In developing my philosophy of Meaningful Life Strategies I have been revisiting , reviewing and exploring the principles and practices of many different counseling theories and processes. One that I find very helpful is Dr. William Glasser’s Reality Therapy. This theory of counseling focuses on an individual taking responsibility for their choices in life. This theory is very aligned with Meaningful Living concept of the “here and now” rather than delving into past traumas or unresolved conflicts in life. A major tenant of RT is that a person can control only the present things going on in their lives. When identifying problems with an individual, Glasser often found that the issue stemmed from a current unsatisfying relationship or the lack of any sustaining relationship. These problems develop from the client’s inability to connect, to develop intimacy, or to develop depth with at least one significant person who respected them. The Reality therapist has the goal to help the consumer to develop better ways of relating to others in order to experience happiness and greater fulfillment in life. This is one of the challenges of Reality therapy: helping clients to identify that their presentation to the world and their behavior is limiting their ability to be happy and find meaning in life.
Glasser identified six critical needs that guide individuals through life and motivate people to develop caring and lasting relationships. These needs are survival, love, belonging, worth or achievement, independence, and fun. While each individual has varying degrees of each need, they are present and need an opportunity to be experienced and lived in life. Reality therapy sees individuals as being social creatures both needing to receive and provide two primary drivers of behavior: love and worth.
The therapist’s responsibility is to help the individual prioritize needs, deciding what is most important and how to make the required changes necessary to enable greater meaning and responsibility for choices and results. People develop a concept of what they want for their life and store this information in a scheme he termed their potential world of quality. It is this concept that counselors must tap into using both the sense of ownership and responsibility for themselves as well as incorporating the idea of decision-making and choice to develop a more fulfilling and satisfying life.
When understanding behavior in the perspective of reality theory, four identifiable components work together towards understanding one’s experience of happiness, acting, thinking, feeling, and physiology. Glasser looks at how an individual feels or behaves as being active rather than simply constant states of being. Rather than saying an individual is depressed, Glasser would identify the individual as depressing, or rather than being angry, the individual would be seen as angering. These active verb forms place the individual in a position to choose change. Rather than experiencing life as something happening to them, they are instead experiencing life as a state that they have the control and responsibility to change.
This is all translated into what I call the guidelines for Smart Step Change Process. The steps for the Plan are:
1. As a coach connect and understand the person. Focus on understanding, respecting and caring for the person–Be their friend.
2. Try to help them prioritize their needs and wants. Review present choices and see if they are working? Start by clarifying what are they doing now. Don’t dwell on their past experiences.
3. Looks to understand what it means to the person to be fully engaged in life and find meaning through making better choices in the Here and Now. Questions to explore–Does the person think what they are doing is helping or hindering them from being happy and developing a life worth living? Ar they making good choices? If not do they want to change? Are they open to suggestions?
4. Let’s make a Plan to do something different.
5. To live a meaningful Life –Are you will to make a commitment to the Plan? If so, let’s mobilize the resources and support for change.
6. To get different results you need to change your thinking and behavior. It’s your life so critical question is Do You want to change?
When do you want to start? How will we know you are succeeding?
7. If Plan doesn’t work I will not punish myself or put myself down. I will just work on developing a better plan and accept the natural consequences of my choices.
8. Continue to review and evaluate Plan. Adjust the Plan according to new circumstances or if it isn’t working. The matra here is Action-Feedback-fail or succeed-Keep fighting.
Remember the Meaningful of Life strategy emphasizes your freedom of choice when determining the purpose of your life.