Posts tagged “quality world

The Drive Home


Soul Shapers 1 class, summer of 2014; a talented group of teachers who taught me a lot.

Soul Shapers 1 class, summer of 2014; a talented group of teachers who taught me a lot.

I want to give a big thank you to the Soul Shapers 1 group from this past week! I said a few things, facilitated a few activities, and led a few discussions, but it was their openness, creativity, and insight that really made the week a fun and meaningful experience. For instance, the following chart presentation examples were all created by them.

Chart presentations: A teacher-created small booklet could by used by students to identify their basic needs.

Chart presentations: A teacher-created small booklet could by used by students to identify their basic needs.


Chart presentations: Puppets can be used to help students process their behavioral center choices.

Chart presentations: Puppets can be used to help students process their behavioral center choices.


Chart presentations: A creative role play format leads to a better understanding of total behavior.

Chart presentations: A creative role play format leads to a better understanding of total behavior.

Most of the classmembers headed out for home after class ended on Thursday afternoon, although not all of them. A few of them are sticking around for the weekend so that they can continue in Soul Shapers 2, which begins on Monday. One of the those heading home didn’t have far to go, as she works right here at PUC. Others from the class, though, had longer trips – five from locations around northern California, three from central California, two from southern California, and three from Salt Lake City.

The trip home after experiencing a choice theory workshop can be an intense time of reflection. So many new concepts that have us thinking about our motivations and evaluating our behaviors. I haven’t checked in yet with this class about their trip home yet, but former participants have shared things like –

“Well, my head was kind of spinning, that’s for sure. The choice theory ideas, plus the Scripture and Ellen White stuff, it was pretty clear, and it made sense to me. But hearing this stuff for the first time, I was like, now what?   RG

“Well, to be honest, I was a little bit discouraged as I drove home. I had great memories from the time in class, the new friendships and all, but as I really thought about how I had been showing up with others, especially my own children, I just felt a little bad. I really want to get rid of the deadly habits and use more of the caring habits.”   HR

“Hmm .  .  . the trip home? I think I was pretty obsessed with the whole concept of how we control for our perceptions, you know, the idea that we place a picture in our quality world and then live in a way to make that picture happen, including manipulation as needed. That really nailed me for some reason.”   PA

“I was pretty excited, actually! I was thinking of ways that I could present the choice theory ideas to my students. I agree with you that doing the ideas ‘with’ them will be way better than doing the ideas ‘to’ them. If all I did was teach them about their Basic Needs and the Quality World, that would be such a gift for them. I plan on doing more than that, but just those two concepts would make a huge difference!”   AS

“I found myself thinking about the classroom management things I am going to change next school year.”   DS

“It hit me how much I was in the habit of blaming others for stuff, which kind of absolved me from any role in helping to make things better. Like I would blame the kids’ homes for not raising them right, and I would blame the kids for their lack of performance in class. Of course, with this way of thinking it never occurred to me that how I set up the classroom and the learning may have had something to do with their poor performance.”  JJ

Choice theory does indeed invite us to reflect on our own thinking and our own behavior. Instead of our musings being aimless, though, or negative, choice theory helps us reflect in a positive way that leads to effective change. I look forward to checking in with the latest classmembers about their reflections as they traveled home.


If you have read William Glasser: Champion of Choice, I encourage you to write a review of the book on Amazon. Together we can get the word out there that Glasser’s story and the ideas he championed are worth paying attention to. It’s not hard to contribute a Review of the book on Amazon and it doesn’t have to be long. Think about it.


If you haven’t read Champion of Choice yet, then put it on your reading list for this summer. Besides a good story, you will learn a lot about choice theory and how to live your life.



You’re Adding PURPOSE on Purpose?

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you realize your purpose.   Mark Twain

Some of you noticed that I have added Purpose as an additional need to the five Glasser identified. It is true, and I not only added it, I put it at the top of the list. I did not do this flippantly. Instead, my suggesting this new addition represents a very personal process involving a great deal of reflection.

