how to be more inclusive of others’ Quality World. I have learned that we have certain biases that cannot be avoided, because of how we view the real world through the lenses and filters we have had through time. Realizing that others also have these biases, and then being willing to explore each others’ perspectives can lead to a better world.   Tammy

Though I am trying to figure out exactly what it means. I do know that it means we choose everything we do, even our misery. Now I am trying to figure how I will apply it to my life and in my classroom. I also understand what it is not. The Better Plan is not coercion or manipulation; it is not the “deadly habits” or external controlling behaviors. So, since I know what it is not, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will strive to not coerce, manipulate, use external control and deadly habits in my life and classroom. Vickie

The Better Plan is a way of thinking about the world, especially when it comes to how we view other people. Primarily aimed at helping those in education professions, it is applicable to all human relationships – marriage, parenting, work settings, and boards. The Better Plan teaches us to understand Choice Theory, which maintains that we can only control ourselves; we cannot control anyone else. To work together effectively, we must seek to develop relationships, rather than attempting to use the “deadly” habits of criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, bribing, or rewarding to control. While these deadly habits are all too common in our family and work relationships, we can begin to practice this Better Plan by intentionally applying Choice Theory practices and continuing to learn and teach what we are learning to those around us.   Brad

What I learned from The Better Plan is that kids learn in many different ways. They think differently than teachers and just because the teacher sees it one way doesn’t mean the student will see it that way, too. In order to reach students, teachers need to involve them in making the learning meaningful. Education must be need-satisfying for students.     Kory

The Better Plan is about inspiring students to be responsible for themselves, to strengthen the many positive qualities they have, and to invite them to live by faith, grow in the Holy Spirit, and choose a life with Christ.   Leslie

What I have learned from The Better Plan is . . . so much. The most powerful part of the whole thing, though, is this – the only person I can control is myself. BAM!!   Krystalynn


It's even hard to erase the white board after The Better Plan 2 class.

It’s even hard to erase the white board after The Better Plan 2 class.

I really like the idea of “me-management” as a way of describing The Better Plan. I like the idea that The Better Plan honors the way in which God originally created us and wired us. I like that it sees the individuality of students and seeks to meet their unique needs. And I especially like that The Better Plan helps each of us grow in the Holy Spirit and choose a life with Christ.

Me Management and the Total Package

So, is The Better Plan about classroom management? I could answer that question with a Yes and I could answer that question with a No. Maybe a better way to ask the question would be “Will The Better Plan affect my classroom management?” The answer to this last version of the question is a resounding Yes! “What’s the difference?” you might be thinking.

When we learn about choice theory and its principles begin to influence our thinking and our behavior, it affects all of our relationships and everything we do. It positively infiltrates every aspect of our lives. It is like wearing a pair of glasses with a color-tinted lens. Everything we see is different than before. Our relationship with Jesus is seen in a new light; our relationships with the significant people in our life are seen differently; and yes, if I am a teacher, the way I manage my classroom will be profoundly and wonderfully affected. More than just a classroom management strategy, The Better Plan is about the total package of our lives!

The Fox and the Chicken Coop

A Robert Whitaker blog title, Psychiatry Through the Lens of Institutional Corruption, recently got my attention.

I first heard of Robert Whitaker when Glasser told me about a book Whitaker wrote called Mad in America. Glasser was particularly excited about the book, which led to me buying the book for myself, and which further led to me strongly agreeing with Glasser’s assessment of it. Mad in America was a really well-written book on the history of mental illness and the bad medicine and science that has attempted to treat it.


My interviews with Glasser, which took place between late 2003 and early 2008, often began with him catching me up on what his latest brainstorm was or what his latest idea for a project was or what article or book had caught his attention. Mad in America was such a book. Glasser’s biography includes several illustrations and quotes from Whitaker’s book as the two men, although not colleagues who had worked together or communicated at all, and although looking at the topic from very different perspectives actually saw mental health in very similar ways.

Robert Whitaker

Robert Whitaker

Whitaker’s Mad in America, published in 2002, and Glasser’s Warning, which came out in 2003, were highly complimentary views on what ailed the mental health industry. Both Whitaker and Glasser saw psychiatry as part of the problem, rather than contributing to the solution. Glasser pointed out in Warning that “The unwillingness of the medical profession to come to grips with the creativity of an unhappy brain costs billions of dollars every year. If we wait for the medical profession to take the lead here, we will wait forever.” Warning took direct aim at psychiatry and at the pharmaceuticals that benefitted from psychiatry’s treatment strategies, but it was a role Glasser didn’t relish. He was more into the good fight of mental health than the bad fight of mental illness. During one of our interviews when I questioned him about not staying in a more aggressive stance, he explained that “I’m damning psychiatry as much as I’m gonna damn it. I’m saying they diagnose diseases that don’t exist, they give drugs that can harm you, and they tell you that you can’t help yourself. That’s about as good as I can do.”


