Posts tagged “mental health

Quitting Smoking and the Nuclear Strategy


The Happiness Project, a blog I follow, recently posted a letter from a gentleman who described his strategy to break the habit of smoking. Citing a number of habit breaking strategies in the post, the specific strategy described in the letter was categorized as “the nuclear strategy.”

I am curious what you think about this habit-breaking approach. Do you think this would be a good way to break a particularly difficult habit?

And to my fellow choice theorists, how does this strategy complement or contradict the principles of choice theory?

Here’s the letter –

I picked up smoking when I studied abroad in Vietnam. The father of my host family didn’t speak English, but he smoked, so he encouraged me to join him. Open to new experiences, I went from zero to a pack a day in one week.

That pack-a-day habit stuck with me for three years while I tried everything to quit smoking — set deadlines, cursed my lack of willpower, thought that switching to a tobacco pipe was somehow better. It was terrible.

Of the hundred ways I tried to quit, here’s what worked: I set a date in advance that held meaning for me (the one year anniversary of graduating college), I wrote out a long list of both the things I hated about smoking, and the things I loved about smoking (so I knew the tradeoffs), and then — what I consider the innovative part — I hand-wrote fifteen letters to friends and family members saying “If, after May 20, 2001, I ever smoke another cigarette, I will pay you $200.” I sent these letter particularly to friends who themselves were smokers.

When the date came, I gave away my remaining cigarettes, lighters and accessories. I scheduled new after-work activities to break up my routines for a couple of weeks. And I noticed a funny thing: my smoking friends, who had previously tried to lure me back to smoking in my earlier quitting attempts, were now constantly handing me cigarettes — then reminding me of the money I was going to pay them if I accepted the cigarette. “This cigarette will cost you $200,” my friends would say. The letters had turned my enablers into enforcers. Needless to say, when that one cigarette would cost me $3000, it was easier to refuse it.

And that was it. I still love smoking, and really wish I could smoke. But I went from a pack a day to zero, cold turkey on May 20, 2001 and haven’t smoked again.

The blog went on to explain that a nuclear option is when there’s some major drawback to breaking a habit. For some people, it pointed out, this really helps.

So what do you think? Is the nuclear option simply a gimmick? And if so, are gimmicks ever ok within the choice theory framework?




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My Dear Maggot


The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis’s 1942 classic) pulled back the curtains that shield us from Second Heaven and revealed conversations that occurred between an uncle and his nephew. Both of them were demons and as such both of them were in the business of tempting human beings toward wrong turns and wrong lives. Uncle Screwtape coached and counseled his nephew, Wormwood, as the younger tempter struggled to influence the life of the human to which he was assigned. It should come as no surprise that one day Wormwood himself would become the coach and pass on his knowledge to a younger relative, in this case his grandson, Maggot, a fledging tempter trying to learn the ropes.

My dear Maggot,

How touched I am that our communication is deepening and that you are so willing to lay open your thoughts and your struggles regarding your tempting strategies and the apparent lack of success that you are thus far experiencing. Honesty is not a trait that we demons display with any consistency, so I commend you for your candor. This openness will assist me as I counsel you toward more effective approaches. Keep in mind, too, that you are planting seeds of discouragement and resentment that will grow in due time. Be patient with your patient. Remember that you are in the business of making others discouraged, not in getting discouraged yourself.

In your recent letters you have shared so many details – your patient’s tendency to seek the Enemy, to want to be close to him, to want to get involved with helping others – which are all serious problems that need to be dealt with. However, it seems to me that in rushing from a tree here to a tree there, you are missing the bigger forest. Frustration over individual details are keeping you from seeing the bigger picture. Not that these details are unimportant. It’s just that seeing the bigger picture first will serve as a foundation from which to launch a more effective attack.

Since you have asked, I will begin to share with you some of the bigger, more essential elements that, I am confident, will re-focus and re-charge your efforts. Although I hate to quote the Enemy’s manual, it is instructive here to refer to a letter that traitor Paul (how he went to the other side is still beyond me) wrote to people in Corinth (a lovely city with so many wonderful problems). Anyway, he wrote that –

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. Which do you choose?    1 Cor. 4:20, 21

First, and I think you already know this, it is absolutely vital that you cloud and confuse the choice-power of your patient. This theme – the ability of humans to make effective choices – is rampant throughout the Enemy’s manual, yet so few humans really pick up on this. The minute they stray from this awareness we have them. For if they aren’t in the process of choosing, the alternative is that they are victims of circumstances, tossed to and fro by their tumultuous feelings. I smile just thinking about it. You and I both know that these disgusting little humans have been created in the image of the Enemy, with amazing internal guidance systems, but this must be hidden from them. At all costs.

