Posts tagged “choice

Glasser Biography Now Available


The Glasser biography has been printed and is now available!

I knew the day would come, and yesterday it did come, as I received from the printer my copies of the finished book! It took longer than I thought it would to go through the editing and publishing process, but that is behind us now.

I am pleased with the look and feel of the book, especially the inside look of the pages. Great font and spacing; it is very readable in that way. Hopefully, you will find it readable in every way.

The first interview I conducted with Glasser took place on September 26, 2003. It’s hard to believe it’s been more than 10 years since that moment we began in his Los Angeles home. I didn’t start out as his biographer. I approached him about my completing a dissertation on the development of his ideas. He agreed and the interviews began.

After our third interview he began referring to our work as his biography project, something I was open to, although I had no clue at the time of the implications of what it would mean to become his biographer. At the 2004 international Glasser conference in Schaumburg, Illinois, he surprised me during the banquet when he officially introduced me as his biographer. I realized then that the project was going to be more than a dissertation.

I presented a copy of my dissertation to Glasser in 2007.

I presented a copy of my dissertation to Glasser in 2007.

We continued interviewing together through 2008, although we talked pretty consistently even after the formal interviews had stopped. He filled in details as I ran into missing pieces of his story. He was always glad to visit about his ideas. The biography project was important to him.

I wish that I could place a copy of his biography in his hands today. I really wanted to do that; I think he wanted that, too. We would have enjoyed holding something so tangible as a representation of all that we had worked on together. And for him, with the book representing his life and work, it would have been even more significant.

The biography is now available, and you would think I would be able to tell you about how to get a copy. But alas, I cannot .  .  . yet. My copies were shipped from a printer in Illinois, although I am pretty sure the printer will have nothing to do with sales and shipping. The publisher is Zeig, Tucker & Theisen Publishing, but as of this morning there is no announcement on their website about the book. I know that Jim Coddington at is going to have information about the biography, but nothing yet there, either.

I will be in touch with the publisher on Monday and will get all of the ordering information, which I will immediately pass on to you.

For now I am enjoying going through the book and re-reading portions of it myself. It has been a while since I have written it so it is like bumping into a good friend who you haven’t seen in a long time. It has been good for me “catching up” with the Glasser story.


GREAT DREAM – Acronym for Happiness


A recent survey of 5,000 people asked them to identify the everyday habits that make them happier. Here are the 10 habits, along with the average rating, on a scale of 1-10, that indicate how often the participants performed each habit.

1. GIVING: do things for others – 7.41

2. RELATING: connect with people – 7.36

3. EXERCISING: take care of your body – 5.88

4. APPRECIATING: notice the world around you – 6.57

5. TRYING OUT: keep learning new things – 6.26

6. DIRECTION: have goals to look forward to – 6.08

7. RESILIENCE: find ways to bounce back – 6.33

8. EMOTION: take a positive approach – 6.74

9. ACCEPTANCE: be comfortable with who you are – 5.56

10. MEANING: be part of something bigger – 6.38

The first letter of each habit spells out GREAT DREAM, which sounds like a good thing, although choosing to engage in any of these habits has been scientifically proven to improve our happiness level. These habits aren’t just a dream, they work.

It is quickly pretty plain that choice theory is embedded throughout this list of habits. Each of them involves a choice, either in the course we set for ourselves as an individual or as a way we respond to setbacks and difficult circumstances.

Glasser felt that happiness is an essential indicator of mental health. In fact, he equated three terms as inextricably linked – choice theory, mental health, and happiness. When you talk about one of these, he felt you were basically talking about the other two at the same time as well.

He also felt it is important to differentiate between happiness and pleasure, with happiness involving something that adds strength to our lives and that often brings us closer to other people, while pleasure involves things that temporarily feel good, but that ultimately weakens us and that threatens or harms our relationships with others.

We all have been designed to desire true happiness, although we too often settle for pleasure instead. The GREAT DREAM list is a good reminder of the tangible decisions we can make that will help us experience real happiness, rather than being addicted to chasing short-term pleasure.


