Posts tagged “external control

Impossible to Love and Control at Same Time

Terry Crews, actor, author, and former NFL player, recently appeared on The Daily Show and spoke about #MeToo, toxic masculinity and domestic abuse. In the short video clip included here, he describes how he used to believe in the male stereotype of being in control, but that he came to realize that the important people in his life were distancing themselves from him. Now he realizes that love is the answer and that –

“it is impossible to love someone and control them at the same time.”

Click on the video link below and be touched and inspired and reminded – reminded that hope is still all around us.

 

It seems that wherever and whenever good things are happening the principles of Choice Theory are close at hand. Terry said so much when he stated –

“You telling other people what to do does not make you the boss;
you doing what you told yourself to do makes you the boss.”

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Schedule update – I have decided to cancel The Better Plan classes for this summer (2018) at Pacific Union College. Stay tuned next summer.

Before the Seminar Even Began

“How do you think I can make my wife do what I want her to do?” He said it louder than he needed to, but he wanted to get the attention of the man on the other side of the registration table.

“I don’t know. How do you get her to do what you want her to do?” The man behind the table replied.

“No, I’m asking, how can I make my wife, and my kids for that matter, do what I want them to do? That is what this seminar is about, isn’t it?”

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The man behind the table looked at the questioner for a moment, studied him actually, and finally replied, “Well, the seminar is about having a better marriage . . .”

“Exactly,” the questioner interrupted. “That’s why I’m here. I want a better marriage.”

“How did you find out about the seminar?” the table man asked.

“A friend told me about it, said I should check it out. I had been complaining to him about my wife and kids and he said this seminar might help. So here I am.”

“That’s interesting,” the table man replied.

“How so? What’s interesting?”

“Well, the seminar is about having a better marriage and a better home; it’s really about having better relationships, in general.” No interruptions this time, so the man behind the table continued. “This seminar is about freedom and power and joy . . .”

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“I like the sound of power,” the questioner again interrupted. “That’s why I’m here, like I said.”

“Power can be a very good thing . . .”

“Exactly,” the questioner affirmed.

“ . . . although this power, the power we’re learning about this evening, is about the power we have within us to not be controlled by our negative thoughts and feelings . . .”

“Excuse me,” the questioner questioned.

“It’s about being free to be who we really want to be, rather than being controlled by circumstances.”

“So what are you saying? You’re not going to show me some tricks to make my wife do what I want her to do?” The questioner’s concern was evident.

“The trick lies in being the best version of yourself, while supporting your wife as she becomes the best version of herself.” Their eyes locked, the man behind the table could see the questioner thinking this through.

Eyes still locked, “Can I get my money back?” The questioner thought he had heard enough.

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The countenance of the man behind the table changed and his tone changed as well, “Look, sir, I’ve had enough! No, you may not have your money back. Now get yourself into the meeting room and find a seat on the front row!” With anger and disgust he moved toward the questioner and handed him a packet of materials. “Go on, get moving!”

The questioner was taken back, for just a moment on his heels and retreating, yet he quickly recovered, his face becoming set in his own anger and defiance. The two of them now were only feet apart, both obviously frustrated and angry, the packet being held out by one of them, the other refusing to reach out and receive it. Their eyes again locked, the silence between them spoke volumes.

The table man let the moment continue, the anger palpable, the silence screaming, and then suddenly he changed. His face relaxed and a slight smile appeared. “I want you to remember this moment,” he said calmly to the questioner. “I want you to remember how you feel right now.”

The questioner was trying to process what was happening to him. His mind and body, which quickly had gone into an angry, defensive mode, now slowly began to relax. Yet he wasn’t sure he wanted to relax, wasn’t sure it was safe to relax. “What are you talking about?” he replied with a touch of disgust in his voice.

“I just tried to make you do what I wanted you to do. How did that work . . . do you think?

The questioner thought about this, a light ever so slowly dawning somewhere in his mind.

“Deep inside you, in the depths of your soul, you want to be close, really close, to your wife, and you want your kids to want you and to want what you can offer them. You just experienced how a person thinks and feels when force and power are used on them.” The man behind the table quit talking as he saw the questioner’s eyes become filled with liquid sadness.

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“You’re right,” the questioner responded as he wiped his eyes. “I do want to be close to my wife. She is a special person. And I do want to be close to my children. I love them so much.” Again, his eyes filled.

