A Course in William Glasser’s Choice Theory
Anxiety plagues me constantly. It follows me around no matter how much I try to shake it off or ignore that sick feeling that creeps into my stomach and takes over my head and makes me dizzy – E.V.E.R.Y.D.A.Y. Depression however, for me personally whilst considerably depleting, is mainly situational. When I feel depressed, it is often due to something that has happened, or something that I feel I cannot change or take control of. Thus, I was very interested when I heard that the William Glasser Institute Ireland was holding a course in Dublin entitled ‘Take Charge Of Your Life’, based on Glasser’s Choice Theory.
“We almost always have choices, and the better the choice, the more we will be in control of our lives.” (William Glasser)
So What Is Choice Theory?
All of us, every single one of us, would like to be happier and feel better within ourselves, that goes without saying obviously. According to Glasser, there are five main aspects to achieving happiness that must be present in our lives in order for us to engage with and sustain that feeling.
- Love and Belonging: Friendships, relationships, connections, caring for others – even if it is just a shared feeling with one other human, we need to feel loved, or part of something. Nobody wants to be alone, we must nurture our important relationships in order to continue feeling happy. Ever fallen out with your best friend/ boyfriend/husband/parent or sibling and literally felt like you’re going to be sick until the moment you talk again? If they’re important to you, pay attention to the connection.
- Power: Something as seemingly minute as recognition of effort, having courage or simply being heard – these are integral to achieving happiness. Feeling entirely powerless leaves far too much room for self-doubt, giving it space to creep in and take over our minds, resulting in a further lack of confidence.
- Freedom: Independence, access to choices, creativity – without freedom we can feel and become boxed in, stuck, entirely restrained and heading further down a path of ‘what’s the point’ or ‘I can’t do this’.
- Fun: Relaxation, self-care, laughter – because what’s life without a little bit of fun? All work and no play makes absolutely everyone miserable. You don’t have to become a party animal, just make time for yourself: take a walk, do your hair, paint something – do something that you enjoy!
- Survival: Food, oxygen, shelter, security, health – the most basic of the five, but by far the most important. These things to many may come very easily, but neglect one, and the whole tower of your life can come tumbling down rapidly as these are the foundations upon which your happiness is built.
Okay – so that seems simple, right? But what happens when the relationships break down? When we feel we have no freedom or control? When life takes over and we don’t make time for any fun? When we lose our jobs or our homes and security and feel completely stuck where we are? It can feel like the world is collapsing around us and no one is noticing or experiencing the same emotions. It can be easier to wallow and think, why me?
It’s all in the name of Choice Theory. We HAVE choices, no matter how bleak it may look or indeed seem at the time. We can choose to ignore the frustration signs our bodies are sending out, telling us to adapt and survive. We can choose to fall foul of those empty feelings, isolating ourselves and allowing that one negative thing to consume the rest of our being or, we can choose to insist upon taking a more positive outlook.
“As difficult as it is for most of us to accept, we choose miserable, total behaviours because we believe they are the best choices we can make at the time.” (William Glasser)
Quality World Vs. Ideal World
Glasser talks about us all having a Quality World. To put it simply, the things we need to survive and be happy that exist in our world – people, places, sayings, pets, values, principles, symbols – the list can be endless. However, and of course, some of us aren’t content with just this (a great example is social media – looking at other people’s lives breeds a feeling of inadequacy) and thus in our minds we create an Ideal World – a world where we want to be rich, famous, beloved by all and hated by none – we want to exist in a utopia.
In my Ideal World, I would be a famous photographer, DJ, gain my masters and have lots of money whilst also raising a family, remaining in close proximity to my loved ones and having all the hours in the day to do whatever I wanted. The problem is, however, there would be things that currently exist in my Quality World that I would have to remove in order to achieve that way of life, my Ideal way of life.
For example, if I wanted to be a world famous DJ, would I have to travel much more and therefore be away from my family, who are a BIG part of my Quality World? If I studied towards my masters, at present, I’d have to remove freedom once more from my Quality World and this was a big issue whilst studying for my degree part-time with the OU. If I became a famous photographer or rich, would I have the time to nurture my relationship and indeed have that family that I so, so want? Probably not. Either way something would have to give.
When we look upon our lives as being negative, unfulfilled and ourselves as not having achieved all of our life goals, we are disregarding all the positive things we do have in our worlds, the things we achieved and the space we created in our Quality Worlds because we WANTED them to be present. It’s kind of a glass half-full/ glass half-empty theory – you have a choice as to how you view your life.
“When we label anyone “bad”, we will have more trouble dealing with him than if we could have settled for a lesser label.” (William Glasser)
It’s all about perspective, see. What exists in your quality world might not exist in another’s. An example: you see someone constantly posing for beautiful staged photographs on their Instagram accounts – the clothes, hair, makeup and aesthetic is everything you dream of … BUT … how much time did that take them? What have they had to sacrifice out of their day to be able to stage such a wonderful photograph, and is it really their reality? Would you want to give up three hours out of each day (given most of us have to work for a living) in order to achieve what is literally a snapshot that some will glance at momentarily, others will simply swipe over and some won’t ever see at all? Do you really want to be that person who is disgustingly rich? Money doesn’t by true, loving relationships – would you mess everything up if you had that money and who and what would you lose on a personal level in order to achieve that richness?
Choose what you want to have in your Quality World based on your perspective, no one else’s. What is good for the goose isn’t always good for the gander and THAT IS OKAY! But don’t let other people define what you should have within your quality world. It’s personal to YOU.
I could talk for hours and hours about the insightful things I learnt during this course; perhaps I will do another write up soon, but, from this wonderful day, shared with wonderful people, I learnt that you can take charge of your life. I finally realised what’s important in this world and integral to my survival as a happy person,: love and belonging; freedom; fun; power and most importantly, survival. I don’t need to have the same things as everyone else to be happy, I made my choices based on my feelings, wants and needs at the time and I am learning to be grateful, content and most importantly happy with who and what I am.
“Good or bad, everything we do is our best choice at that moment.” (William Glasser)
Peace Out and Positive Thinking – You CAN take charge of your life!