Correct Basic Needs

The thing that started this personal process was my wondering where my spirituality fit into the Basic Needs. And by spirituality I mean something much deeper than religion or church orientation. My spirituality has to do with Who I really am and What are my deepest beliefs and What is the meaning of life (it’s beginning and it’s end) and ultimately, What is my purpose in the grand scheme of things?

William Glasser at work in his home office. (2004) Jim Roy photo.

William Glasser at work in his home office. (2004) Jim Roy photo.

I tried to talk Glasser into endorsing this additional need, but he wouldn’t buy it. (When I first talked with him about it I referred to it as an Existential need, thinking he would be more comfortable with a “secular” wording.) I think he didn’t endorse the Purpose need for two reasons. The first reason had to do with not wanting to mess with the five needs he had emphasized for so long. Even though he had suggested the probability of their being more than five needs in his earlier writing (Control Theory, p. 16), he had settled into a firmness with his five. The second reason, I think, had to do with his seeing religion and spirituality as the same thing. He saw religious participation as a Quality World value or activity, and as such it didn’t qualify as a Basic Need. On top of this, in general, he didn’t view religion as a positive force throughout earth’s history. Without his endorsement I put my thoughts on this on a back burner and worked on other things. Even on a back burner, though, for me, the Purpose need wouldn’t go away.

I am convinced we are driven to understand our personal purpose and to make meaning of our lives, and that meeting this need is essential for the other needs to be fully met.

For a need to qualify as a Basic Need it would have to be needed, at least to a small degree, by all human beings. I believe the Purpose need meets this criteria as every human being has a deep need for personal meaning and the idea of coming into a sense of self. The self-help quest (books, seminars, videos, etc.) is an industry bringing in 2.5 billion dollars a year, so there are a lot of us seeking this thing called meaning.

I see college students that struggle because their life purpose is not clear to themselves. Their other needs are being met – they have friends and social connections, they are free to come and go, and they have some fun in their lives – but not having their identity and purpose clarified hampers their success. In fact, a lack of purpose can derail a college student’s academic success.


I am suggesting that the need for Purpose and Meaning is a universal need that people seek to meet in all kinds of ways. For many their involvement in a religion contributes to filling this need; others who are spiritual, although not into a religion, find meaning in their journeys as well. And even non-spiritual, non-religious people have their own ways of finding purpose and meaning. For instance, it is interesting how movies that depict superheroes, science fiction stories based on “a long, long time ago, in a faraway galaxy” themes, and end-of-the-world scenarios are so popular. It is like we have an innate curiosity about where we fit into the past, present, and future. It is like we have a consciousness void inside of us that can only be filled as our need for Purpose and Meaning are satisfied.

We are always monitoring the extent to which our Basic Needs are being met, something I do quite a bit when it comes to my own need for Purpose and Meaning. Maybe some of you can relate to that.

Every person has a purpose. Never give up.   Manual DeVie


For those of you just getting started with following The Better Plan blog, a great way to catch up is to go the link toward the upper left hand corner labeled 2013 – Year At A Glance. Each of last year’s posts are in chronological order and just a click away from accessing.




The Glasser Four

Glasser giving a talk in Ventura, California, in 2006.

Glasser giving a talk in Ventura, California, in 2006.

William Glasser was well-known for being able to speak to large audiences for hours without a script or even notes. And it wasn’t just that he could speak to an audience; he could teach and entertain in a way that people seemed to become unaware of the time. It was common for the stage or platform from which he was going to speak to have a few simple items – a chair or stool, a small table with a glass or pitcher of water, and a microphone. That was it. No lectern, no screen, and no media to help him get his points across. And yet, people listened, by the thousands, and by the hour.

I asked him during one of our interviews if he had an outline in his head of what he wanted to cover and he said that he did. Basically, he wanted to cover what he saw as the four essentials –

1. Basic needs

2. The quality world

3. Creativity

4. Total behavior

Other than this simple outline there was no script or set presentation. To some extent, each time he presented he wondered himself what he was going to come up with. If the talk was shorter, then he had to make his points quickly; if it was longer, then he could explain more deeply and share more anecdotes. Either way the success of his talks was dependent on his own creativity. He also described how much the audience’s interest and energy promoted or hindered his creativity. He tried to put into words how his creativity could almost be on fire when an audience was supportive.