“Look, we don’t need to go through the whole seminar before it even starts. But I’ll just share a few of the key ideas we’ll be learning about. One of the things you will learn is that the only person you can control is you. That idea alone has pretty incredible implications. We’ll learn about habits that bring us closer to the ones we love and on the other hand, habits that hurt our relationships with others. And another thing we will learn, and this will be of special interest to you, is that as long as we are connected we have influence. That’s why our connection to our children is so important.”

The questioner was listening now, bringing it all in.

“A few moments ago,” the table man continued, “when I tried to make you do something, the connection between us was definitely hurt, on the verge of being broken.”

The questioner nodded in agreement.

“I wanted you to attend the seminar, but you wanted the exact opposite.”

“I was outta here,” the questioner agreed. “I was getting angrier by the second.”

“So that’s the point. The seminar is about how ineffective it is to try and make people do what we want them to do. It hurts our relationship in the process and we usually don’t get what we really want.” The table man thought for a moment. “The fact is that if you want your money back, and not attend the seminar, well, you can make that choice. You have that option. But I just want you to know how much I want you to be a part of it. I think you will benefit, however it strikes me that the rest of us would benefit from your being here as well.”

The questioner now smiled just a bit himself and reached out and took the packet of materials. “It looks like there is still front row seats available,” he said as he looked toward the almost empty meeting room.

This post is a re-print and first appeared on December 19, 2015. Quickly search the Year At a Glance links for easy access to many other posts on teaching, raising children, marriage, leadership, mental health, spirituality, and much more.

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“But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from,
we can still choose where we go from there.”
Stephen Chbosky

How Emotions Are Made

I love it when research and science confirm Glasser’s beliefs, and Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett’s book, How Emotions Are Made (2017) does just that in a big way!

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Glasser wanted people to understand the concept (and reality) of internal control, that is, that they are not controlled by circumstances outside of them nor are they victims of life’s curve balls, but rather they are the architects of their thinking and their behavior.

Glasser created the concepts of total behavior to give people insights into their choices. Using the graphic of a car, he emphasized that thinking and acting are represented by the two front tires, the two tires that a driver can directly steer and control. Glasser’s point was that similarly people can have direct control over their own thinking and acting. The remaining two parts of a total behavior are feelings and physiology, or our emotions and all the ways that our bodies come into alignment with the other parts of our behavior. He believed that we can have only indirect control over our feelings and our physiology. For him, the key was that our total behaviors throughout the day always come into alignment with each other.

Total Behavior Car

The tires on a car are used to represent the four parts of total behavior.

How Emotions Are Made does nothing to argue that point and, if anything, Feldman Barrett goes farther than Glasser in explaining that not only are we the architects of our thinking and behavior, we are also the architect of our emotions. Check out the TED talk that follows for her brief presentation –

The TED talk is good, but I want to share some quotes from the book that reveal why a Choice theorist would especially be interested in her findings.

Emotions are not reactions to the world. You are not a passive receiver of sensory input but an active constructor of your emotions. From sensory input and past experience, your brain constructs meaning and prescribes action.*

Glasser made a case for our behavior coming from within, rather than being controlled by others, and Feldman Barrett believes the same as it relates to emotions. In this next quote, she reminded me of Glasser and the way he would state the terms he really didn’t want to use – terms like mental illness, schizophrenia, and bi-polar, to name a few. Read her quote that follows and you’ll see what I mean.

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Lisa Feldman Barrett

Likewise, we do not “recognize” or “detect” emotions in others. These terms imply that an emotion category has a fingerprint that exists in nature, independent of any perceiver, waiting to be found. Any scientific question about “detecting” emotion automatically presumes a certain kind of answer. In the construction mindset, I speak of perceiving an instance of emotion. Perception is a complex mental process that does not imply a neural fingerprint behind the emotion, merely that an instance of emotion occurred somehow. I also avoid verbs like “triggering” emotion, and phrases like “emotional reaction” and emotions “happening to you.” Such wording implies that emotions are objective entities. Even when you feel no sense of agency when experiencing emotion, which is most of the time, you are an active participant in that experience.*

If by introducing you to How Emotions Are Made, and sharing these quotes from the book, I have ignited more questions that answers – good. I encourage you to read the book for yourself. I am convinced Glasser would have added it to his book collection, right there on his office shelf alongside other books like Mad in America (2001), by Robert Whitaker.