You may at first question what I am about to write, but write it I must – religion is not our enemy. In fact, humans can be messed up by a lot of things, but nothing can mess them up as much as religion can. Paul (the turncoat) realized this when he wrote about the Enemy’s domain being about a lot of talk versus being about real power. Let his words be a lesson to you. Shower your patient with religion, let him marinate in its rules and habits and schedules. Just be sure to keep him in the realm of talking, and studying, and behaving. There are so many benefits from this focus! Where do I begin?

+ Being disconnected from the real power of the Enemy, they will try to surmise truth and reality from their own miserable, limited, little perspectives. The Enemy tried to warn them about this during his pathetic sermon on the mountainside (it is important to study what the Enemy says and does), when he pointed out that it is possible for them to think they are right(eous), when in fact they are right where we want them.1

+ One of the supreme benefits from the “lot of talk about religion focus” is its effect on their young. I savor this result as much as any of our victories. You would think they would have figured this out by now, but no, they continue to emphasize habits and lifestyles and right living. Let them talk, encourage your patient to talk. The fact is, and we must say this quietly, their young wouldn’t walk away from real power (who would?); their young walk away from talk. I’m almost laughing as I write this. Here they are desperate for power and they refuse to simply plug into the Enemy’s vast resources. It’s too easy, really.

+ Lastly (at least for this letter), without being connected to the power, religious humans lose sight of, and even move in the opposite direction of – I hate even to write the word – love. Based on what the Enemy has done for the wretched things you would think that christian would be a wonderful word to them, a cherished concept. Yet look at what the word christian evokes in people now, especially in that place they refer to as the United States. (united? lol as they would say) When humans hear that word now they often think about pictures of self-righteousness, political posturing, and meanness. This is a victory that must be placed near the pinnacle of our successes! One of the Enemy’s writers, that awful little Ellen White, explained this process perfectly, yet fortunately she may as well have been writing to a wall.

When men indulge this accusing spirit, they are not satisfied with pointing out what they suppose to be a defect in their brother. If milder means fail of making him do what they think ought to be done, they will resort to compulsion. Just as far as lies in their power they will force men to comply with their ideas of what is right. This is what the Jews did in the days of Christ and what the church has done whenever she has lost the grace of Christ. Finding herself destitute of the power of love, she has reached out for the strong arm of the state to enforce her dogmas and execute her decrees. Here is the secret of all religious laws that have ever been enacted, and the secret of all persecution from the days of Abel to our own time.2

I was worried, even scared, when I first saw what she had written, thinking that the earthlians would “get it” and head back onto the Enemy’s path, but I was soon reminded my fears were unfounded. They are more into being right, and making others be their view of right, than they are in being connected and (forgive me) loving. Keep your patient focused on the value of rightness. Prompt him to be willing to sacrifice others for the good of the right. And by all means, present to him the importance of religion and the value of knowing, dissecting, and being right.

I apologize for my droning, yet I remember with such affection the counsel I received from my Uncle Screwtape when I, like you now, needed it most. You are my cherished grandson and I yearn for your success. I look forward to more of our discussions.


Grandpa Wormwood

P.S. – I know that you wanted me to specifically help you with a concept your patient is studying called choice theory. You are correct to be concerned about this. Hopefully, you can see how my letter begins to address these concerns. The concepts of choice theory are part of the Enemy’s way and I am glad you discerned this on your own. More on this later.

1. Matthew 6:22, 23
2. White, E. (1896). Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, (p. 126-127). Takoma Park, MD: Review & Herald Publishing Association.


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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

Know Yourself

You probably don’t know the guy in the picture. Until recently, I didn’t know him either. His name is Charles Handy and it turns out that in the world of business and management he is rather famous. An Irish philosopher and author, Handy has been rated on the Thinkers 50 list, a list that ranks the most influential living management thinkers. In 2001, he was second on the list, behind only Peter Drucker. In 2005, he was tenth. Sounds like a tough list.

I digress. Anyway, in a book he wrote entitled The Hungry Spirit (his eleventh book, written in 1997) he outlined the ingredients for a successful school system in the modern world (But aren’t we in the post-modern era? Again, I digress.) He listed four ingredients for success, although it was the first one that struck me for some reason. Handy’s first ingredient, at the top of the list is –   ( d r u m r  o   l    l )

* The discovery of oneself is more important than the discovery of the world.

