Posts tagged “mental health

Hot Off the Press! Really.

Bob Wubbolding, who wrote the Foreword for the biography, and Glasser at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in 2005.

Bob Wubbolding, who wrote the Foreword for the biography, and Glasser at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in 2005.

The Glasser biography became available yesterday on the Zeig, Tucker & Theisen Publishers website. The following link takes you to the right page –

I first learned about the biography being available through an email from William Glasser, Inc.   Hot Off the Press it proclaimed; ten years in the making it pointed out; followed by a short testimonial by Carleen Glasser –

Champion of Choice is a wonderful story and a great read because it gives you the feeling that you are present, watching the life and ideas of a true genius evolve.”

The book is listed at $22.95, but is being sold right now for just $22.00 on the publisher’s website. Buyers are given the option of giving a $5 donation, along with their book purchase, to the William Glasser International organization. It is a very simple process and a nice touch, I think.

I received a compliment yesterday when someone said they loved the promo I wrote for the book on the publisher’s website. I had to admit that I didn’t write it, but that I liked it, too. The promo in question went like this –

WILLIAM GLASSER: Champion of Choice
A biography by Jim Roy

William Glasser did not just have a profession, he had a mission—to empower people through choice, free will, and self-determination. He envisioned a better world, and the weighty issues he tackled reflected that—the definition, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness; the explosion of psychotropic drugs; addiction and self-medication; failing marriages and the high divorce rate; disconnected families; crime and crowded prisons; underachieving students and marginal schools; and worldwide political oppression and violence.

Jim Roy chronicles the life and legacy of William Glasser whose controversial ideas and brilliant insights significantly impacted mental health and education professionals. Champion of Change illustrates Glasser’s lifelong dedication to help others lead productive, meaningful lives.

Although Glasser was already gaining recognition in the early ‘60s with the publication of his first book, Mental Health or Mental Illness, his notoriety changed significantly after his second, Reality Therapy (1965). Working as psychiatrist in the late ‘60s at the Ventura Schools for Girls, a school for troubled teens, Glasser’s professional life really began to take shape as his ideas were implemented, dramatically changing and reforming young women who most had given up on. His long and successful run at the school prompted another book, Schools Without Failure (1969), which is still a bible to many present-day educators.

Over the next four decades Glasser published 23 books and a slew of booklets and articles, and was interviewed and written about in myriad books, magazines, and journals. The principles and concepts he held and generously shared and articulated through his books and public speaking were reality therapy, control theory, choice theory, and mental health as a public issue rather than a medical issue. The latter being the most controversial in that Glasser swam against the tidal wave that swept in the growing belief that drug therapy should supersede talk therapy.

Also captivating is Glasser’s personal life – his own dysfunctional family history, the family losses he endured, and his quest to find love again. And through it all he selflessly continued to work to change the bigger picture. In the introduction of William Glasser – Champion of Change, it’s stated that novelist Thomas Berger once said writers write because “it isn’t there,” and Jim Roy takes that to heart giving us a comprehensive and compelling biography on voice that will surely echo throughout history.

2014 / 420 Pages / 6 x 9 / Paperbound / Illustrated / ISBN 978-1-934442-47-0 / $22.95
Add $5 donation to William Glasser International ($27.95)

You may have noticed that twice in the promo the biography was referred to as Champion of Change. The layout editor of the biography somehow got that phrase in his mind early on in the process and it continues to show up at various times. My wife thinks that Champion of Change might actually be a better title, but Champion of Choice has won out so far.

Kim Daub Olver, current Executive Director of Glasser International, shared on Facebook yesterday that she feels the book will be a huge contribution to the world. To that I say, I hope so. It would be so cool if the biography really made an impact on people’s thinking and acting.


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Listening to Understand


We may not have ears as big as Abby's, but we still concentrate on really listening to the person talking to us.

We may not have ears as big as Abby’s, but we still concentrate on really listening to the person talking to us.

One of the things I like on Facebook are the concise, insightful quotes and statements that friends share. The quotes often pack a lot of wisdom into a small amount of space. An example of such a quote was recently posted by Maureen Craig McIntosh, a Glasser faculty member from New Brunswick. It read –

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.

Most of us quickly recognize truth in this statement, but don’t let quick agreement cause you to miss some of the deeper truths it contains. An experienced Glasser trainer thought enough of the statement to pass it on to us. What are the choice theory implications of listening to understand? Let’s identify a few –

1. One of the reasons we are quick to reply, rather than listen, is that we think we know what’s best for others. As soon as we hear the problem, we want to let others know about our solution.