We’ll end the post today with this last quote, which summarizes her Glasser-like findings –

After conducting hundreds of experiments in my lab, and reviewing thousands more by other researchers, I’ve come to a profoundly unintuitive conclusion shared by a growing number of scientists. Emotions do not shine forth from the face nor from the maelstrom of your body’s inner core. They don’t issue from a specific part of the brain. No scientific innovation will miraculously reveal a biological fingerprint of any emotion. That’s because our emotions aren’t built in, waiting to be revealed. They are made. By us. We don’t recognize emotions or identify emotions: we construct our own emotional experiences, and our perceptions of others’ emotions, on the spot, as needed, through a complex interplay of systems. Human beings are not at the mercy of mythical emotion circuits buried deep within animalistic parts of our highly evolved brain: we are architects of our own experience.*

Feldman Barrett’s work will help anyone trying to better understand human behavior and motivation, and especially those of us interested in the emotional pieces of what Glasser referred to as total behavior.

* Sorry about not having the page numbers. I purchased the book on my iPad, which doesn’t have the same page numbering as the hard copy.

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Human beings are not at the mercy of mythical emotion circuits
buried deep within animalistic parts of our highly evolved brain:
we are architects of our own experience.
Lisa Feldman Barrett

 

 

 

 

Marriage and Those Pesky Trash Cans

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Sophie Sims-Stapleton turned onto her street and could see them as plain as day. It wasn’t day, of course. It was actually twilight, the evening fast approaching as street lights started to come on, the darkness slowly draping the neighborhood. Her commute had taken a bit longer this evening, which had prompted her to abandon her plans to stop at Safeway on the way home, but even in the twilight she could clearly see them. All three of them, standing in front of her house like sentinels – the brown one, the green one, and the blue one. Except they weren’t sentinels; they were trash cans, standing somewhat askew after the trash truck had emptied them with its robotic arm and unceremoniously dropped them back onto the pavement. And now they were chiding her with a message as clear as their bold colors, that message being, You don’t matter!

As she neared the house she could see her husband’s car already parked in the driveway, which seemed to grind salt in her festering wound. Hadn’t she and Greg, her husband, talked about this at length last week, after the cans had sat in front of the house for three days following trash day, both of them expecting the other to bring the cans to the side yard where they were stored during the week. The two of them had quietly and sullenly dug in, both acting like they hadn’t noticed the cans in front of the house, even though it was difficult to park with them sitting where the trash truck had ditched them.

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“Why can’t you just bring them in?” she pleaded. “You usually get home first.”

“I usually do,” he retorted, “but why can’t you bring them in once in a while? I help around the house, seems like you could help with some of the outdoor stuff now and again.”

Truth be told, she felt that her job was more stressful, and basically more important than his, and that he should pick up more of the chores at home. It bothered her that he could act, through his ignoring of the trash cans, like he was somehow equal to her. He had reminded her of the things weighing on him at work, as well as at church, with all the time he was donating to the needs of the building committee, and she had momentarily relented, even as she harbored a sense of resentment toward his laziness and stubbornness. In the end, they had gone out and brought in the trash cans together, which kind of felt good, like they had solved a problem through communicating and respect.

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Yet now, just a few days later, the trash cans once again were askew in front of the house, with big grins on the front of them (at least as far as she was concerned), driving home the point that her needs didn’t matter. As she navigated around the blue recycle can to park in her usual place, her thoughts were not positive.

I kind of hate him, she thought to herself. Why can’t he just bring in the freaking trash cans? Seeing his car parked in its usual place she got even angrier. He’s been home for how long? A half hour? An hour? That’s plenty of time to bring in a few trash cans. Jeez! Why do I have to nag him? His laziness makes me crazy!

The thought occurred to her to bring in the trash cans herself, but she responded gruffly to such an idea. That would be totally non-supportive of her goal. There are responsibilities for which he needs to step up to the plate, and this is one of them. She laughed at herself for even entertaining the thought of bringing the cans in herself. True, during last week’s discussion on this very point she had agreed that sometimes she could bring in the cans, too, but she pushed this memory aside now. Instead, the thought occurred to her to place one of the cans directly behind his car so that he would have to move it in the morning.

