Choose to Get What You Need

Ok, so for the last couple of weeks I’ve been completely in love with Dr. William Glasser’s book entitled Take Charge of Your Life: How to Get What You Need with Choice Theory Psychology (2011). The front cover contains this quote by Dr. Phil McGraw (yes, Dr. Phil); “This book is a ‘game changer’ for anyone ready to become the Captain of their own ship. Going far beyond theory and philosophy this powerful book is a hands-on guide to creating, rather than just observing one’s life. A must read and more than once.” Well, now that I’ve quoted Dr. Phil (please forgive me Dr. Phil haters), I may as well go ahead and tell you that Choice Theory is the guiding principle behind Reality Therapy-which is what Dr. Phil ostensibly does on his show (although mostly I think what Dr. Phil does is “Reality Theatre”).

True Reality Therapy consists of the therapist asking four important questions: 1) What do you want? 2) What are you doing? 3) Is it working? 4) What else can you do? By asking these four questions the therapist is conducting an “investigation” into whether or not (or to what degree) the client is getting his/her needs met. Together, they may find that his/her current behavior is ineffective or inappropriate, resulting in unwanted consequences. That’s where Choice Theory comes in to play: Dr. Glasser believes that we all choose how to behave at any given moment, and therefore we are able to choose alternate behaviors that will result in greater life satisfaction.

As Dr. Glasser (2011) states:

Choice Theory not only gives us the ability to recognize that we choose our behavior and that we may be making bad choices but also clearly states that as much as we may want someone to change, all we can do is attempt to gain better control over our own lives. We have no power to make others do, think, or feel anything that they believe does not satisfy them (p.145-6).” What exactly are we/they looking to satisfy? To quote Wikipedia, “Choice Theory posits that behavior is central to our existence and is driven by five…needs: Survival, Belonging, Power, Freedom and Fun.” This all sounds pretty straight-forward and obvious, no? Well, let me give you some examples of things we think and say that indicate that we’re not making good choices while attempting to get our needs met:

• My roommate caused me to be late for work again.

• I broke my fist, because she made me so mad that I punched the wall.

• No matter how many times I tell him to slow down, he still gets a speeding ticket.

• I just know that one day he’ll realize that he should treat me better.

• My mother always said that I’d never amount to anything. I guess she was right.

• I’ll never be able to get my doctorate. It’s too expensive and it takes too long.

• I don’t want to do my homework, because it’s so boring.

• Everyone meets at Lucky’s after work for drinks. It’s a tough job, and we need to de-stress. I know I drink too much, but how would it look if I didn’t show up?

Now, let’s look at all of these statements through the lens of Choice Theory and do a quick reframe…

• My roommate caused me to be late for work again.
I chose to be late for work, rather than upset my roommate.

• I broke my hand, because she made me so mad that I punched the wall.
I chose to hit the wall with my fist and break my hand.

• No matter how many times I tell him to slow down, he still gets a speeding ticket.
I choose to nag him about his speeding, and he chooses to speed and suffer the consequences.

• I just know that one day he’ll realize that he should treat me better.
I choose to stay in an unsatisfying relationship.

• My mother always said that I’d never amount to anything. I guess she was right.
My choices have led me to where I am today.

• I’ll never be able to get my doctorate. It’s too expensive and it takes too long.
I choose not to pursue my doctorate.

• Everyone meets at Lucky’s after work for drinks. It’s a tough job, and we need to de-stress. I know I drink too much, but how would it look if I didn’t show up?
I choose to drink to excess with my co-workers.

Ok, so I hope I haven’t lost you. It can be really hard to see that you have choices when you are in the midst of dire circumstances. I know that so many of the situations that people find themselves in-the kind that motivates them to come to therapy-have underlying causes that are serious and often traumatic. I fully recognize that and am very devoted to addressing underlying issues with care and compassion. Certainly Reality Therapy is not for everyone.

What I am saying is that Choice Theory offers the opportunity for us to look at our behavior within the context of our current difficulties, with the idea of making better choices which can help us to effectively satisfy our needs. If you’re always telling friends and family that you find it difficult to make decisions, then Choice Theory is for you. Take Charge of Your Life offers you a way to start clearing away the mental cobwebs that shroud your decision making and thereby hinder the course of your life. It gives you an organizing framework for conducting yourself that opens you up to greater opportunities for growth and happiness. It shows you that no one else but you can make things happen in your life-and that’s a blessing like no other.

The next time you think, So-and-so is just lucky. She always gets what she wants. I don’t know how she does it. Rephrase it: So-and-so makes choices that satisfy her needs. If you’d like help with this kind of mental transformation or you think that this would be a beneficial therapeutic approach for your teen (it would), choose to call us. As always, our Counselors and Life Coaches at Life Skills Resource Group in Orlando are here to guide you and support you as you make new choices. Call 407-355-7378.

Glasser, W. (2011). Take charge of your life: How to get what you need with choice theory psychology. C. Glasser, (Rev.). Bloomington, IN: iUniverse.

Kim