Glasser came to believe that psychiatry was perpetrating a medical fraud on the American people, a belief that Whitaker appears to have arrived at as well. In his 2015 book, Psychiatry Under the Influence, Whitaker writes about his investigation of the American Psychiatric Association through the lens of institutional corruption. Working with Lisa Cosgrove, a professor at UMASS Boston, through a grant to the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, he looked at the bigger picture of the APA’s role in current practice.


“The basic concept of institutional corruption is this,” Whitaker explained. “There are economies of influence that create incentives for behaviors by members of the institution that are antithetical to the institution’s public mission. When this happens, the corrupt behavior may become normative, and even go unrecognized as problematic by those within the institution.”

The year 1980 was significant for the APA in that, due to the 3rd edition of the DSM being published, it became the year in which they created a disease model for diagnosing and treating psychiatric disorders. Once the disease model was adopted, it laid claim to having societal authority over three domains: 1) diagnosis of psychiatric disorders, 2) research into their biological causes, and 3) drug treatments.


1. Diagnosis of psychiatric disorders
2. Research into their biological causes
3. Drug treatments

These domains created economies of influence that included the influence of the pharmaceutical industry, and the influence of psychiatry’s own guild (profession) interests. This guild then had a need to inform the public its diagnoses were valid, that its research was producing an understanding of the biology of psychiatric disorders, and that its drugs were effective. In other words, the psychiatric “fox” was now guarding the psychiatric “chicken coop.”


This is a big deal. “If science supported these stories,” Whitaker points out, “there would be no problem. But if science did not support the stories, then the [psychiatric] guild would be tempted to tell society stories that were out of sync with science and betray its public mission.” This is what is meant by corruption. His investigation was not over whether psychiatric disorders are real, or about the risks vs benefits of psychiatric drugs. Instead, Whitaker’s inquiry focuses on whether the institution is fulfilling its duty to the public.

Whitaker concludes with “The institution of psychiatry, with its disease model, has dramatically changed our society over the past 35 years. It has given us a new philosophy of being, and altered how we view children and teenagers, and their struggles. It has touched every corner of our society, and this societal change has arisen because of a story told to the public that has been shaped by guild and pharmaceutical influences, as opposed to a record of good science. That is the nature of the harm done: our society has organized itself around a ‘corrupt’ narrative.”

This is what Glasser was trying to tell us when he wrote the Warning book. This is why he wanted us to see mental illness as a public health issue centered around education rather than drugs. Using a baseball metaphor, Glasser kept his eye on the ball throughout his career. Writers like Robert Whitaker are helping us keep our eyes on the ball, too.


Click on the book to access the Glasser biography through Amazon.

Quickly order the biography from Amazon. Click on the book to access the Amazon link.

Quickly order the biography from Amazon. Click on the book to access the Amazon link.

Failing Forward

A recent article by Angela Stockman celebrates the incredible value of reflective questions. For teachers, reflective questions at the end of class can bring more effective closure to the learning than a teacher-shared summary ever could.

Think of the benefits of reflection –

  • It challenges us to think deeply about what we have learned.
  • It deepens our ownership of the learning. It makes our learning matter more.
  • It encourages risk-taking and helps us to FAIL FORWARD.
  • It helps us to know ourselves better and to align our actions to our vision.
  • It helps us to identify what we want and what we need to do to help ourselves.
  • It helps us realize our strengths and how they might be used in service to others.

Stockman points out that “Deadlines drive instruction for too much than they should, forcing learners and teachers to value perfection, products, and grades more than the development of softer and perhaps, more significant skills.” Those significant skills develop from the inside-out, rather than from external expectations and pressures. Asking the right questions at the right time tap into that “inside journey,” the journey that choice theory encourages.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

With this inside journey in mind, here are ten examples of reflective questions that can be asked at the end of instruction –

  • Reflect on your thinking, learning, and work today. What are you most proud of?
  • Where did you encounter struggle today, and what did you do to deal with it?
  • What about your thinking, learning, or work today brought you the most satisfaction? Why?
  • What is frustrating you? How do you plan to deal with that frustration?
  • What lessons were learned from failure today?
  • Where did you meet success, and who might benefit most from what you’ve learned along the way? How can you share this with them?
  • What are your next steps? Which of those steps will come easiest? Where will the terrain become rocky? What can you do now to navigate the road ahead with the most success?
  • What made you curious today?
  • How did I help you today? How did I hinder you? What can I do tomorrow to help you more?
  • How did you help the class today? How did you hinder the class today? What can you do tomorrow to help others learn more?