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The front porch was dark, which added to her anger fuel. If he gets home first, can’t he at least turn on the porch lights as a courtesy to others that come home later? How did I marry this jerk? What was I thinking?

She put the finishing touches on her anger and frustration, all of it completely merited and defensible, as she covered the final steps to the front door. Which persona to be she wondered as she unlocked the door – should I go with lashing-out anger or should I go with the silent treatment? Full of appropriate disgust she entered a dark house. What’s going on? she thought.

“Greg,” she called out. “Greg,” she tried again. But only silence in return. What in the world?

And then a memory slipped across her mind. Her brow furrowed as the audio memory tape in her brain wound into position. She almost declined to press the play button, but her brain seemed to have an automatic play option. Faintly, but growing stronger, the tape said, Honey, I will be home late tonight. Roger is picking me up in the morning, as we have a joint meeting in Forrest City tomorrow for work, and then we are both part of the special board meeting this evening at the church. It may be close to 10:00 when I get home. She recalled the look on his face as he explained his schedule, the way he regretted being away from her for the evening, and a pang of awareness began to overtake her.

She turned the kitchen light on and immediately saw the note he had written, after she had left for work.

Just a reminder that I will be home late tonight.
More meetings at the church.
I’ll get the trash cans in when I get home, though.
Love, Greg.

She stared at that simple note for a long time, her eyes growing wet as the recognition regarding her own anger became clearer and clearer. A tear dropped on to the note, quickly blurring the ink of trash and cans. She had created a story and nurtured it into a reality that she had fully embraced. Her reality had led her to think terrible things about her husband, but she was beginning to see that she had made it all up. All of it. For some reason, she realized, her version of reality applied the worst interpretation to Greg’s behavior, while applying the best interpretation to her own behavior. Another tear dropped onto the note, this time obliterating the word Love.

That can’t happen she thought to herself. Our love can’t be so easily blurred. And with that she returned to the entryway, turned on the porch light, and headed into the night air to get the trash cans and put them away.

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It is true that reality influences our perceptions. Our circumstances can affect any part of our total behavior – our thinking, our acting, our feelings, or our physiology. Information and events external to us may or may not matter. A ringing telephone, as Glasser used to say, lets us know that someone wants to talk with us, but it can’t force us to answer it. An angry, threatening person may convince us to comply with his demand, or it may not. We decide. In fact, we make a ton of these decisions every day. Circumstances constantly hit us with data; we process the data and decide how to respond.

It is just as true that our perceptions create our reality. In fact, this may be one of the most important of the elements of choice theory. It is probably more accurate to say that our embraced perceptions create our reality. When we settle on a value or belief, everything we experience passes through our values filter. The result of this filtering is our version of reality. Our actions are always based on our view of reality, so the importance of this process cannot be overstated.

It can be hard for some to come to grips with the idea that people create their own version of reality. Reality is reality, some say; it isn’t a matter of opinion. For each of us, though, reality is formed in the frontal cortex of our brains, which continuously takes in millions of bits of information and turns it into pictures and sounds and smells. A danger lurks in the belief that our personal pictures and sounds and smells represent total, all-knowing, crystal-clear reality. Such a view cannot tolerate new information and limits itself to shrunken interpretations. Sophie had embraced faulty pictures of Greg, but she was able to admit this when new information corrected her version of reality. This is not always easy to do – Has anyone’s mind been changed, for instance, because of all the political information and articles being shared on Facebook? Exactly, we choose to ignore some articles, even as we consciously click on links to other articles we consider more trustworthy or accurate. Having values is fine, even preferable, but staying open to new information is a healthier state of mind.

Just remember not to jump to conclusions when you round the corner and see those pesky trash cans still sitting out by the road.

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** This post first appeared on The Better Plan page on October 29, 2016. Trash cans still need to be brought in, though.

So, There’s a New Deadly Habit

Not that we need another Deadly Habit. We have enough of them already. Still, in our effort to get what we want, and to just feel right (darnit), we are capable of coming up with some pretty interesting behaviors. Take “ghosting,” for example. Yes, it’s an actual behavior, and yes, it deserves to be included in the pantheon of Deadly Habits.