What a great choice theory statement! Those seeking to learn about choice theory and put it’s principles to use in their lives really are on a journey to discovering themselves. As you come to recognize that the pictures in your quality world have been purposefully placed there by you, it becomes clear that knowing yourself is of the utmost importance. Blaming others or the world for your problems makes less and less sense as you realize the significance of your power to think and to act.

Handy must have recognized the importance of this challenge, too, and recommended that teachers assist students in discovering their own identities and strengths. Discovering their identity is one of the greatest gifts a student could ever receive. Coming into a knowledge of who they are, what they value, what makes them happy, what fulfills them, and the behaviors that bring them closer to the important people in their lives will put students on the road to success.

In case you are curious about the other three ingredients on Handy’s list. Here they are –

* Everyone is good at something.

* Life is a marathon, not a horse race. (Don’t focus on testing to the exclusion of cooperation, team working, curiosity, and confidence.)

* The best learning comes after experience. (So much education nowadays comes before experience.)


Teaching students about the basic needs and the quality world is a sure way to help them discover who they are. Glasser once said that there is nothing in choice theory that a six year old can’t understand. I agree with him.

With smaller children, up to age 7, focus on simply teaching them about the basic needs. Give them simple definitions. As you read stories to the children, ask them about the basic needs of the characters in the story. Have them think out loud about which needs seem to be the strongest. As different situations come up in the classroom, take a moment and review the basic need that helped or hindered a good outcome. The point is to dialogue openly with the students about the needs. Don’t focus on what a particular student’s needs are. Just talk about them in general.

As students get older they become more able to consider their own personality makeup and to consider their own basic need strengths. This is an excellent time to introduce the quality world to students, as the people and things and activities we collect in our quality world give us clues into what our personal basic needs really are.


An excellent resource for primary grade teachers is My Quality World Workbook by Carleen Glasser. You can purchase the workbook at or you can call 310-313-5800.


Choice Theory Study Group is this coming Sabbath afternoon, January 25, 2:00 pm in the PUC Education Department building, Room 212.

Learning from Jim Carrey or the NYC Murder Rate

Hmm .  .  . what to write about. While reading a weekly journal called appropriately, The Week, I ran across two items that caught my attention. I’ll briefly share both of them and you can let me know which direction to head.


1st Item – A Quote from Jim Carrey

I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.   Jim Carrey

Really true, isn’t it? We often do look at the rich and famous and compare our lives to our perceptions of their lives. Each time we see a magazine cover with their gorgeous faces and perfect (photoshopped) bodies and see pictures of them on vacation in exotic places that normal people never go to, we are reminded of how far from their lives we really are. In the process, it’s easy to forget about the often screwed-up lives of the people in those pictures and their desperation for normalcy. And in the process we lose sight of the things for which we can be thankful. We forget to nurture a spirit of gratitude.

Jealousy and covetousness erode us from the inside out. The thinking we embrace and coddle affects our actions, our feelings, and even our physiology. Stinkin thinkin leads to all kinds of problems. Take a cue from Jim Carrey and quickly review your blessings. If the list is short you may need to intentionally seek the reasons for which to be thankful, but any effort put into improving your thinking will make a huge difference in your relationships and your happiness.

Item #2 – Murder Rates in NYC Reveal an Interesting Pattern


A total of 334 people were murdered in New York City last year, only 29 of them by strangers. That’s down from more than 2,245 murders in 1990, and the lowest number of murders in the city on record.

The low number of murders is good, but what I really noticed had to do with how only 29 of them were committed by strangers. When I saw that I immediately thought of Glasser’s belief that all long-lasting psychological problems are relationship problems. It is telling that over 90% of the murders in NYC were committed by people who knew their victims. Taking the life of a friend or loved one is an extreme act that in a strange way conveys the importance of relationships. We value relationships and get worked up when a relationship doesn’t go the way we want it to go. Murdering another person is never the answer, yet 305 people in NYC last year didn’t know about other options and went ahead and acted out in violence.

This is where choice theory can help. The principles of choice theory gently, but firmly pull us out from the pit of victimhood and place us back in possession of ourselves. We come to understand the control we have on our thinking and our acting and the ways in which we create our own reality. We begin to value our relationships more and to recognize the role we play in whether or not our relationships are successful. Ultimately, without hurting or taking advantage of others, we become responsible for our own happiness.