Classroom Application:
+ Define and discuss the idea of true happiness or real happiness.
+ Develop an age-appropriate survey, maybe similar to the GREAT DREAM list of activities, on which your students can indicate the things they do that brings them happiness.
+ Process the responses and discuss the results. (The responses can be processed as a part of Math class; the results can be discussed as a part of Health class, Social Studies, or even Bible class.)
+ As appropriate, have students consider the difference between happiness and pleasure.
+ Help students explore the role of choice in achieving personal happiness.


The Glasser biography has officially gone to the printer. Hopefully, an announcement will be forthcoming soon regarding how to order copies of the book.


Our next Choice Theory Study Group is this coming weekend – March 15.


For more info on the GREAT DREAM survey, go to the PSY BLOG website at –

7 Cardinal Rules for Life


I’ve appreciated the stuff that often is posted by the website at, like the 7 Cardinal Rules for Life that follow here. (What cardinals have to do with rules for life, I’m not sure.) Along with the Rules I share a choice theory response to each of them. (Of note: The Soul Shaper workshop dates for this summer have been set and are listed at the end of the blog.)

7 Cardinal Rules for Life

Rule #1 – Make peace with your past, so it doesn’t spoil your present. Your past does not define your future – your actions and beliefs do.

It would be hard to come up with a more choice theory statement than this one. I think the phrase “make peace with your past” is important. We’re not trying to run from the past, hide from it, cover it, or deny it. We come to desire our joy in the present and realize our need to see the past for whatever it is and, like it says, make peace with it. I like the statement’s emphasis on thinking and acting, too, which supports the idea of every behavior being a total behavior. It really is pretty amazing that we were created to have direct control over what we think and what we do.

Rule #2 – What others think of you is none of your business. It’s how much you value yourself and how important you think you are.

Choice theory emphasizes that the only person we can control is ourselves, but I like how Rule #2 is worded. It is such a debilitating condition to be worried about what others think of you. It is so freeing to let this particular worry go.

Rule #3 – Time heals almost everything, give time, time. Pain will be less hurting. Scars make us who we are; they explain our life and why we are the way we are. They challenge us and force us to be stronger.

I hesitate to write about #3. The topic of wounds, especially emotional and spiritual wounds, is a sacred space to me and deserves a special respect. That said, it is apparent to me that some people allow healing to take place and continue to want to make the best of life, while others seem to want to nurture the hurt and hold onto it.

Rule #4 – No one is the reason for your own happiness, except you yourself. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside.

The world of choice theory is a place of responsibility. A key, though, is that responsibility is something that dawns on a person, rather than it being a message that one person enforces on another. Responsibility functions best when it is like the sun coming up in a person’s life, providing light to see the world in a new light.

Rule #5 – Don’t compare your life with others. You have no idea what their journey is all about. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we would grab ours back as fast as we could.

Comparing our life to that of others traps us in thinking that our happiness depends on our circumstances being different. Or worse, that our happiness depends on our circumstances being better than someone else’s. Choice theory keeps bringing us back to our happiness coming from within, not from without.

Rule #6 – Stop thinking too much. It’s alright not to know the answers. Sometimes there is no answer, not going to be any answer, never has been an answer. That’s the answer! Just accept it, move on, NEXT!

I’ll have to think about this one.

Rule #7 – Smile, you don’t own all the problems in the world. A smile can brighten the darkest day and make life more beautiful. It is a potential curve to turn a life around and set everything straight.

A smile is a choice. Yes, sometimes we laugh as a reflex, but sometimes we just need to choose to smile. And in making that choice, in a small way, the day does get just a little bit better.


Which of the Life Hack Rules do you relate to? Did any of them get you thinking about choice theory ideas? Let me know.

Reminder – Middle School and High School teachers can share the Rules with students and have them respond to them and evaluate them. They can be a great springboard for talking about choice and responsibility. Tie a writing assignment to them. Discuss them in a life skills class.


Important Dates

The Soul Shaper workshop dates for this coming summer at PUC have been set.

Soul Shapers 1 –  June 16-19

Soul Shapers 2 –  June 23-26

If you have questions about the workshops get in touch with me at

We Want to Feel GOOD, Pt. 4

The Good and the Bad

You’d think that feeling good was good for you, but alas, that isn’t always the case. You’d think that the quality world is, in fact, about quality, however again, that may not be so.