This short outline gave him what he needed to share informative and impressive presentations. Chances are, though, an outline this short wouldn’t be enough for the rest of us. For the rest of us it would help if these essential areas were filled out a bit. So, let’s do that. Let’s fill them out and add some detail. I will start the process, however I would like a lot of you to send me additional bullet points that I can add to each of them.

In other words, for each of the Four Essentials think of a word or phrase that defines or describes that Essential in a way that helps to make it more clear. For instance –

Basic Needs
+ A unique set of urges / needs that constantly exert pressure on us to be met
+ Genetically passed on to us
+ Do not change over time
+ Are comprised of five psychological needs – purpose and meaning, love and belonging, power and success, freedom and autonomy, joy and fun – and one physiological need – survival and safety. (Glasser believed there are four psychological needs – love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun.)

Quality World
+ A place in our head where we store pictures of anyone or anything that helps us to satisfy one or more of the basic needs.
+ QW pictures can be of people, places, objects, activities, and beliefs
+ The QW is an amoral picture book. In other words, we may collect pictures that help us to temporarily feel good, but that may not be good for us.

+ Our brain is always creating potential behaviors in response to the changing circumstances around us.
+ Some behaviors become “old stand-by” behaviors for us and we store these for use as needed.
+ It is much preferable to depend on the Caring Habits as our go-to, “old stand-by’ behavior. The Caring Habits include supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting, negotiating differences.
+ It is common, though, to use one or more of the Deadly Habits when our circumstances change in a way that we don’t like. Deadly Habits include criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and rewarding to manipulate.
+ We create behaviors that we think will satisfy our needs at the moment. A behavior we choose might not bring a lot of satisfaction, but it doesn’t take much for us to make this choice. For instance, we might choose one of the Deadly Habits because it gives us a very small feeling of control.

Total Behavior Car

Total Behavior
+ All behavior is purposeful.
+ Every behavior is made up of four parts that are best described by the words thinking, acting, feeling, and physiology.
+ We have direct control over two of the parts – thinking and acting.
+ We only have indirect control over the other two parts – feeling and physiology.

Help me improve these bulleted lists by adding things I have left out or by correcting any mistakes I may have made. Maybe some of them could be worded better. Let me know.


One of the things we’ll be talking about during the Choice Theory Study Group tomorrow afternoon, March 15, is the concept of total behavior. We start in the PUC Education Building at 2:00 pm. I hope you can be there.


Being honest may not get you a lot of friends,
but it will get you the right ones.
John Lennon

Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian?


A recent article headline caught my attention. Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian? it asked. I have been asking that same question for years. What gives with people who claim Jesus Christ as the ultimate role model putting so much energy into wanting to govern people into behaving the way they see fit? What gives with “Christians” wanting to deny others health care, or cutting food stamps for the poor, or grousing about raising the minimum wage, or fighting efforts to care for the planet? What is it about their fascination with guns, their promotion of the military, and their craving for power in general?

Choice theory, it turns out, provides helpful insights into the cause of this disappointing reality. Two important components of the choice theory model are 1) the Quality World – the place in our heads where we store the pictures of the people, places, things, beliefs, activities, etc. that we find need-satisfying – and 2) the Perceived World – the reality that we perceive as our experiences pass through our knowledge and values filter. The Quality World is the most important of the choice theory concepts, however I find the Perceived World to be the most fascinating. Choice theory contends that from the moment we are born we begin to learn to satisfy our needs. This collection of need-satisfying people and behaviors forms our own personal Quality World, the center that motivates all of our behavior. The Quality World represents what we WANT. We experience the world through our five senses, although our perceptions are coded through filters before becoming our reality. Our Perceived World represents what we HAVE, or probably better put, what we THINK WE HAVE.

One of the filters our experiences pass through is our valuing filter or, put more accurately, the filter of our Quality World. Our personal Quality World represents everything we value and these values have an incredible influence on our perception of reality. We literally place a picture into our Quality World because we believe that picture will satisfy a need. That picture also now becomes a filter through which all of our perceptions must travel before being coded in the brain. These picture filters are very good at letting certain beliefs and images into our reality, modifying others, and in some cases, prohibiting other images and beliefs from coming anywhere near our reality.