2. More than simply wanting to share a solution, another reason we are quick to reply is that we may want to control the person who is talking to us. This can be especially true if the person is one of our children, or a spouse, or one of our students.

3. One of the most need-satisfying things we can do for another person is to truly listen to what he/she is trying to say. Active listening can assist another person in problem-solving for himself, which honors the choice theory axiom that the only person I can control is me.

Billy Joel sang about a New York state of mind; it would seem the idea of listening to understand or listening to reply involves a state of mind, too. Fortunately, a state of mind is something we can influence, a lot. We can choose to concentrate on listening more and talking less. One of Covey’s famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”


Classroom Application

Listening to reply –

Student: I don’t want to go out to recess today.

Teacher: What? What are you talking about?

Student: I don’t want to go out to recess. I just want to stay inside the classroom.

Teacher: That’s ridiculous! You’re coming outside. I can’t have kids all over the place.

Listening to understand –

Student: I don’t want to go out to recess today.

Teacher: I think that might be a first for you. You really don’t want to go outside?

Student: No, I just want to stay in the classroom.

Teacher: Can you tell me what it’s about? Are you not feeling well?

Student: I guess I feel ok; I just want to hang out in here.

Teacher: You know, it felt a little bit like something was troubling you when you came in the classroom at the start of school this morning.

Student: (shrugs)

Teacher: Would you be willing to come outside and hang out with me as I supervise the playground? If you’re ok with talking about it, I would like to hear what you’re thinking this morning. If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s ok, too. And if you don’t want to hang out with me at all, you can sit on the bench outside of the classroom. I’m ok with that. Would either of those options work for you?

Student: (smaller shrug) Yeh, I guess I could hang out with you. That’d be ok.

Home Application

Listening to reply –

Wife: I got offered a promotion today at work.

Husband: Wow! Way to go!

Wife: Yeh, I probably should be excited, but I just . . . I don’t know.

Husband: What do you mean, you don’t know? You’ve earned it. Ya gotta go for it! I assume there would be a raise and we definitely could use the money.

Listening to understand –

Wife: I got offered a promotion today at work.

Husband: Wow! Way to go!

Wife: Yeh, I probably should be excited, but I just . . . I don’t know.

Husband: It looks like you have mixed feelings about it.

Wife: Yeh, I do. I really do. A part of me realizes it is a great opportunity, while another part of me likes what I have going right now. (pauses)

Husband: (gives a little smile, but doesn’t break the silence)

Wife: The promotion offers more pay.

Husband: Besides more money, how would your life change if you took the job?

Wife: I’ve thought about that a lot. (pauses) I see what supervisors have to do, the way they spend their days, and the problems they are expected to solve, and there is just nothing in me that wants that. I really like what I do now. I look forward to going to work on most days. (pause) And I like that my schedule is so good for our home. I can pick the kids up after school, which is a huge advantage compared to what I see other parents juggling. The extra pay is tempting, but I don’t think it outweighs all that.


We’ll close today with another quote that captures something important with very few words. I was alerted to it by Bette Blance, a choice theory leader in New Zealand. The quote reads –

Listen and silent are spelled with the same letters. Think about it.

As the wife was talking to her husband in the last scenario about her possible promotion there were several times when she paused and silence filled the moment. Yet her husband did not jump in and fill the silence with his ideas. He simply remained silent, too, and let his wife work through her thoughts. Like the quote says, Think about it.


The Best Version of Themselves

Glasser received an honorary doctorate at the same time I received my Ed.D.

Glasser received an honorary doctorate at the same time I received my Ed.D.

I began the last blog with “The Glasser biography is printed and is now available!” It turns out it would have been more accurate if I had left it at “The Glasser biography is printed.” I have the book. It looks great! But I still can’t tell you how you can get a copy. Nothing yet on the publisher’s website or on the website. The Better Plan followers will be among the first to know about how to get the book. Stay tuned.


photo 1

I have continued to think about some of the things Glasser suggested in one of his unpublished articles that I posted as part of the March 19 blog. For instance, in reference to how parents should guide their children he wrote that –

“What we should be sensitive to from early on is what they want. Then as much as we can, rather than to give them things we should make an effort to take the additional time to teach them how to satisfy their needs themselves.”

The idea of taking the time to teach kids how to satisfy their own needs has made a real impression on me. This process is about honoring your child as a fellow human being with unique dreams and goals of his/her own. It is about respecting their ideas and helping them achieve them. It is a process full of love and compassion.