I started drinking in ninth grade. My friends were doing it and it was a way to feel like I was a part of the group. I was a bit shy and quieter than the others, but I came out of my shell after a few drinks. Kind of without realizing it I came to depend on alcohol for feeling normal, at least I viewed it as feeling normal. I was an alcoholic by the time I should have been entering college.    Mark

Every human being wants his/her unique set of personal needs to be met. Choice theory explains that when we discover someone or something that is need-satisfying, we place a specific picture of that person or thing or idea or activity in our quality world. As much as possible we want the real world around us to match these pictures in our head. This description of the quality world may sound acceptable and even appropriate, however there is a catch. The catch is this — the quality world is good at storing the need-satisfying pictures that will ultimately guide our lives, but it is not necessarily a good judge of quality. Put simply, it is an amoral storage center.

When I  get home from work after a long day of managing employees and dealing with unhappy customers, I am more than ready for some comfort. Even though I never get home before 6:00 PM, part of my evening ritual includes eating a lot of food that isn’t that good for me. I haven’t even been on this job for a year, yet I am starting to deal with some serious health challenges, not the least of which is a significant weight increase.  Marla

The quality world doesn’t decide what’s good for us. Instead, it identifies the people and things that satisfy one or more of our needs. I have thought about referring to it as the MNM world, which stands for My Needs Met, but the monicker lacks a certain ring. In any case, we put people, things, and behaviors we value, for whatever reason, into our quality world.

I just started high school. My family moved across the country over the summer and everything is new to me. Things still feel unsettled, boxes still to unpack, a community to get to know, and new people to meet. I miss close friends from my old school. My parents seem aware of what I am going through and check in with me every day to see how I am doing. Instead of resenting what some kids would call nosiness, I appreciate my parents interest. I like knowing they’re available if I need them.  Jake

Mark placed alcohol into his quality world. He felt it helped him belong to the group and feel more confident. Instead of really helping him, though, it turned into an addiction that he wrestled with for years. Marla valued food and television in the evening after a day at work. These things didn’t serve her well in the long run, but she very much wanted them every evening when she got home. Jake’s parents are in his quality world, which is great. Apparently, they have stayed connected to Jake without trying to control him. Being there to help without forcing it has led Jake to want their advice. These scenarios are small examples of how Mark, Marla, and Jake are living through their quality worlds.

We decide what pictures go into our quality world. As you can tell, these pictures set the course of our life. It is hard to overstate the significance of these pictures. Fortunately, we can also take pictures out of our quality world. Taking a picture out, especially the picture of someone we love, is not easy, but it can be done. Ultimately, our quality world pictures represent what we want in life.


The phrase – We Want to Feel Good – sounds simple enough, straight-forward, yet it represents a process that is deeper than first meets the eye. We, all of us, every person on the planet is striving to feel good, to feel, as much as possible, like we are in control, even if its only a little bit of control, even if it is merely feeding an addiction. We have a great deal to do with creating an all we want world. In fact, we have very specific pictures of how we want the world around us to look and feel. Speaking of feeling — remember that feelings are the gauge of how we monitor the events in our lives. For some, the feeling mechanism takes on more significance than it deserves, which creates imbalance and unhappiness. We want to feel good, but good doesn’t always mean good. We just want to feel that our needs are being met and sometimes we come up with unhealthy ways to do that.


Encourage a friend or colleague to check out

We WANT to Feel Good, Pt. 2

Refund check

In this post we will cover the WANT part of the phrase – We Want to Feel Good.

The income tax refund sat on the kitchen counter dwarfing the rest of the mail and beckoning for someone to come up with a way to spend it. Jack and Jill Hill, marriage partners for 12 years and the recipients of said check, are each beginning to lock in on a vision for its use. Jack, ever the romantic, envisions a get-away vacation to an exotic location; Jill, on the other hand, envisions something closer to home, like say, a new couch. As they tinkered in the kitchen, part putting groceries away and part putting something together for supper, Jack found himself assuming that Jill’s lack of excitement regarding a trip meant that time together wasn’t important to Jill – in fact, he wasn’t important to her.  At the same time, Jill found herself assuming that Jack didn’t understand that her home was an important reflection of herself.  She wanted it to be beautiful and was embarrassed by the stained, sagging couch they had had since they got married.  Not only does Jack not care about my feelings, he doesn’t really care about me.