Amanda Marcotte, the author of Why Are So Many Christians so Un-Christian?, may not be a choice theorist, but she explained the process very similarly.

It’s a process called rationalization or motivated reasoning, and to be perfectly fair, it’s how most people think about most things most of the time: They choose what to believe and then look for reasons to explain why they believe it. Huge reams of psychological research show this is just how the human brain works. Almost never do we look over a bunch of arguments and choose what to believe based on reasoning our position out. As Chris Mooney at Mother Jones explains, “We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close.” Our faculties are usually put to the task of trying to defend what we already believe, not towards developing a better understanding of the world.”

Even before I had read Marcotte’s article, a passage in the book of Matthew got me to thinking about this topic. As part of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained that –

“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!”   Matthew 6:22, 23

Interesting that Jesus even described a filtering process that affects our ultimate view of reality. When your eye is a good filter you are filled with light and truth and healthy insight; when your eye is bad you are filled with darkness. The bad eye filter is so effective that a person can reach a point where they think they are filled with light, even as they are surrounded in darkness. “How deep,” he says, “that kind of darkness will be.”


How is it possible to reach the point where you think you are in the light, yet you are in a total blackout? Especially spiritually? How is it possible to be concerned about living a Godly life and attend church and give offerings and hang out with other “Godly” people, and yet be filled with darkness? Which brings me to another text that got my attention. In the upper room, prior to His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus, wanting to strengthen His disciples and alert them to a terrible reality ahead, said –

“I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God.”   John 16:1, 2

Talk about blackness. Murder as a holy service for God. Jesus experienced this kind of “holy service” himself, by religious leaders who killed Him, but wanted the whole affair done as soon on Friday afternoon as possible, since they wanted to get home by sundown so they wouldn’t break the Sabbath.

Such is the power of our ability to create our own reality. We have everything to do with creating what we WANT (Quality World), and we also have a great deal to do with creating what we THINK WE HAVE (Perceived World). My hope and prayer is that we will let God re-create us in His image, rather than us putting so much energy into changing Him into our image. Love, amazing love, is at the heart of God’s character and He wants us to not only experience it ourselves, but also to share it generously with others.

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. Dear friends, since God loved us so much, we surely ought to love each other.    1 John 1:5; 4:11

(You can access Marcotte’s article at


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$10 and Push Ups

Working with partners during one of the morning session activities.

Working with partners during one of the morning session activities.

Some anecdotes from the Beirut conference, Sunday, October 20, 2013:

My view of the Middle East culture, now that I am a veteran of a few days here, is that they are reserved with someone they don’t know that well, but not reserved at all with each other. By the end of the conference, people were greeting me and even saying thank you, but not much more than that. They seemed to be into the topics that were covered, especially if the learning involved an activity, but I didn’t get a lot of direct feedback from them one way or another. There was positive energy in the room; I could definitely feel that. One woman who attended came up to me during a break and thanked me rather strongly, ultimately sharing with me that I had come to the Middle East just so she could here about choice theory.  Made my day, actually.

it's about 67 cents per push up.

It’s about 67 cents per push up.

I do an activity where I hold up a $10 bill and say that I will give it to the person who comes to the front of the room and does 15 legal push ups. Usually, there will be some who start waving their hands to be chosen as I slowly approach others and one by one offer them the money for the pushups. People will decline; some refuse even to give me any eye contact for fear I will ask them. I continue trying to get someone (not waving his/her hands) to go for it. Eventually, I select a person and he/she does the push ups, whereupon I congratulate them and hand them the money. This activity is a lead-in to a discussion on behaviorism and stimulus-response approaches to motivation. I ask them “What just happened here? Did the $10 make the person do the push ups?” It didn’t seem to work with those who declined, some of whom could have done the push ups. Ultimately, the group realizes that external motivators work for some people, some of the time, and always for reasons that are inside of them. The reason I share this is that when I did this activity in Beirut I had fewer responses than at any other place I have used it. Absolutely no women were interested in doing the push ups, and basically none of the men were either. One raised his hand briefly, but then his hand kind of disappeared. An American student missionary eventually said he would do it, which he did, and he got the $10. I am curious, though, if this is a cultural thing or if I just didn’t do it right. I’ve been doing it for a long time, so I don’t think it is the latter, but you never know. (Most of the participants who have done the push ups and won the $10 over the last, say three or four years, have been women.)