So, what to write about — Jim Carrey and gratitude or on what can be learned from the NYC murder rate? Hmm .  .  .


Tom Lee, Jean Buller, and Jim Roy at the Google Education Conference. Each of them are professors in the teacher education program at Pacific Union College.

Tom Lee, Jean Buller, and Jim Roy at the Google Education Conference. Each of them are professors in the teacher education program at Pacific Union College.

I attended a Google Apps for Educators Conference on Jan. 8 and 9 at New Tech High in Napa, CA. Wow! If you ever have a chance to attend a Google educator conference I highly encourage you to do so. (45 such conferences will be put on this coming year) The things you learn and ideas you hear are educationally transformative.

For example, the Research tool in Google Docs places the world (websites, articles, pictures, and video clips) at students’ fingertips. And by students we aren’t just talking about college and secondary students. Elementary students can quickly learn to study a topic more deeply and then demonstrate their understanding in exciting ways. Their presentations become much more RELEVANT to them and their classmates. As you probably recall, relevance is one of the most important qualities in a choice theory classroom.


Our next Choice Theory Study Group is January 25 at 2:00 pm.

Let me know if you have agenda items or topics you would like to cover.

A recent Wall Street Journal headline caught my eye and got me to thinking in all kinds of creative ways. The headline read, “Want to Stop Arguing and Change Spouse’s Behavior? Start With Mirror.” The article then opened with –

Ever want to change something about your partner? Get him or her to eat better or work less? Exercise more? Stop nagging or yelling? Start with a mirror.

Your best chance of transforming someone else—and the dynamic in your relationship—is to demonstrate your willingness to alter your own actions, experts say.

The article went on to cite studies and give good examples that supported this theme, however I was captivated by the reference to the item that each of us uses every day – that being a mirror. It struck me that a mirror, more than any other thing or item, may be the best mascot for representing the choice theory approach to life. The total behavior car is a graphic or thing that has entered the pantheon of choice theory tools, but the simple mirror may capture the essence of choice theory in ways the car cannot.

One teacher tapped into this truth beautifully when she hung a mirror in the back of her classroom, with the following captions prominently displayed underneath.

Whose behavior can I control?

How can I behave in a way that might change this situation for the better?

She referred to the mirror as she taught about the concepts of choice theory, especially at the beginning of the year. It wasn’t unusual for her to see a student standing in front of the mirror, studying themselves in the frame before them, quietly reviewing the questions underneath.

Toward the close of the school year one fifth-grader shared, “That mirror got to me. There was some other choice theory stuff I liked, but that mirror .  .  . it just sat there, day after day reminding me about how I’m the only person I can control. It’s true.” The teacher learned just how much of an impact the mirror in the classroom had on this student when the child’s mother informed the teacher that her son had written out these questions and taped them to the bathroom mirror at home? The teacher recalled how the mother became emotional as she described the effect that bathroom mirror was having on their home, especially on the conversations she and her husband were starting to have.


A mirror – a simple, common mirror – needs to be a part of my choice theory workshops from now on. I need to think of mini-lessons or activities that will tap into the power of this everyday item. Your help on this would be appreciated. Any ideas?

Still a classic, no matter how many times I see it.

Ezekiel, yes, dry bones Ezekiel “got” this important principle – the principle of the mirror – when he wrote in Ezekiel 3:10 –

Then he added, “Son of man, let all my words sink into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself.”


A Michael Jackson song proclaims the truth about the mirror, too. The chorus of his famous song says –

I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror

I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways

And No Message Could’ve Been Any Clearer

If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place

Take A Look At Yourself And

Then Make That . . .



The Choice Theory Study Group this month meets on January 25.

I recently discovered a link that lists the 20 most popular TED talks of all time. The number one TED talk of all time was given by Ken Robinson, on how schools kill creativity, with well over 23,ooo,ooo views. It caught my eye that Daniel Pink’s talk on the surprising science of motivation is listed at number 10 on the all-time list with 9,176,053 views (which is 300,000 views less than a TED talk on ten things you didn’t know about orgasm). Daniel Pink, you remember, is the author of DRIVE, the book I reviewed a couple of blogs ago. If you don’t have the time to read the book, his 18 minute TED talk will give you the essence of what the book is emphasizing.


If you are interested here is the link to the Top 20 TED Talk List.