So much about choice theory relies on recognizing the value of and insightfully asking the right questions. Students learn as they begin to organize and make sense of the content at a very personal level. All learning is about creating meaning and understanding. Knowledge isn’t inserted in us from without. It must be created from within. Reflective questions are a wonderful tool that supports that essential process.

* Angela Stockman’s article, Ten Reflective Questions to Ask at the End of Class, can be found on Brilliant of Insane: Education on the Edge website at


Digital versions of Champion of Choice for iPad and Kindle can easily be accessed by clicking HERE.

Now priced at $18.18 on Amazon.

Now priced at $18.18 on Amazon.


John F. Kennedy (1959)

John F. Kennedy (1959)

When you get into choice theory and begin to apply its concepts to your life, you begin to see the world around you through a choice theory lens. Events at work, circumstances at home, and even books you read or movies you watch, prompt you to begin to reflect on them with choice theory in mind.

Teachers are always on the lookout for things and ideas they can use in their classrooms. It is impossible for them to go on a trip or vacation, for instance, without buying stuff to bring back and show their students. So teachers who get into choice theory are on double-duty – one, they are on the lookout for special things they can share, and two, they are on the lookout for ways they can teach the concepts of choice theory.

The group that went to the Sixth Floor Museum - me; Gale Crosby, Supt. of Education, Oregon Conference; Randy Thornton, Principal, Milo Academy; and Dan Nicola, Principal, Portland Adventist Academy.

The group that went to the Sixth Floor Museum – me; Gale Crosby, Supt. of Education, Oregon Conference; Randy Thornton, Principal, Milo Academy; and Dan Nicola, Principal, Portland Adventist Academy.

This happened to me last week when I attended a conference in Dallas, Texas. I presented two breakouts on Leading the Quality School, but on one of the afternoons I had time to go with some friends to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, which is the site from which John F. Kennedy was fatally shot and killed. The museum is very well done – the layout and displays are eye-catching and informative, plus when you enter the museum they provide you with a handheld device and headphones to narrate through the displays.

The museum is a very detailed, powerful, and sobering history lesson. You are reminded of world events that preceded Kennedy’s presidency, the challenges he worked through during his presidency (e.g. Cuban missile crisis), the details of his trip to Texas and the reception he received at each of the scheduled cities, the details of Oswald’s attack, the gut-wrenching funeral procession, and the conspiracy theories that followed. Through audio recordings, informative posters, fascinating photographs, and original film footage, you are brought back to 1963. You can stand in the very corner on the sixth floor from which the fatal shot was fired. You can stand on the grassy knoll that was the subject of so much conspiracy talk.

Taken from the exact spot on which JFK was fatally hit, looking back up to the sixth floor window from which the shot was fired.

Taken from the exact spot on which JFK was fatally hit, looking back up to the sixth floor window from which the shot was fired.

I must admit that actually visiting the Sixth Floor Museum and seeing the distance the fatal shots needed to travel, and actually standing on the sidewalk next to where the limousine was when Kennedy was hit, I find myself wondering if one man could really pull it off.

Taken from the sidewalk next to the grassy knoll; Gale and Dan in the foreground.

Taken from the sidewalk next to the grassy knoll; Gale and Dan in the foreground.

Since the visit, though, like any red-blooded teacher who is into choice theory, I have been wracking my brain over how to use my Sixth Floor Museum visit to teach something about choice theory. I realize that such a lesson or unit would be for high school or maybe middle school. I am very interested in what your thoughts might be on this.

What element or elements of choice theory could be taught from a study of the JFK assassination and the people involved with those events? How can JFK’s death lead to choice theory insights?

Use the Reply space below to share your thoughts. Remember to check the box that allows you to be alerted when anyone responds to your Reply. I look forward to hearing your ideas.


Reading the Glasser biography, Champion of Choice, is one of the best ways to learn about choice theory and we behave the way we do,

Click HERE for an electronic copy for your iPad or Kindle – only $10.

Click HERE for the paperback version.

Now priced at $18.44 on Amazon.

Now priced at $18.44 on Amazon.

Being the Best Me


I really like the February 15 post on the Mental Health & Happiness website. ( Readers were asked to think about how they wanted the world around them to be different – maybe a loved one behaving differently or a circumstance changing. Then readers were asked to think about a world in which everything was indeed as they wanted it – all the changes they preferred had come to be. Sounds good. We’d all sign up for that.