Great rendition, from the heart, of the Lebanese national anthem.

Great rendition, from the heart, of the Lebanese national anthem.

For variety, I also offer $10 to the person who will come to the front and sing the national anthem, a cappella. People seemed even less interested in doing this than they did in doing the push ups. I offered and invited, but no takers. Finally, a gentleman said he would do it and moved to the piano on the stage to play as he sang. I said, no, it needed to be a cappella. He complied, took the microphone, and begin to sing the Lebanese national anthem. He sang with conviction and gusto. Very quickly after he began to sing, one by one audience members stood to their feet and began to sing as well. Rather than simply being entertained by this impromptu solo, they felt compelled to stand in honor of their country and join in singing their national anthem. It was an impressive moment, a touching moment. I was out another $10, but it was totally worth it, though.

An afternoon problem-solving group solving problems.

An afternoon problem-solving group solving problems.

After lunch, problem-solving groups were created that were asked to apply information from the morning session to real classroom settings. For instance, one of the questions asked group members to identify a need-satisfying classroom strategy or activity for each of the Basic Needs. I was very impressed as group reporters from each of the groups went to the microphone and explained their choice theory strategies for a better classroom environment.  Examples included –

Purpose and Meaning– explaining assignments better; allowing students to ask and explore “why” questions; helping students to research career possibilities without pressuring them in a certain direction

Love and Belonging – greeting students personally at the start of the school day and asking them how they are doing; teaching them to work with partners or in small groups more effectively; looking out for the student who may not feel as connected; modeling positive relationships by being supportive of each other as staff members

Power and Achievement – having students present to the class or to teach the class a skill that they do well; allowing students to re-do an assignment until they get it; giving students roles or jobs in the classroom; try to provide students with choices when it comes to how they fulfill assignments

Freedom and Autonomy – trust students more and expect them to live up to that trust; allow to give input into how an assignment could best be done; allow students to give input into the selection and wording of some of the class procedures and rules

Joy and Fun – read funny stories or share jokes; create an environment that is emotionally and physically safe, where creativity can flourish; be optimistic with students; express belief in their ability

Survival and Safety – design and implement a structured school program that protects students physically, emotionally, and academically; be aware of any students displaying bullying behaviors; repair damaged or broken equipment or furniture quickly; prioritize the emotional well-being of every student


Check your calendar, because if you were really responsible and organized you would have Sabbath afternoon, November 2, from 2:00-4:00 pm already scheduled for the next Choice Theory Study Group. If you haven’t scheduled it yet, you can go ahead and do that now. Hope you can be there!


Let me know if you have questions or topics for The Better Plan blog to address. Get in touch with me at or through the blog contact form.

Thirteen (so far) Essential Psychological Skills for Kids


In the last Better Plan blog we considered the kinds of skills that kids should have before they turn 18 and definitely before they leave home. One of the categories that was missing from the list, though, was a category for Psychological Skills. Several of you responded to my request for help at forming such a list. The following list summarizes your suggestions.