Around for centuries, ghosting was finally labeled as a social phenomena (according to one author) in 2014. In case you’re wondering about its definition, ghosting is “the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.” Originally, the term was used to describe how a person in a dating relationship one moment could disappear without a word the next moment. In this scenario, a person ghosts when he or she doesn’t want to confront, negotiate, explain, or say good-bye.

It is confusing, and even painful, when you are ghosted by a friend. It is even more confusing and more painful when it happens in a church setting, as it did to Benjamin Corey and his family. In his blog*, Benjamin, a church leader and teacher, describes how he and his family were ghosted after fellow members questioned whether or not he was “truly the head over his wife.” This, along with his stance on advocating for a higher minimum wage, his stance on loving our enemies (church members saw his message as unloving toward gun owners), and his stance against bringing guns into the church.

“And then it happened. Silence. Distance. Non-existence.” Close friends, people he and his family hung out with and did things together with on weekends became invisible. His children’s close friends no longer included them. Their social and spiritual network was laid waste. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day threatened to ostracize people from the temple and all religious life if they didn’t think and behave the way the Pharisees demanded. Such a threat was taken seriously because being a part of the community meant everything, even survival. Such ostracization strategies continue today.

When a person close to us – a spouse or child or relative – doesn’t behave as we want, or when others in our life – co-workers, fellow church members, a driver on the road beside us – behave in a way that upsets us, we have a choice as to how we will respond. If we view the world through “reward and punishment’ glasses we will call on behaviors that attempt to make or force the other person to behave according to our expectations, or that at least give us a shot of brief satisfaction for expressing our anger or disgust. Reward and punishment behaviors are known, according to Choice Theory, as Deadly Habits and include behaviors like Criticizing, Blaming, Complaining, Nagging, Threatening, Punishing, and Reward to Manipulate. They are called deadly because whenever these behaviors are used they are damaging, and even deadly, to the relationship. When I was younger my go to Deadly Habit was Withdrawing, which is form of Punishing. After reading Dr. Corey’s blog I will now include Ghosting as another form of Punishing.

Fortunately, there is also a list of Caring Habits, too, which I hope would especially be present within the behaviors of a church family. Maybe Benjamin Corey not have having control over his wife and not wanting guns in the church is a deal-breaker for people within that congregation, yet isn’t it possible to talk about this difference in views and separate amicably, rather than by inflicting such pain? The church, of all places, needs to teach and model Caring Habits, which prioritize relationships, and which include Listening, Encouraging, Accepting, Supporting, Trusting, Respecting, and Negotiating Differences. We will not always agree with others, but we can choose to respond in a way that at least maintains the relationship.

(Click here to read Benjamin Corey’s article – Christian Ghosting: The Destructive Christian Practice We Don’t Talk About.)

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It is especially toxic when externally-controlling ways are combined with religious views. It adds to our authority when we claim that God thinks like us and when we claim to be doing His will, but we misrepresent Him when we try to control others. For more on this topic, check out the following links –

Stuffing God into a Box

Religion and the Only Person I Can Control

God as Coercer

Why Are So Many Christians Un-Christian?

 

 

Genius or Toxic?

A mother taped this note to the refrigerator for her children.

A mother taped this note to the refrigerator for her children.

Genius or Toxic?

So what do you think, fellow choice theorists? Many external control motivators are obvious, easily analyzed, and quickly labeled as hurtful or destructive. What about this note, though? Is it genius or are there elements of being toxic in the approach? The mother adds a “proof of life” element that you see in movies about kidnappings, and she tries to make it feel more lighthearted with “Thank you for playing.”

If we see genius, are we overlooking something manipulative that always come back to haunt or hurt relationships, and if we see toxic, are we making too big a deal out of a parent having fun with incentivizing the chore of cleaning the kitchen?

Genius and Toxic?

Maybe it isn’t either/or; maybe it’s both genius and toxic. Help me with this one; what do you think?

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This is where I will be landing in Japan - Kansai International Airport - an incredible airfield built in the middle of a bay on landfill.

This is where I will be landing in Japan – Kansai International Airport – an incredible airfield built in the middle of a bay on landfill.

Heading for Japan tomorrow. Looking forward to giving presentations on the writing of the Glasser biography. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the biography, Champion of Choice, has been translated into Japanese. And for good reason since there is a very strong Glasser organization and choice theory presence in Japan.

