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in Choice Theory


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So this is the third and final piece on Choice Theory, and I want to introduce the last two key pieces and wrap it up so you can see the powerful perspective it offers, and why I have found it so helpful over many years.

Basic, Genetic Needs

We have covered the Basic Needs that we all have and that are genetic – Love and Belonging, Power, Freedom and Fun. In addition to these psychological needs, we have the need for Survival, which is both physical and emotional. We are always trying to meet these needs, and we do this through what is in our Quality World. An easy example is when you think, right now, of meeting your need for Love and Belonging — certain people will come to mind. If you think back in time, and ask yourself who was your best friend in elementary school, someone else will likely come to mind.

Our Quality World

As we grow, we continue to add to our Quality World, and as I said in the last blog, it’s very important to “update” your pictures of important things (like your children). Most of what we want is attainable, although it may involve lots of work. But what would happen if you wanted something that was unattainable? For example, to move back to your favorite house from childhood, or get a partner back, or even have your body be whole again following an amputation. There are some things that are simply unattainable, and if you keep wanting them, your system will keep trying.

Imagine you have a weigh scale in your mind and on one side you put what you want (from your Quality World), and on the other side of the scale is what you’ve got. “I want that… and this is what I’ve got.” When what you want is matched by what you’ve got, life is good; when it doesn’t match, there is stress, frustration and pain. If what you want is unattainable, but you keep trying, you will create enormous distress in your system. Learning how to shift this is a very important skill for happiness.

Behaviour… It’s All About You

Now let’s focus on your behaviour because this is what you use to get what you want. From the time we are very small, in the womb even, we are learning new behaviours in order to meet our needs. For some, myself included, sucking a thumb was very comforting. As you grow, you add more and more behaviours to your repertoire. It is fascinating to watch, especially if your aren’t the parent, a two year old say, “No!“, and then repeat it over and over. The child is practicing a behaviour, and they may not even really mean, “No.” The child is just learning to use a behaviour, and to watch the response of the parent. If “No!” triggers a big response in the parent, many children will try the behaviour again just to watch the “fireworks.”

Four Components of Behaviour

Every behaviour we use is made up of four components, an action part, a thinking part and feeling part and a physiology/body component. All four components work together, like the four wheels of a car. So when I think a sad thought, I feel the feeling of being sad, and my actions and physiology will match the sad feeling. The beauty of knowing this, is when you want to change how you feel, you can do this by changing any one of the other three components.

Try this out – think of a sad situation and notice how you feel… what your body posture is, and even what your breathing is like. Now stand up, move away from your computer, and move around the room quickly. What happens to your sad feelings? You used an action to change your feelings, and actions are often the easiest way to shift how we feel, and to change our physiology.

Alright so let’s put this all together. According to Choice Theory we are born with genetic needs which we are always trying to meet. We discover what we like and what feels good, and build up our Quality World, which is metaphorically like a picture album of all our favorite people, place and things, including our values.

We move through our days putting on the imaginary scale what we wan,t and then using our behaviour we try and get what we want. We will try over and over until we either get what we want, or we shift gears and change what we want.

What all this means is three very important things:

  1. All behaviour is purposeful. So even if our friend, an employee, or our child’s behaviour seems weird, there is a purpose. Rather than judge the behaviour it’s far more productive to be curious about what the purpose really is.
  2. All behaviour is internally motivated. This is because it’s our internal needs that drive our behaviour not the external world. Even when it looks like someone outside of you is controlling you, it is not true. I know this is hard to believe, and your mind might be searching for an exception, but please, save yourself and consider that this really is true. The question you might ask mentally is “I wonder what this person really wants and what need are they trying to meet?”
  3. Lastly, because all behaviour is internally motivated, we are responsible for our behaviour. This may seem obvious to some and to others it may seem pretty discouraging. I believe if we can stand to consider we are responsible then we can begin finding ways to really meet our needs effectively.

Dr. Glassers book, Choice Theory – Redefining Your Personal Freedom is really the perspective we need in order to not feel like a victim, and to know our happiness lies within ourselves and not with what is outside. Trying to control others to get what we want will only end in pain. The process of Prime Potential helps people get connected to themselves in a powerful and positive way. It lets them update their pictures of themselves and realize they are whole, loving, creative beings with unlimited potential.

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3 comments… add one
  • Lize Hart

    Dear Lynn,
    This has come at a truly opportune time. My son and I have been discussing the ‘car’ and so were able to review this theory by watching your video! Thank you. I appreciate your clarity and your purposefulness in creating this succinct and articulate peice!
    Gratefully,
    Lize Hart

    • Hi Liz,
      So glad this is useful, that’s exactly what I want. I remember the days of sharing this with my son Timothy who is 33 and a daddy now. hard to believe. I look forward to seeing you at Certification in Toronto!

  • Sharon Mark

    Dear Lynn,
    This is the first Blog of yours’ I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I am a fairly new widow and am working on “what it is I really want” and what the rest of my journey will look like, plus how to fulfill needs that are no longer met. Thank you. I look forward to further information and discussions.
    Always learning as life is a continuing journey,
    Sharon

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