Psychological Skills We Want Our Kids to Learn
1. To be able to recognize the motivation behind their choices.
2. To be able to handle failure and see it as an opportunity to learn.
3. To be able to self-evaluate.
4. Knowing the seven Caring Habits (Supporting, Listening, Encouraging, Accepting, Trusting, Respecting, and Negotiating Differences) and using them.
5. To really recognize their priceless worth, not because of their performance, achievement, or behavior, but because they are a child of God.
6. Relational skills, such as connecting, compassion, communication, and empathy.
7. To be able to process and navigate emotions in a positive way.
8. To be aware of the ability to choose their response to the conditions/circumstances of life.
9. To understand that divergent thinking is healthy.
10. To know when to –
FIGHT for something worth fighting for;
ACCOMMODATE when the relationship is more important than the issue, and
AVOID when it makes sense to split the difference and compromise.
11. Also knowing and understanding the seven Deadly Habits (Criticizing, Blaming, Complaining, Nagging, Threatening, Punishing, and Rewarding to Manipulate).
12. To learn to be caring and compassionate, especially using the skill of empathy.
13. To gain a work ethic that reflects a willingness to work and a desire to do their best.
This list is a great start, but (I wonder) have important psychological skills been left off? Reply to this blog with more suggestions and help to make the list even more complete. This could be a great resource to those of us who work with kids and to those of us who give workshops and presentations. For instance, I am scheduled to begin teaching choice theory to 10th graders this coming Friday morning. I could see myself sharing this list with “kids” and getting their response. Let’s grow this list and identify more of the psychological skills we want our kids to have.
The Choice Theory Study Group that met near where I live this past Sabbath was a success! Group members shared examples of ways they have taught or used choice theory so far this school year, and coached and affirmed each other throughout the process. Some things that came out of our time together include –
George Barcenas, PE teacher, athletic director, and language teacher at Redwood Adventist School in Santa Rosa, CA, described how grades 9-12 began the school year with a multi-day retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains, with choice theory principles as the theme they wanted to set the tone for the school year. He has followed that opening week by consistently referring to the choice theory elements in his classes. Already students are beginning to bring up the basic needs, maybe their own or those of another student, when problem-solving moments arise.
Joel Steffen, fifth and sixth grade teacher at Foothills Adventist Elementary School, has been conducting daily class meetings. One thing he shared is that it really makes a difference which guiding question you use to start the meeting. When you choose well and kids are interested in the topic the meeting goes pretty well. Choose less well and it becomes apparent rather quickly. He sees both the effective and the less effective meetings as steps in the learning process, though, and plans to continue honing his questioning skills.
Joel Steffen is having his fifth and sixth graders create their own quality world cup.

Joel Steffen is having his fifth and sixth graders create their own personal quality world cup.

Amy Palma, fifth grade teacher at Calistoga Elementary, has been teaching there for 10 years, and has been implementing a choice theory management approach, specifically Marvin Marshall’s ABCD model for seven of those years. Amy’s story is important because she is an example of a teacher who successfully uses choice theory, even though she is the only one in the school doing so. Over the years, the school has tried different external control programs, and each time Amy has respectfully declined. While other teachers have been less than satisfied with how a school year has gone, Amy likes how it has gone and attributes choice theory as one of the key reasons. Teachers sometimes ask me, “What if I am the only teacher in the school teaching this way?” At that moment I tell them about Amy.
Sean Kootsey, History teacher at Pleasant Hill Adventist Academy, described how significant the idea of giving students multiple chances to master the learning has been for him, and for his students. He reminded us that learning and assessing is not a “gotchya” process. If students need more than one chance to learn the concepts, why is that bad, he asked. At first other teachers in the school chuckled or even scoffed at the idea of multiple learning chances, but now all of them are teaching that way and are pleased with the results. The culture there has shifted.
Ron Bunch, a local community member, shared how much the ideas have influenced his personal relationships, and especially how the choice theory ideas have helped him in his spiritual journey. He described new insights regarding the character of God and His design of us and for us. God did not create us to be a victim of circumstances, but instead gave us incredible freedom and power to make choices.
These were just a few of the things expressed in the recent study group. One thing the group decided was that we want to keep meeting, maybe even on a monthly basis. It was felt like the get-together is a good way to keep choice theory ideas from being crowded out by other things; it is a good way to re-charge the concepts and to feed off the energy of colleagues. We will be meeting twice more before the Christmas break. I’ll share those dates soon.
One thing that came out of the blog entitled Compelling Reasons to Teach Choice Theory is the recognition that we need to begin sharing more about how to get this done. We need to assemble a clearinghouse, a place where people can go to access resources and materials, or even specific lesson plans that address choice theory elements. This is important! We need to get this started!
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Stringless Love


A key choice theory axiom, maybe THE choice theory axiom, states that the only person we can control is ourselves. This doesn’t mean that we don’t try to control others. We very often do, and in ways that are so subtle that we aren’t aware of it, even as we are in the midst of doing it. Today’s blog will attempt to pull back the curtain of our behavior and give examples of just how powerful this process is, a process that has everything to do with our quality world pictures.