Glasser's story and his ideas in English and in Japanese.

Glasser’s story and his ideas in English and in Japanese.

The Last Soul Shapers

The Soul Shapers 1 class I teach each summer at Pacific Union College begins on Monday (6-22-15) and I plan on it being the last one. No more Soul Shapers for me. I’ve taught the class for 10 summers in a row, ever since the Soul Shapers book was first published, and this is it. Soul Shapers is about to be history.

Last summer's Soul Shapers 1 class. (2014)

Last summer’s Soul Shapers 1 class. (2014)

Truth be told, the only thing that I want to be history is the label Soul Shapers. I look forward to future summer classes and in-services across the U.S. and beyond, but I want them to be billed using a different title. I want them to be billed as The Better Plan. I am as convinced and enthusiastic as ever about the ideas and principles of choice theory, and I am as committed as ever to sharing choice theory with others. Labels are important, though, and The Better Plan is accurate, whereas the title Soul Shapers is not.

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Glasser faced something similar with the label control theory, a story with which I was completely familiar, so it is interesting to me that I could have gotten into the same situation. Glasser adopted the label control theory during his initial work with William Powers in the late 70s, but eventually changed the label to choice theory in the late 90s. (His book Choice Theory was published in 1998.) He was frustrated with the label control theory, partly because he frequently had to explain how the theory was about self-control, not about controlling others. The internal vs. external control issue is so important to grasp and apply that Glasser wanted the label of his ideas to contribute to an accurate understanding.

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I got into the label situation because I wasn’t assertive enough to push for what I wanted. When you sign a publishing contract you pretty much sign away the rights to the book, including whatever the title of the book will be. My experience has been, though, that publishers don’t bulldoze their way to the title they prefer. They want your input. I was contacted early on by a rep from the Review & Herald (one of the main publishing houses of the Seventh-day Adventist church at the time; it has since gone out of business) and excitedly told that they had come up with a title for my manuscript. She then told me the book would be called The Blind-Folded Dolphin. I said “Excuse me?” One of the anecdotes I shared in the book referred to the dolphin show at Marine World and the manner in which the dolphins use echo-location to navigate (p. 33). While I like dolphins a lot, I didn’t want the book to be titled that way. The rep was not pleased with my response, but begrudgingly said they would keep working on it. (The working title of the manuscript I initially submitted was The Better Plan, but apparently that title wasn’t grabbing them.)

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When they called later with a new title, Soul Shapers, I must have been so relieved that it wasn’t based on fish (ok, mammals) that I went for it. When I later received my 10 free copies of the book (as the author) it was the first time I had seen its cover – the title, the graphics, and the color scheme. There was a richness about its look – the layout and colors were very good – however as I considered the title and the graphics my heart sank a bit.

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As agreed, in bold, large letters, the title Soul Shapers is prominently featured. And then below the title is a picture of a cookie-cutter in the shape of a heart, with what appears to be a child inside the heart. The implications of this title and graphic began to form in my awareness. In the world of tools and gadgets there are few items more externally-controlling than a cookie-cutter. It’s sharp, strong edges push into the soft dough and form an exact, very particular shape. The large words above the cookie-cutter, Soul Shapers, complete the supposed message of the book – teachers and parents are externally shaping the souls and characters of the children in their care. In some ways, it would be challenging to come up with a more inaccurate title.

Soul Shapers cover

The message of the book is that every person is responsible for the shaping of their own character, and that as teachers and parents our role is to guide and support children as they begin the journey of self-control and character formation. It is a delicate process based on free will and choice. As adults our goal is to reveal to children the details of their own personal internal control systems. There is no greater gift we can endow to them. The Soul Shaper book was meant to alert readers to the ways in which Scripture, Ellen White, and William Glasser emphasize this internal control system.

Ellen White, who wrote at the turn of the last century, explained that –

True character is not shaped from without, and put on; it radiates from within. Desire of Ages, p. 307

You yourselves are responsible for the kind of character you build.   Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 245

“Every child should understand the true force of the will… The will is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or choice.”           Education, p. 289

The sub-title of Soul Shapers is A Better Plan for Parents and Educators. When the publisher let me know I responded “Why not use the original phrase and refer to it as The Better Plan, rather than A Better Plan?” They explained that using the word “the” makes it sound like this plan is the only way or the one best way and that the letter “a” made it sound more reasonable, like it was just one of many ways to accomplish what was needed. I responded that “the better plan” was not my phrase, not something that I came up with, but that it was directly from the pen of Ellen White. As you can see the cover ended up with “A” Better Plan. Sigh.