After being asked to reflect on how they would think and feel in this perfect world, readers were then challenged to act as if they actually lived in this world. How would you behave in a world that was just how you wanted it? Do you have a sense of what it would look like to not be burdened with anxiety? How would you enter the house after work if you were happy? Can you imagine how you would be with your friends if you didn’t worry about what they thought of you? How would you act with your spouse if the two of you were best friends and really trusted one another? You get the idea.

So (you probably know where this is going), readers were then challenged to live as if they were actually living in their “perfect” world, challenged to behave as if these pictures were reality. If I have a picture of what it would look like for me to walk in the front door of my house in a happy state of mind, what prevents me from going ahead and doing it?


This collection of thoughts really got my attention for some reason, and I am still thinking about the implications of accepting this view of things. It is empowering to think that I can choose my behavior and that I can literally choose how I show up. In other ways, though, it feels disempowering when I think about not being able to use angering and depressing and sadnessing and headaching as a way to convey my difficult circumstances to others. Could it be that I can enter my house happily, even when I’m in the midst of a difficult circumstance? Could it be that I could talk to my spouse about how I felt about the difficult circumstance without needing to anger or withdraw?


This is such a great Quality World activity. The theory behind the Quality World describes how we place need-satisfying pictures in our heads because this picture in some way helps us to feel better or to feel in control. Once a picture has been placed in our Quality World we go about behaving in a way that will help that picture become a reality. Why not choose to behave in a way that mirrors the world in which you want to live? Pretty cool!


Welcome to those of you from the recent ASDASA conference who are now following The Better Plan blog. The Leading the Quality School breakout sessions went well, I think, and I am excited about the number of Adventist principals and superintendents who are drawn to a choice theory approach to education.

Principals and superintendents – I encourage you to share The Better Plan blog with your teachers and staff. Just have them enter in the URL address bar. It’s that simple. Once at The Better Plan, take a moment to enter your email address on the left hand side of the page and then click on the FOLLOW link. You will get an email asking you to confirm this request.


Signed copies of Soul Shapers or Champion of Choice can be ordered from me. You can also quickly order them through Amazon using the links below. There is also a digital version link for those of you with iPads and Kindles.

 Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Educators

Available new on Amazon from $14.75; used from $5.19.

Available new on Amazon from $14.75; used from $5.19.

William Glasser: Champion of Choice

Now priced at $18.57 on Amazon.

Now priced at $18.44 on Amazon.

Click here for electronic version of Champion of Choice.

Choosing One Thought Over Another


One of choice theory’s strongest and most important concepts is that we have direct control of our thinking and our actions. This is one of the keys of the internal control model.

Megan Milholland-Brooks, English teacher at PUC Prep (the Seventh-day Adventist 9-12 school here in Angwin) recently saw the following slide in a PowerPoint presentation and said that she thought of The Better Plan blog. I have seen this somewhere in my past, however I am glad that she shared it with me, and glad, too, that I can pass it on to you.


This could be made into a great classroom poster, which would remind students about the importance of their thinking.

Since we are on the topic I will share an insight from the book Education that seems to fit here.

Screenshot 2015-02-04 12.59.57

The implications of this element of our human design are huge! For the most part, what we wrestle with or fret over or seek to overcome has everything to do with our thoughts. We really do create the weather in our lives.

I recently saw a powerful description in the little book, Jesus Calling, a meditational book that I have been opening in the morning for several years now. (My iPad version allows me to make notes in the margins and I have started dating my comments from year to year, which helps me see the steps I am taking along the way.) The thought for January 29 begins (remember, this is written as if God is talking to you personally) “I have gifted you with amazing freedom, including the ability to choose the focal point of your mind. Only the crown of My creation has such remarkable capability; this is a sign of being made in My image.”

“I have gifted you with amazing freedom,
including the ability to choose the focal point of your mind.”

As teachers and parents, let’s pass this gift on to our children. In a world filled with so much external control, let’s model and teach our students about internal control. It may require a significant shift in our own lives, but it will be worth it, for us personally and for our students.



Coming soon on The Better Plan — The California legislature will soon be considering a measure to raise the legal cigarette smoking age to 21, up from 18 years of age. How might this be an excellent current issue from which to consider the concepts of choice theory?


Get the eBook version of William Glasser: Champion of Choice, by clicking HERE.

Now priced at $18.51 on Amazon.

Now priced at $18.51 on Amazon.

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