When it comes to axiom #1 it would be more accurate to say that we are controlling for our perceptions, rather than controlling our own or another’s behavior. In other words, the only person’s perceptions we can control is our own. Let me give you an example that Mike (not his real name) shared with me recently –

The other day I am out shopping with my wife, each of us with a list of items to find, and while working on my list I notice her further down the same aisle I am in. I see her and for some reason I want to go to her and express my affection for her, to touch her, you know, to “look lovingly into her eyes” kind of thing. So I’m thinking about that as I’m standing there in the bread section. Some of you may be thinking, “What are you waiting for? Go tell her you love her!” But it’s not exactly that simple. We’re working through some stuff. We’re doing good, but anyway .  .  .

For some reason the question occurs to me, there in the bread section, am I wanting to express my affection to her because I just want to give her affection, or am I wanting to express affection so that she will give me affection in return? Am I wanting to touch her because she would then touch me, too? As I thought about it, I realized that what I really wanted was for her to want me, for her to express affection for me, and for her to touch me. I did feel affection toward her, but more importantly, I was fishing for something from her. My gift was not so much a gift, as much as it was a prompt, maybe even a bit of a trap.

I must admit I was stopped in my tracks at that moment. What you had been saying in the Soul Shapers class kind of just flashed into me. I had this picture in my mind of how I wanted my wife and I to be, how I wanted her to treat me, and there I was trying to create it, trying to turn my picture into a reality. I was stunned at how subtle, yet how real, the process was in my thinking. I was further stunned by how many years I had been behaving this way. My “affection” was really a form of manipulation.

Mike realized that his “love” had strings attached. He was giving, but it was giving to get something in return. When his giving wasn’t responded to in a way that matched his expectations he became frustrated and hurt, and then went about creating another behavior to try to get what he wanted. Maybe this new behavior would be another “loving” action; maybe it would be a punishing action like the silent treatment.

Spouses face this process every day. So does a teacher with his/her students. People have antennae that discern the strings that are attached to gifts. Love with strings attached really isn’t love. Let’s be clear, though. The problem isn’t that we have expectations, at least if the expectations are reasonable and healthy, the problem occurs when we manipulate or coerce to get what we want. It is actually relationship-strengthening to state your expectation and then, using the caring habits, discuss and negotiate the ways in which that expectation can happen.

——   “Love with strings attached really isn’t love.”   ——

On a deeper and more important level, I think this process reveals something about what the presence of sin has brought to our little planet. Jeremiah wrote about our righteousness being like filthy rags, or in other words, even our love seems to involve selfishness. I think the process also reveals one of choice theory’s limitations – that being that choice theory can give us insights into our behavior, but it cannot change the heart. Only the Holy Spirit can give us a perfect love that doesn’t care about strings. Stringless love. That would be powerful.


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We Want to Feel GOOD, Pt. 4

The Good and the Bad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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We WANT to Feel Good, Pt. 2

Refund check

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Soul Shapers 1   June 17-20

Soul Shapers 2   June 24-27

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I Know What’s Best for My Kid! Don’t I?

This past week was a bit full for me. The beginning of the week had very important appointments for our Education Department at PUC, and then I headed out on the road on Thursday through Sabbath, visiting teachers in Santa Cruz and Mountain View and then preaching in Lodi for their Education Sabbath. Last weekend I worked on trying to improve the access to the blog through Google, but now I am wondering if I did more harm than good. Let me know if anything has changed for the worse as far as The Better Plan blog on your end. With that said, let’s move on to #3 on the 7 Worst Things Good Parents Do list – Push your child into too many activities.

The 7 Worst Things Good Parents Do

1. Baby your child.

2. Put your marriage last.

3. Push your child into too many activities.

For me, #3 and #7 are related, however there are differences between them, too. I will try to keep my comments separated for these two important areas and focus on the essence of each of them.