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The Ellen White quote that originally alerted me to the better plan, and more importantly to the principles of the better plan, is such a powerful choice theory statement. It goes like this –

Those who train their pupils to feel that the power lies in themselves to become men and women of honor and usefulness, will be the most permanently successful. Their work may not appear to the best advantage to careless observers, and their labor may not be valued so highly as that of the instructor who holds absolute control, but the after-life of the pupils will show the results of the better plan of education.             Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 57

“The better plan” is about helping students to recognize and apply their own internal control guidance systems. Sadly, she admits that teachers who help students in this way will be misunderstood and underappreciated. This is significant. How much more clearly can this be said?

Born in an Adventist home, educated in Adventist schools, having served in Adventist education my entire career, yes, I have heard the term “blueprint for Adventist education.” My dad was an Adventist preacher who was very, very supportive of Adventist education and I heard him refer to the “blueprint” more than once. As it turns out, though, I have never seen this blueprint. The closest I have come to seeing something like a blueprint is this phrase “the better plan,” an approach that has everything to do with the principles of internal control and choice theory. This is the direction we need to head together.

And so this is the last time I am going to teach a class called Soul Shapers. I like The Better Plan a lot better.

 

 

External Standards vs. External Control

Do you want a doctor who “thinks” she has learned enough to do your surgery?

Writing from a coffee shop in Spokane, Washington, this morning. Margaret and I are on our way to Missoula, Montana, to see our son, Jordan, graduate from law school. More on Jordan and law school this weekend.

Tim Mitchell and Jim Weller brought up great questions regarding the process of evaluation and specifically, self-evaluation, and today, Bob Hoglund, senior faculty at William Glasser, Inc., and the chairperson of the Glasser board in the U.S., adds to our understanding in the following article –

External Expectations and Standards vs. External Control
Bob Hoglund, Senior Faculty, WGI

With Dr. Glasser’s emphasis on External Control Psychology vs. Choice Theory®, it seems necessary to distinguish between reasonable external expectations (standards) and external control. Consider the following:

  • Do you want a pilot who self-evaluated that he is able to fly a passenger jet?
  • Do you want a farmer to self-evaluate that his meat is acceptable for consumers?
  • Do you want a manager who NEVER gives you feedback or direction?
  • Do you want an auto company to decide on its own that the problem with the brakes isn’t that bad?
  • Do you want a doctor that “thinks” she’s learned enough to do your surgery?
  • Do you want a dentist that has “decided” he’s ready to do your root canal?
  • The flaw of self-evaluation is… If all you do is self-evaluate, how do you know what you don’t know?

Given the above questions and expected answers, it would seem that there is a place for external standards and evaluations. For example,

  • Teachers provide needed instruction and feedback to their students. Without this, students may not learn properly or may practice incorrect methods.
  • Coaches correct actions to improve skills the players have not yet mastered.
  • Parents provide instruction and limits to teach their children the values and behaviors that they expect.

Many professions require external certifications in order to ensure standards of safety are met; however, unless an individual finds some worth in the external expectations and evaluations, there is little likelihood that he will produce quality work. The key to external evaluation is involving the individual in finding value in expectations and evaluations.

Additionally, it is important for the workers to be taught exactly what is expected of them, prior to any self or external evaluation. Dr. Deming said, “It is not enough to do your best. You must first know what to do and then do your best.” When there are set processes, procedures or policies, rubrics, checklists and other quality tools are helpful to the teaching/learning process and to enhance the quality or self and external evaluations.

When external evaluations are required, there are three factors that increase the likelihood that external evaluation will produce the desired result. External evaluation and information is crucial to our learning and growth. The external evaluation doesn’t “make” us do, think or feel anything. We take the external information and use the “self-evaluation” process to determine if we will use the information we are getting.

The term learner is used from this point forward to represent anyone receiving feedback or evaluation information because successful external evaluation results in learning.

There are three factors that determine the effectiveness of external evaluation?