Glasser didn’t care much for the word motivation, because for most people it stands for one person trying to get another person to do something. As far as how people often apply them, the words motivate and manipulate mean pretty much the same thing. Motivation is important, huge, actually! It’s just that we need to remember that our motivation comes from within us. Yes, we can be influenced from the outside; a reward or punishment might get our attention for some reason. But ultimately there is something inside of us that wants to do a certain thing or be a certain way. Choice theorists keep this in mind as they work to create an environment in which others can be motivated.


Our next Choice Theory Study Group is January 25. Make plans to join us. It’ll be FUN!



Those of you who live in the Northern California area may also be interested in a special weekend event coming up at The Haven, the church in Deer Park located right next to the St. Helena Hospital. Tim Jennings, the author of several books, including The God-Shaped Brain, will be speaking on Friday evening, January 10, and then again on Sabbath, January 11. I have been told that he and I should meet as we both believe strongly in a person’s power to choose and in the freedom with which God created us. If you are into choice theory you should enjoy this weekend a lot.

2013 and The Better Plan Blog

2013 is just about to go into the history books. As New Year’s Eve ushers in 2014, I thought I would share some data and info regarding the life of The Better Plan blog over the past year.

+  I started the blog for Seventh-day Adventist teachers and parents who had read my book Soul Shapers and as a result wanted to know more about choice theory. Many who signed up to follow the blog are SDA teachers or parents, but many of you are not SDA. As a result, the blog has focused on the principles of choice theory. There has been an occasional emphasis on SDA quotes or stories, but not as much as I originally planned.

+  The very first blog was posted on Dec. 16, 2012.
There were five posts and 90 views during December, 2012.

+  There are now 189 people following the blog.

+  During 2013, there were 78 posts or articles.
Of the 78 posts there were 8,256 views.
That represents an average of 23 views per day.
To the 78 posts there were 371 comments.

+  The low day for views was on December 20, 2013, when there was just one view.
The high day for views was on August 24, 2013, when there were 231 views, with most of the views being directed at the I Will Miss You, Bill post.
The average views for the month of August was 44 views per day.
The posts related to Glasser’s passing away in August definitely had the most views during the year.

+  A couple of blogs I put some time and thought into were Give Me Victory or Give Me Death on January 22, and Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian? on November 10.

+  A couple of blogs that meant a lot to me were The Rest of the Story, Part 1, on September 3, and Part 2 on September 5.
The comments several of you shared in response to The Rest of the Story meant a great deal to me.

+  An example of the kind of blogs I thought would have gotten more views was Stringless Love on July 11.

+  There were other contributors besides myself during the past year, something I would like to see more of in 2014. Examples of contributions from other writers include 19 Ways to Lead, Rather than Boss, by Ed Boyatt, on July 27, and Push or Pull, by Chris Sequiera, on July 24.


Reflecting back I am pleased with the caliber of the content and I look forward to continuing the blog. It has been a labor of love, although it isn’t too hard to write about choice theory when you get a new idea or have an epiphany of some sort. I would like to see the blog grow and become an even better resource to teachers, parents, and choice theorists of all kinds. I would love your ideas on how to make the blog more valuable. (I am thinking about creating an eBook with all of The Better Plan 2013 blogs in chronological order. The blog template I am using makes it hard to read through the archived blogs chronologically.)

As I close 2013 I want to wish all of you every blessing for 2014!

Have Choose a great year!

Why DRIVE Drives Me


Drive (2009), Daniel Pink’s New York Times Bestseller, represents one of the reasons I was “driven” to write the Glasser biography. Drive is a well-written, captivating explanation of human motivation. Pink describes what he sees as a progression from Motivation 1.0 – motivation based purely on a biological drive for survival – to Motivation 2.0 – motivation based on extrinsic reward and punishment – to Motivation 3.0 – motivation based on intrinsic needs for autonomy, creativity, and achievement. Reading Pink’s insights and examples are like reviewing a What’s What list of research and a Who’s Who list of thought leaders and gurus in the fields of psychology, philosophy, and business over the last 50 years. Only problem is, even though the book covers the dawning of intrinsic motivation and the human need for freedom and self-determination, the influence and contributions of William Glasser are never mentioned.

I read and re-read Drive with such intense mixed emotions. On the one hand I really appreciate the way Pink makes a case for choice theory, while on the other hand I am really frustrated, and even a bit angry, that choice theory or Glasser is totally left out of the book. Abraham Maslow is included; Deci and Ryan are included; and others like Csikszentmihalyi, Seligman, Herzberg, and Deming are mentioned, and a host of others, but not Glasser. How you can write a book about human motivation that summarizes the theories on the topic from the last 50 years and not include William Glasser is beyond me.