It was helpful to me that Glasser went on to explain that as parents we can –

“Assure them from the time that they can comprehend it that we believe in the way we live our lives, but that our way is not necessarily the best way, the only way or the way for them. And as our way changes, as it will, show them that we can be tolerant of ourselves as we change. From this they will learn that they too have a way but that it is not the only way and that they should be tolerant of themselves as they change.”

Is such an honest and candid relationship possible between parent and child?

I especially thought about the effect such a relationship would have on a child’s spiritual journey. What would it be like for parents to express how much they believe in the way they live their lives, but somehow to admit that their way may not be the only way for the child? What if parents modeled an authentic and real connection with Jesus, and invited their children to be a part of that connection, yet somehow did so non-coercively? Too many children are growing up to be screwed-up adults, unclear regarding their purpose in life and spiritually unhappy. To a great extent I think this has a lot to do with children experiencing the opposite of what Glasser described. Instead of focusing on creating and maintaining their own spiritual lives and then inviting, inspiring, and persuading their children to join them, parents are leading halfway religious lives and then trying to force their children to do the same. Criticizing, nagging, threatening and punishing are frequently present in this approach.

Glasser believed that if we can foster a relationship with our children that honors and respects them as fellow human beings –

“ .  .  . especially to refrain from criticizing them, we have a chance, even a good chance (there are no sure things in this delicate process) to enjoy the reward which is a child who loves us, respects us, and enjoys spending time with us.”

And I would add that more adults would turn out well-adjusted and mentally healthy.

photo 2

As I considered Glasser’s thoughts on parenting I was reminded about something I read in Ted and Nancy Sizer’s book, The Students Are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract (1999). Describing the role schools can play in students’ lives, they wrote that “We must insist on a high school design which will help all the high school’s people to reach for the best version of themselves.” p. xiii

I like the idea that we can help children and students to reach for the best version of themselves. I like the phrase “best version of themselves” a lot.


Classroom Application:

In the absence of intervention, students will come to see their teacher as the judge and chief evaluator. Students turn in assignments and hope that their teacher will accept it, or maybe even like it. Somehow the school system has created a divide between what students do and their own connection to that skill or product.

Teachers can begin to restore this connection between pupil and product by changing their own role in the classroom. Whenever appropriate, a teacher can help students evaluate aspects of their assignments by saying or asking things like –

Tell me what you like about what you have created.

What part of this assignment was the most satisfying for you?

What grade would you give yourself on this assignment and why?

What strategies did you use that helped you complete this assignment?

Teachers can still make evaluative statements; we just need to do less of it. We need to share the evaluation process with students. This sharing can be done informally, like the sample questions above, or it can be done formally where student self-evaluation becomes part of the project rubric.


“I think the big mistake in schools is trying to teach children anything, and by using fear as the basic motivation. Fear of getting failing grades, fear of not staying with your class, etc. Interest can produce learning on a scale compared to fear as a nuclear explosion to a firecracker.”    Stanley Kubrick

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.


Unpublished Glasser Article

Bill Glasser 1977 (contributed by Jim Roy)

Bill Glasser 1977 (contributed by Jim Roy)

Going through some of my Glasser artifacts recently I came across a short article he wrote over 30 years ago. Based on the author bio info at the end of the article I would say it was written in 1980. The article was typed, maybe by Glasser himself, but probably it was dictated by him and then typed by someone else. By 1980 Glasser had met William Powers and had been introduced to the ideas of control theory, ideas that deeply influenced him.

Bill Glasser 1981

Bill Glasser 1981

I don’t think the article – titled Some Thoughts About Raising Children – was ever published. I am sharing it with you, exactly as it is written, for several reasons.

1. It is enjoyable to read Glasser’s ideas, especially a potential article that may have slipped through the cracks and gotten overlooked.

2. Do you detect a reason why the article may have been filed away or even rejected? You will be reading the exact draft that I have. Would editing help make the article stronger?

3. Do you think Glasser would have written this article 20 or 25 years later? Did he end up modifying any of the ideas expressed in the article in 1980 later in his career?

Ok, those are the thought questions to get you started; here’s the article.



William Glasser, M.D.
President, Institute for Reality Therapy

     What do we owe our children and what do they owe us? Book after book, from the Bible to Spock, has attempted to answer these questions and the parade continues because no book seems to satisfy any parent for long. We wish there were a child-rearing manual like that which comes with a Mercedes but we are not machines. We are living creatures driven, as no other creature is, by strong, often conflicting forces. Because we must discover an infinite variety of ways to satisfy these forces the definitive how-to book will never be written. It follows, therefore, that we will never know how to raise our children. If we can accept the uncomfortable premise that here there are no right answers then I believe we have the chance to succeed reasonably well in this difficult task. And even if our success is minimal we will do them less harm than if we tried to follow any current “truth.”

