I think it’s rare to find a theory that can really helped you live your life better, in a day to day way. Choice Theory does that, and is doing it for thousands of people the world over. It’s being taught, through the William Glasser Institute, in countries all over the world.
The power of the Choice Theory is that, in a simple way, it explains what really motivates our behavior. It sheds light on why we do what we do, and how to understand why others do what they do.
Almost everyone has been raised with the notion that the external world, meaning anything outside of yourself, can control you. Have you ever found yourself thinking “…you’re making me so mad”? This is an example of external control psychology, and it’s rampant all over the world. And moreover, it’s profoundly destructive. Why? Because when we believe other people are making us mad, then we begin to attempt to change them, so we can be happy. As everyone knows, this leads down a very treacherous path. If, on the other hand, we understand we are internally driven, it puts the power back in our own hands…and the responsibility too, which is the part most of us don’t like. But before I scare you off, and leave before you finish reading the rest of this blog, let me share the really juicy part of this theory.
Last week I introduced the psychological needs that are genetic, and at the foundational level of our being. How effectively we meet our psychological needs is really the key.
Collecting the Pictures
Imagine from the time you were conceived you started gathering up experiences of you had with people, things, activities, that “feel good,” and are “need-satisfying.” Metaphorically, it’s like creating your own photo album, in your mind, of all your “best pictures” – the important people in your life, the activities you have enjoyed, the objects and foods you love and so on. Dr. Glasser calls this your Quality World, because everything in there is of great value to you.
These “pictures” are extremely specific, and we are very protective of them. The detail in your pictures can be as important as the detail in a movie. Movie-makers know that every detail matters, and can make the difference between a scene being believable, or not. Now, over time you grow and develop, and some things are no longer interesting, fun or meaningful. Your tastes and interests change. One of the challenges, particularly as a parent, is to keep up with all these changes—and this is where it gets really challenging.
The Danger of Outdated Pictures
One time when I was teaching in Australia, I was sharing this idea of a Quality World, and how important and special these “pictures” are. I began to explain the importance of “updating” our Quality World, and what happens if we don’t.
I looked around the room after sharing this information and one woman had gone “white as a ghost.” I thought she was ill, but when I inquired, she said she wasn’t physically ill, she was in shock…emotionally.
She explained that when she was a little girl she had wonderful outdoor experiences with her Mum. They hiked, and canoed, and did all sorts activities. She saw her Mum as a big, strong woman who could handle just about anything.
This woman in my workshop grew up, moved away from home, married and had children of her own. She began telling her children all about the wonderful adventures she had with her mother, and the children could hardly wait to go see Grandma.
Upon arriving at Grandma’s home, the children raced inside expecting Grandma to be ready for a big adventure. Instead, Grandma, who was now many years older, was riddled with arthritis and in chronic pain, and could hardly even stand up. She couldn’t “deliver” what the children were hoping for, and so instead got cross with them for wanting an “adventure.”
This visit quickly deteriorated into an argument between mother and daughter, and ended with tears on both sides. How had this happened? What had gone wrong?
For years this remained a mystery for this mother until, sitting in the class and hearing about what happens when we don’t “update” our pictures, the lights suddenly went on. She saw how her unwillingness to acknowledge her mother’s aging caused great harm. It can be terribly destructive when we are unwilling to “see” our children maturing or our parents aging.
Take a Look In Your Own Quality World Picture Album… What Needs to be Updated?
For this week I would like to encourage you to think about the “pictures” you have in your Quality World. Do you have pictures that simply can’t be matched, or are outdated? As a parent, do you talk to your children as if they are younger than they really are? Are your ideas of what a relationship should be like, reflections of your present ideas, or are they based on the past?
We often form pictures of the perfect job, partner, vacation, etc., when we are young, but unfortunately they are often “idealized” images and rarely resemble reality. When life or people don’t match our pictures we may blame or attack them but, really, whose pictures are they? They are ours, and we have the power to examine them, and make changes.
Whenever you see someone upset, ask yourself, “What picture do they have in their mind of what they want?” If you ask them the same question you may find you have a very enlightening conversation.
Have a great week, be curious about yourself and others, and may you make some wonderful discoveries!