Drive is not the only example of Glasser being left out or overlooked. In the course of my research for the Glasser biography I noticed a troubling trend of his work and ideas being less and less at the forefront and more and more slipping into the shadows. Even as the wave of internal control psychology grew bigger, affirming the personal power of choice, people seemed to forget the identity of one of the original wave creators. This felt unfair to me, and even unwise. Unfair because Glasser was one of the pillars on whom others built, and unwise because his message, and the behavior model he developed, is so helpful.

Part of what has motivated me to write Glasser’s story is the hope that the biography will contribute toward establishing his legacy and his prominence as a progressive leader in the fields of mental health and education. I don’t want his ideas to ride off into the sunset. I want his ideas to be recognized as laying the foundation for today’s effective practices.

In spite of Drive not referring to choice theory or Glasser, I still recommend you read it. Drive really is an excellent book and if you are into choice theory you will find that it adds to your understanding and expertise. Just be prepared to have mixed emotions as you go through it.


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“Everything that frees our spirit without giving us control of ourselves is ruinous.”  Goethe

Choice Theory and Christmas


I have been thinking about choice theory and Christmas and I have come to the conclusion that they are wonderfully connected!

My logic goes like this. Christmas marks the moment that God gave up His riches and glory to become one of us with our weakness and poverty. He entered a literal battlefield, a war zone, as a vulnerable, tiny baby. The Christ Child was the Commander of heaven’s armies, though, and He ultimately came to wreak havoc on the enemy’s schemes. Luke described how the choir that announced the Child’s arrival to the shepherds was actually made up of “the armies of heaven.” (Luke 2:13, 14) This incredible display was God’s way of saying Game On. And John declares that –

“The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8

The works of the devil are bad news. Driven by his hatred of everything for which God stood, he would do everything he could to deface and hurt God’s creation. Having already lured over a third of the angels to distrust God and join him in forming a new government, he focused on convincing us, the crowning work of God’s creative power, to distrust God, too. We chose to believe the devil, to seek a higher place, to go our own way, to align ourselves with a new, alternative government. A void was formed between humans and their Creator and fear and insecurity rushed in to fill the space. Instead of the self-control with which we were created, the devil took advantage of our allegiance to him and sought to capture us in his trap, to chain us within his dungeon, to addict us in behaviors from which their appeared no escape.

How fortunate for us that when the Commander Child arrived in the humble Bethlehem stable it was in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. Thirty years later, as Commander Messiah, He would read this prophecy in the synagogue as a declaration of His mission.

“I have come to release the captives and set the prisoners free.” Isaiah 61:1

God’s government is based on freedom, on the power to choose, on the ability to be in control of our thinking and behavior. Immanuel-the God with us Child-came to win back our freedom to choose, to level an unfair playing field, to give us back to ourselves.

The manger and the cross were one from the beginning. The Child was born in the shadow of death. Yet by His death we are healed, the shackles are unlocked, the prisons of our lives are opened. Through His Spirit we are free.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind.” 2Tim. 1:7

This freedom, this power to choose, this ability to be who you want to be, is so important to God that He was willing to give up everything to insure its future. Freedom was and is His universal non-negotiable.

Choice theory explains how we are motivated from within for reasons that are uniquely personal to us, and that we choose to behave in a way that we think will best meet our needs at that moment. How incredible that God would create us with this kind of autonomy! Let Christmas be a reminder of the freedom that God created us with, and also of His return to redeem us as Commander Child.

Game on at the manger!

Game won at the cross!

We are free!

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised as he was. Our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. Romans 6:5-7

(This post was a re-print from last Christmas, but I don’t think many of you saw it.)


Workshop Ideas – Several of you indicated how much you appreciated the Coca Cola commercial that was shared in the last blog, and suggestions for how the commercial clip could be used in a workshop setting include –

Let participants know that you are going to show a commercial and that you want them to look for a choice theory message in the clip. Ask participants to share their ideas afterward.

Let participants know that you are going to show a commercial about a young couple raising a young child and that the clip is made up of short vignettes. Their assignment is to consider which of the vignettes contains the most powerful choice theory moment. Or which of the vignettes would especially tempt a parent to resort to stimulus-response, reward-punishment?


Merry Christmas to all, and to all good night!

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