Regardless of what we do, and granted that there is no universal way, most of us want our children to be happy, to love and respect us, and to be successful in some way that we define success. Because we tend to love them extravagantly most of their lives most of us will have no trouble accepting that we owe them food, shelter, safety and our companionship. But, as hard as this may be to accept, they, I believe, owe us nothing; if we want their love we must earn it. This is not hard to do as long as we do not attempt to cajole, coerce, or force them to be the people that satisfy us.

What we should be sensitive to from early on is what they want. Then as much as we can, rather than to give them things we should make an effort to take the additional time to teach them how to satisfy their needs themselves. If, however, what they want is in conflict with what we believe, as it often will be, as they mature, we should, in words they can understand, state our beliefs. But along with telling them what is important to us we should encourage them to try to convince us that their needs are worthy of our support. This means that we should listen to them and if they are at all convincing help them to get what they want. If we are unconvinced we should continue our argument but also make an effort (and it will be an effort) not to criticize them or to use our parental power to stand directly or indirectly in their way.

Assure them from the time that they can comprehend it that we believe in the way we live our lives, but that our way is not necessarily the best way, the only way or the way for them. And as our way changes, as it will, show them that we can be tolerant of ourselves as we change. From this they will learn that they too have a way but that it is not the only way and that they should be tolerant of themselves as they change.

Assuming that we can do this, especially to refrain from criticizing them, we have a chance, even a good chance (there are no sure things in this delicate process) to enjoy the reward which is a child who loves us, respects us, and enjoys spending time with us. But if we achieve this reward we should be cautious and resist the temptation to gain more, that is to convince these “good” children that they also be what we want them to be. It is our failure to resist this ever-present temptation that causes most of us who succeed for quite a while eventually to fail. If we are getting along well and then they start to slip away it will be because it is so difficult in raising children to keep the ancient proverb, “let well enough alone.”

+    +    +

William Glasser, M.D. is the President and Founder of the Institute for Reality Therapy, incorporated in 1967. His major books are Reality Therapy, Schools Without Failure, The Identity Society, and Positive Addiction. All are published by Harper & Row and Reality Therapy and The Identity Society are available in German translations. Two new books have been written. Available now is What Are You Doing?, a series of cases written by Reality Therapists and edited by Naomi Glasser. To be available in March of 1981 is Stations of the Mind, a new book linking how our brain functions to Reality Therapy. Both are published by Harper & Row.

Dr. Glasser has worked in schools, correctional institutions, mental hospitals, and rehabilitation centers. He teaches and lectures all over the world and still conducts a small private practice. People interested in further information about Reality Therapy and training programs can write to:

Institute for Reality Therapy
11633 San Vincente Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90049


Don’t write to the above address. There are no Glasser offices on San Vincente anymore, although some of you reading this will remember that place fondly.

If you are so inclined let me know how you respond to the thought questions before the article. Would Glasser have written this article 20 years later?


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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.


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.


The Importance of the A in DREAM


In the last blog we were introduced to the GREAT DREAM acronym and the ten simple habits it represents that are proven to make us happier. Those habits are listed here again, with the average ratings of the survey participants (scale of 1-10), which reflect how often they 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

While there is much that is positive and helpful in this list it is worth noting the habit that received the lowest score – that being self-acceptance. Accepting ourselves is one of the most important parts of good mental health, yet we have a hard time actually doing it.

Much has been written about accepting yourself and loving yourself and the whole idea of self-esteem, in general. All of us seem to struggle with the idea of self-acceptance. Could this struggle represent the seeds of discontent and distress that lead to poor mental health? Where does our lack of self-acceptance come from? The answer is probably different for each of us. Some of us were brought up by adults who were significantly wounded themselves and passed those wounds on to us. Others of us were raised by well-meaning adults who loved us, but who still relied on criticism, blaming, and punishing as the ways to get us to behave. Still others of us come out of a religious background that painted an inaccurate picture of God, a picture that portrayed Him as an angry, exacting judge. There are many possible reasons for why we don’t give ourselves the same break we desire to give others.