Much has been written on this phenomena, which is a more recent development in terms of sociology and culture, as those of us from the Boomer generation did not have to deal with this as kids. Maybe we had a parent who “forced” us to practice our piano lessons, but for the most part we were left to our devices to form friendships and engage in neighborhood play in all of its various forms. I am not sure of the official starting point when parents began to become so active in involving their children in so many planned activities, but at some point this shift occurred. At some point, too, maybe at the same time, we started assigning labels to the different parenting styles. We have come to view a tough, non-negotiating style as being a Tiger Mom; to a hovering, over-involved style as being a Helicopter parent; and to a more hands-off  approach as being a Free-Range parent. These are just a few of the labels. There are many more. Rather than dissect each of these approaches, which isn’t possible in my short comments here, I will try to focus on the essence of #3, the Agenda parent, through a choice theory lens. (I will use feminine pronouns exclusively to make the writing smoother, but masculine pronouns could be used just as easily.)

Like all human beings, an Agenda parent is urged by her basic needs to fulfill the quality world pictures she has identified and stored in her quality world mental scrapbook. I could see several basic need possibilities here. I could see the survival need, which has a lot to do with safety, urge a parent to be more vigilant in supervision. Rather than allowing a child to roam the neighborhood, like so many of us Boomers did, parents, still wanting a full life for their children, parents are willing to plan a full-plate of organized and supervised activities. I can see the power need (which we will talk about a lot more when we cover #7) urge a parent to place their children in what they think will be the best position for future success. And I can see the love and belonging need urge parents to get and keep their child involved with other children. It might be a way for parents to stay connected to other parents who are also bringing their students to soccer games and ballet practice and art class.

It would be instructive for an Agenda parent to honestly (maybe brutally honestly) reflect on whose quality world pictures are being targeted and pursued – the parent’s or the child’s? A parent might ask, “How does my child being in so many activities and having such a grueling schedule meet my needs?” The parent might respond with “It’s not about my needs! I am doing all this driving around and paying all the money for these activities for my child. It’s for her that I am doing this!” But choice theory would gently, but firmly, question that and suggest otherwise. Ultimately, it is highly, highly likely that an Agenda parent is creating full agendas for her child because of needs she has as a parent, rather than for the genuine needs of her child.

Are some activities good for our children to experience? Of course. Is it ever appropriate to push our children into things they don’t think they want to do? It might be, however I would be careful on this one. I think it is possible, even with young children, to begin to include their input when it comes to forming the agenda for their lives. The goal is to recognize that they are in the process of forming their own quality world picture books and to respect their individuality and uniqueness as they identify the things and skills they really want to embrace. As adults we just need to admit that our quality world pictures for our children are just that, OUR quality world pictures. It may be that we will influence them to embrace our quality world pictures – children often do follow in the footsteps of their parents – but it may be that they do not. Allowing them that freedom and supporting them in their discovery is such a huge gift!

I don’t know if this anecdote from my past will help clarify regarding the agenda issue, but we will end with this nonetheless –

When our children were younger we lived on the west coast, while my parents and sister’s family lived in the Orlando area. For a period of quite a few years my family would travel to Florida to spend time with loved ones and, well .  .  . play. There is so much to do in the Orlando area – Disney, Marineworld, Universal Studios, etc., etc. – which is great, however it all costs quite a bit. The Orlando part of the family all had season passes to the various attractions. We, on the other hand, had to come up admission fees. For several years, I took it upon myself, “knowing” that my family wanted to go these places, and knowing that I wanted to go to these places, to find the money to pay for the entrance passes. It was my kids and wife that eventually brought it to my attention that, if was up to them, they would just as soon spend more time at the (east coast) beaches (for free) than at the amusement parks. I had assumed they wanted to go the parks, when in fact that really wasn’t what they wanted. My agenda had ruled supreme, and cost me more money in the process. Our kids often want a simpler life than we assume. Mostly, they just want us.

4. Ignore your emotional or spiritual life.

5. Be your child’s best friend.

6. Fail to give your child structure.

7. Expect your child to fulfill your dreams.

Friel, J. and Friel, L. (1999). The 7 worst things good parents do. New York: Barnes & Noble.

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