One of the ingenious elements of choice theory is a place in our brains called the quality world. Not only ingenious, it may be the most important element of all the pieces that make up the choice theory model. Its genius lies in the simple way it describes the complex process of why we do what we do. Understanding the concept of the quality world, especially our own personal quality worlds, leads to understanding what motivates us.

Ted Miller, who teaches Math at a high school near you, is frustrated that only a few of his 2nd period students seem to care about doing well in his class. Hector is one of those students. It’s like it satisfies a need inside of him when he does well in class. Gavin, on the other hand, is almost the exact opposite. He cuts up and clowns around in class constantly. It’s like .  .  . (a light bulb is about to go on in Ted Miller’s head), it’s like it satisfies a need inside of him when he gets attention for being the clown.

As said before, every person is born with a unique set of basic needs, but unlike many animals, humans do not arrive with a set of instructions as to how to meet those needs. From birth, human beings begin to learn how to meet their need for purpose and meaning, love and belonging, power and achievement, freedom and autonomy, joy and fun, and survival and safety. A behavior that results in a need being met is then stored as a picture in our personal quality world. This picture book is like a scrapbook in our heads in which we store the people, places, activities, beliefs, and things that help us meet one or more of the needs or that brings us a greater feeling of control. We put these behavioral pictures into our mental scrapbooks; we can also take pictures out of our scrapbooks. In other words, this process is purposeful.

Karina just about slams the plastic mixing bowl into a sink already cluttered with other mixing bowls from the supper she has created. She got the idea for a special meal this evening as everyone was headed out the door, scattershot, to school, to work, quick yells of good-by thrown over shoulders, earlier that morning. She planned the menu throughout the day. They needed to be together more as a family she thought. Now, as her husband finished mowing the lawn and her kids lingered in their rooms upstairs, the food was getting cold on a beautifully set table. A dish towel clenched in one hand, a serving spoon clenched in the other, Karina fumed as she pondered how to convey her anger.

It is important to understand that putting and keeping a behavioral picture in our quality world creates a target that we want the events in our lives to hit, or put more accurately, that we want the significant people in our lives to hit on our behalf. Putting a behavioral picture in our quality world is like setting a thermostat for a certain temperature. The thermostat monitors whether or not the desired temperature is present. If it isn’t it sends a signal to a heater or an air conditioner to do their thing. The temperature is the focus; that preset level of cool or warm becomes the target to achieve and maintain. Similarly, by putting a picture in our quality world we have formed a picture of the expected behavior of others, we have formed, at least in our mind, the way events or circumstances must go. Like the thermostat, when our quality world pictures aren’t fulfilled we send a signal to another place in our brain, the behavioral center, to do something about it. This moment, the moment when we are urged to do something often involves us trying to change the behavior of another person so that he or she will show up in a way that matches our preset picture. The behavioral center, though, we will save for another time.

For now, just think about the quality world pictures you have in your own brain. Some of those pictures are wonderful, like a relationship with a grandchild or an accomplishment at work, and lead to personal needs being satisfied. Other of our pictures, though, like expectations we have of a spouse or the way we want other drivers to navigate the road around us, are the cause of a lot of frustration and even anger. When an unmet need is important enough, given time, it can lead to emotional and physical distress. It is easy to get in the habit of thinking that these quality world pictures, these expectations, just arrived in our head somehow, almost like we are the victim of an expectation. Choice theory explains that rather than being a victim, we intentionally place certain pictures in our head for a reason. Understanding the quality world process can go a long way toward releasing the pressure within us and putting a smile back on our face.


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Keep in mind that the Soul Shapers workshops at Pacific Union College will take place next month.

Soul Shapers 1   June 17-20

Soul Shapers 2   June 24-27

Sign up for summer courses at PUC at:

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