1. Does it benefit the learner?
a. How will the evaluation be used?
b. Does the learner have a chance to improve the rating/grade or score?

2. Is it wanted / asked for?
a. Does the learner “respect” the source of the evaluation?
b. Does the rating / grade / score mean anything to the learner?

3. Does the evaluation give the learner the information needed to make the necessary improvements?

“Does the evaluation give the learner the information needed to make the necessary improvements” is the crux of the Glasser Quality School Model. Reteach and retest.

Dr. Glasser’s emphasis on self-evaluation and co-verification can coexist with the expectations of external evaluation that are expected in many workplaces and schools. This coexistence can become positive by involving others in the evaluation process.

A suggestion for increasing meaningful methods of external evaluation is to survey the individual(s) who will be evaluated. Questions, such as the following, provide a base from which to build useful, meaningful evaluations.

1. What does your ideal performance review look or sound like?
a. What would you like it to say?
b. What knowledge and skills would be recognized?
c. What accomplishments would be included?

2. In what type of environment do you work best?
a. How do you get along with others?
b. How do you treat others?
c. How do others get along with you?
d. On a scale of 1 to 10, how autonomous would you prefer your job to be?
i. How often do you think you should report your progress?
ii. How would you like to report your progress?

3. What expectations do you have of yourself?
a. What expectations do you think that the company has of you?
b. What expectations seem reasonable to you?
c. What expectations don’t seem reasonable to you?
d. How do you reconcile any differences between the two?

4. What type of evaluation is most helpful for you?
a. When do you want to receive it?
b. How do you want to receive it?

In conclusion, The Three E’s (Hoglund, 2000) provide the framework for optimal benefit:
Environment:
The expectations and evaluations occur within a positive, supportive, trusting learning and working environment.
Expectations:
The expectations, even when external, have benefits for the learner or worker.
Evaluation:
The evaluation is helpful because it meets the above criteria.

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Sticking It In Their Ear

Newspaper article from 1962

Newspaper article from 1962

Early in Glasser’s career he emphasized the idea of being responsible. Reality Therapy (1965) echoed this theme a lot. Taken as part of the overall elements of reality therapy – elements like involvement, no punishment, and never give up – responsibility could be kept in perspective. However, Glasser soon discovered that teachers were taking the idea of responsibility and using it as a hammer to whip kids into shape. Seeing that people were misusing the idea he began to pull back from it.

Early on he was also known as an expert on classroom discipline and his “get tough” approach was advertised in national magazines. He let this happen for a while, but realized that such a message didn’t accurately capture what he was trying to do. Once again, he began to pull back from what people thought he was saying.

We still face this challenge today. We love the sound of choice theory and are drawn to its application, yet when we have marinated for so long in external control (reward/punishment) it is easy to go back to what we know. Teachers chuckle in agreement when I suggest that it is possible to use internal control strategies in an externally controlling way. As Glasser used to say, “It’s easy to believe in choice theory, but it’s hard to do.”

I thought about this during our recent Choice Theory Study Group as we focused on the concept of total behavior. Key pieces of total behavior include that 1) all behavior is purposeful and that 2) all behavior is made up of four parts – thinking, acting, feeling, and physiology. A key piece of total behavior is that two of the four parts – our thinking and our acting – are under our direct control.

And this is where a potential problem lurks. In the same way that teachers back in the 60s and 70s misunderstood and misapplied the idea of responsibility as Glasser intended, teachers today might be tempted to tell students that they are responsible for their own thinking and acting. If something is under our direct control, like how we act, then it may seem reasonable to emphasize this to students, even to bombard them with it.

IMG_1020

This is the thing, though. Gaining insight into total behavior and understanding how it applies to you personally doesn’t come from someone else telling you about it, especially during a tense moment when they may be telling you to get your act together. Such insight comes from being gently led toward the concept and being asked the right questions at the right moments.

One of my mentors, a man who taught me so much about supervising teachers, shared that

“It is better to get something out of someone’s mouth,
than it is to put it into their ear.”

As teachers and parents this can be our goal, too. Total behavior is correct, in my opinion, and our having direct control over our thinking and behavior is correct, too. Helping our children and students realize that, without damaging our relationship with them, is our challenge. Somehow we need to help them talk about what the idea of total behavior means to them, rather than just sticking the concept in one of their ears.

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