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What Is Choice Theory?

Choice Theory® was developed by psychiatrist and counselor Dr. William Glasser. It is based on a message of total personal control, rather than the idea that actions and thoughts are responses to external influences. This results in an empowering, effective approach that can be used by people with a wide variety of challenges.

Choice Theory Principle #1: Motivation Comes from Within

According to Choice Theory, motivation (our reasons for thinking, speaking, and acting) comes from within each of us. We are not the results of an external reward and punishment system. Our motivation is focused on meeting our needs; but when we believe that others are influencing us, we struggle to accomplish this. Choice Theory recognizes the power of the individual to meet their needs without needing other people to change.Dr. William Glasser

Choice Theory Principle #2: We Only Control Ourselves

We only have control over our own actions. This takes away the pressure to manage the behaviors of those around us, and we recognize that we are in control of ourselves.

Choice Theory empowers each of us to create a life we consciously choose. We can stop blaming others and just get on with living our lives.

Choice Theory Principle #3: We Do Not Focus on the Past

Forget about that image of a counseling session that starts with the counselor saying, “Tell me about your childhood.” Choice theory deals with improving current relationships by changing thoughts and actions today. Even if our childhood was painful, it does not need to be discussed and analyzed as part of personal change. This is empowering and freeing for many of us. We do not need to sort out every painful experience from our past before we can have good days. We can start having good days right now.

Choice Theory Principle #4: We All Need the Same Things, But in Different Strengths

Knowing that we all need the same things—but in different ways—helps us better understand ourselves and others. We all are trying to meet the same five basic needs: Love and Belonging, Power, Survival, Freedom, and Fun. The difference between us is the strength of these needs.

For example, some people have a much stronger need for love and belonging than freedom. Others might need power or freedom. We can recognize that the strength of our needs is unique, and then proceed to meet these needs without feeling inferior to others for being different.

Choice Theory Principle #5: We All Practice Deadly Habits and Caring Habits

Choice Theory has seven deadly habits and seven caring habits. The deadly habits are criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and bribing or rewarding to control. When we see ourselves using these, we can stop and replace them with caring habits.

The seven caring habits are supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting, and negotiating differences. Practicing the seven caring habits gives us positivity and power over our lives.

Choice Theory Principle # ½: We Choose All Behavior

Another empowering aspect of Choice Theory is the knowledge that we choose all behavior. Behavior has four components: acting, thinking, feeling, and physiology. (Physiology is things like our palms sweating, or our heart beating quickly.) We only have direct control over our actions and thoughts—we cannot directly control our feelings or physiology. But when we change our thoughts and actions, our feelings and physiology change as well, giving us complete control over ourselves.

Understanding and applying Choice Theory can change your life. If you would like to learn more about how to apply Choice Theory in your life, enroll in the Internal Empowerment Program. We have seen people do amazing, life-changing things, and we know you can make your life what you want it to be. Our approach is based on scientific research and actual results with people from all walks of life. We provide practical steps and clear, accessible teaching that works for everyone. We’d love to have you join us!

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About our company

IECAST is a 501 (c)(3), Public Benefit, non-profit organization dedicated to perpetuating productive and mindful individuals, families, and organizations. We bring this vision into reality by developing diverse, internally empowered leaders who use the principles and practices of Choice Theory® as taught through the Internal Empowerment Coaching program. Our goal is to teach individuals, families, and organizations to reframe, reorganize, and reallocate resources to become effective coaches and leaders.