This is one of the areas in which choice theory is helpful, in that the theory reminds us that the answers to our basic mental health issues lie within each of us. The theory explains that we are not trapped in our past, even if that past includes criticism, punishment, and inaccurate God pictures. It explains the freedom we have to live in the present and celebrate our gifts, as well as our potential.

Love your neighbor as yourself.
Matthew 22:49

When schools embrace traditional forms of classroom management and grading they contribute to the seeds of poor self-esteem with which so many of us end up struggling with.  Anytime the focus is on performance, students come to believe that their value is wrapped up in their achievements and accomplishments. Even successful students (maybe especially successful students) are damaged by this message, because their self-esteem is contingent on their latest performance and what others think of that performance.

This is one of the reasons why Glasser Quality Schools (or schools that live choice theory) are so successful – that being the focus is on positive relationships, intentional “liking” relationships that aren’t dependent on how students perform. Students are valued as fellow human beings with inherent value based on that alone. High achievement takes place in a choice theory school, too, but it is the result of relationships and relevance, rather than the end-all in itself.

The A in DREAM stands for acceptance, a quality we readily admit we need to nurture when it comes to our response to others, but a quality we struggle to apply to ourselves. Let’s recognize this struggle for what it is and make a decision to start treating ourselves better.


Classroom Application:

Have student partners create a graphically-rich poster that expresses or exemplifies unconditional love.

To prepare the students for creating the poster, assist them in exploring responses to questions like –
What does it mean to be unconditionally loving?
In what ways have you experienced unconditional love?
Is there such a thing as conditional love?
What kinds of conditions do loving people place on one another?
Is it possible to have expectations of another person and have them be unrelated to a decision to love?
Is it harder for teachers and parents, who feel such a deep responsibility for children, to be unconditionally loving?

Allow time in class for the posters to be created and then post them around the class when they are completed. A few days after they have been posted, which allows for students to look at each other’s posters, allow time for teams to explain their posters and respond to questions.


The difference between pain and misery?
Pain is what we walk through; misery is what we sit in.

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 –

8 Books on William Glasser’s Bookshelf (that are now on mine)

Used bookstore in San Luis Obispo, CA.

Used bookstore in San Luis Obispo, CA.

For almost a year there has been an old book on top of one of the stacks on my bedside table, and even though I haven’t read it, my love and belonging and power needs are met every time I see it.

Glasser and I talked about a lot of things as I wrote his biography. During our interviews he would frequently bring up what he happened to be reading at the moment. He read a lot. Sometimes he would talk about an article he read in the New Yorker; or about an editorial in the Los Angeles Times; or about a book he was reading. When we visited about his childhood he described how much he read even then.

As a child he especially liked a group of books known as The Young Trailers Series. He spoke fondly and respectfully of the Young Trailers author, Joseph Altsheler, and about how he could really write adventure stories, tales that required resourcefulness and bravery. He read these books so many times that he could not remember the exact number. I had never heard of them or the author, but became curious about them due entirely to Glasser’s enthusiasm. I did some checking, figuring that I would just go to or Amazon and pick up one or two of these books, and discovered instead that getting my hands on an Altsheler book was not as easy as I thought it was going to be. If I was willing to part with $200 I could have one mailed to my house. Otherwise I would need to begin searching the occasional used bookstores I was able to frequent.

Looking on my bookshelves now, I am reminded of the different books that Glasser alerted me to, and that I was able to find at used bookstores here and there. Books like Jesse Stuart’s, The Thread That Runs So True (1949), and Ernest Kurtz’s, Not God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous (1979). He loved anything that Anthony Trollope wrote, who he felt could really get inside a character and what he or she was thinking. I don’t have any of Trollope’s books yet, but I probably will someday add a few of his books to the Glasser section in my library. I go to a used bookstore in San Luis Obispo, California, at least twice a year and while browsing there a few years back I discovered an old copy of Glasser’s all-time favorite book, Raintree County (1947), by Ross Lockridge, Jr. “I’ve read that book at least seven times,” he shared with me, which is no small feat considering it runs 1,060 pages long. When I took it to the counter to buy I thought it might be kind of expensive, but it wasn’t. Didn’t they know it was William Glasser’s favorite book?


Not all of Glasser’s recommendations were of old books. For instance, he convinced me that I needed to go out and buy a book by Mark Haddon called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003), an incredible book with an autistic savant as the hero of the story. He also convinced me on books like Mad in America (2002), by Robert Whitaker; America Fooled (2006), by Timothy Scott; and especially Beyond Prozac (2005), by Terry Lynch. For those years that Glasser and I worked together he seemed to be with me whenever I went book shopping, be it in a Barnes & Noble, a used bookstore, or online. My experience was that he had a good eye for reading material.


I had kind of given up on finding any of Altsheler’s books, although last year when I was in a used bookstore in Nevada City, California, and discovered they had a kid’s section, I decided to look more carefully. There could be a chance. And then, as I looked from book spine to book spine, there it was. There was The Forest Runners (1908), by Joseph Altsheler. I opened and closed my eyes to make sure I was seeing correctly. I looked inside and saw that it was the second book of eight in The Young Trailers Series. I wondered about its price as I approached the cash register. I was told it was $18 and that it would come to almost $20 with tax. I got the $20 out of my wallet so fast the bookstore owner must have been tempted to say, “Wait a minute, now I can see the price more clearly. It’s not an 18, that’s an 80. I meant to say $80.” But he didn’t and I left with a special treasure.


The Forest Runners has sat on my bedside table ever since. I haven’t read it and I don’t intend to soon, yet I feel good every time I see it. I feel a connection to Bill and remember his joy and excitement as he described things the book’s characters overcame. My oldest grandson is three and a half, so he’s not ready for swashbuckling adventure yet, but when he is I know of a book we can share together. (Oh, bother. How am I going to find the other seven books in the series?)


Interested in stories about Bill Glasser? Glad for choice theory tips on how to live a happier life? Appreciate ideas on how to bring choice theory into the classroom? Then why not pass it on and tell a friend or colleague about The Better Plan blog.


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Remember the new 2103 – At A Glance link at the upper left hand corner of the page when looking to catch up on topics from last year. Quick links to all the articles are chronologically listed.

Grief and Choice

Been quite a week for me – Went to bed sick on Sunday and am still basically in bed as I write this (on Thursday), although I think I am starting to crawl out of my hole. Antibiotics, chest x-ray, many of you are probably familiar with the drill. Hope your week has been a bit better.

I noticed something on Facebook a few days back and, with the author’s permission, I would like to share it with you. It is a short piece about grief and choice. Karen Nicola, the author, and her husband, Steve, have been good friends of mine for many years and I am glad to pass on her insight and wisdom to you. Her bio and contact information follow.


MONDAY MOURNING:  What if grief was an option? Who would take it?  Can’t think of too many who would willingly sign up for that kind of uncertain full body slam.  While mourners cannot choose to wake up tomorrow and find themselves in a different emotional, mental, and physical continent, we can choose how we will travel the unfamiliar terrain in which we find ourselves.

So let’s talk a little about the freedom of choice and how that influences the outcome of our crushed souls.  We can choose to do things that contribute to wellness.  Even with limited appetite, we can choose healthy foods to eat; we can take additional vitamins and minerals to enhance our body’s health.  Any outdoor exercise improves our circulation and thus increases our capacity to deal with the surges of emotional tides.  We can choose what we listen to and allow music to be a calming influence in our daily routine.  We can choose to write about our process.  Keeping a special book that captures our pain is a safe and useful tool of releasing the whirlpool of fear, guilt, blame, shame, anger, pain, sorrow, and despair.  Have you imagined the potential of choosing healing?  Sometimes the bereaved believe that clinging to our pain is evidence of our unending devotion to the one we dearly love.  Choosing to heal can be one of the most difficult choices we make.  Healing has no predetermined process; it comes differently for each one. Choosing healing actually demonstrates respect for the deceased in that we are allowing their absence to create space for us to become whole again and even deeper, richer individuals than before.

This kind of healing comes from a Higher Power than ourselves. Choosing to trust God with the process of healing just might be our most important choice of all. How would it work if we made just made one conscious choice each day to move towards health and healing?  We might find that one day leads to the next and the uncertain terrain of living apart from the one we love is moving us further from darkness and brokenness and nearer to an open, mended, and giving heart.

Karen Nicola writes and speaks encouragement that comes from her own experience with God and His Word as she worked through her grief following her three-year-old son’s death from leukemia.  Now, more than twenty-five years later, Karen continues to be passionate about the hope of God’s healing for our brokenness.  She is also aware that many struggle to know how to comfort those who mourn, so she is eager to encourage the encouragers too.  Through her book, Comfort for the Day, readers encounter two of God’s most effective healing tools; His word and journaling opportunities. Karen maintains a web site that runs two blogging conversations; one for the bereaved and the other for those comforting them. Visit for more information. When she is not leading seminars, she thrives in the high school classroom, teaching international students at Rio Lindo Adventist Academy.  But her favorite activities involve anything to do with her family.


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