Choice Theory has helped me to create an amazing life. I am so grateful to have learned Choice Theory® psychology when I was just 27. The only thing that would have been better than that is if my parents and teachers all knew it and shared it with me from the time I was born but if that had happened, I’m not sure I would have appreciated it as much.
At 27, I was married with two sons, one was two and the other four. I had the typical challenges of dealing with adulting without really knowing how. No one taught me how to get along well with my husband. I never learned how to deal with the sleep deprivation of having two boys with cholic. I also didn’t know how to do all this while working a fulltime job. Admittedly, I wasn’t doing it great.
In 1987, a miracle happened. I didn’t know it was a miracle at the time but I had a strong conflict with my boss and decided I needed to leave. In search of a different job, I found a foster care agency that provided their staff with training in Choice Theory. I had no idea what that was but learning it sounded good to me so I accepted the job I would stay at for the next 17 years.
After working three weeks, I had my first Choice Theory/Reality Therapy training and I was hooked. I soaked it up like I was a sponge. I had a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Back then, we were taught to learn a little bit about a lot of things and develop an eclectic practice, where you use a little of this and a little of that until you figure out what worked for each individual client. I always felt that I was flying by the seat of my pants! Choice Theory provided the navigational guidance system I needed in my work to help me do case conceptualization and know what to do next. It became not only a tool for my professional toolbox.
Did I use it at home? No way. I was still nagging my husband and yelling at my kids on a regular basis and never dreamed I had a choice in that. After all, they “made” me so mad, right? What choice was there, really? I lived like that for more than seven years until…
My husband was diagnosed with leukemia. That really floored me, never feltig so utterly helpless in my life. There wasn’t a thing I could do about it. I had been relegated to the sidelines with zero power over the situation. I consciously turned to Choice Theory to help with the situation. I realized that while there was nothing I could do to change the situation, at least I could manage my response to it. I stayed positive, kept family and friends informed and spent as much time as possible with my husband making memories with our children.
When he passed away four and a half years later, Choice Theory helped me navigate the loss of him. I understood I had a Quality World picture of him that was impossible to attain from the real world because he was no longer there. But, I could keep him active in my perception by thinking about him and so I did. I then went in search of ways to keep the memory of him alive in the real world. My children and I began the Dave Olver Wrestling Scholarship fund, which provides a scholarship to a senior boy going to college and planning to wrestle there. At first, I was the one who would award the scholarship. Later, it became my children who would. Both are wrestling coaches at the same high school where my husband and I attended.
My next major challenge was parenting my children after Dave was no longer there. They were 13 and 15 at the time of his death and extremely strong-willed. My husband and I had fallen into the parenting style of him being the strict disciplinarian and me being the kind, permissive one. This was not great parenting but we did balance each other out. After my husband was gone, I needed to figure out how to parent these two strong male children. I knew my permissive parenting style wasn’t going to produce the type of men I hoped my children would become. I had an epiphany, realizing I could parent using Choice Theory, which happened to be the thing I had been teaching foster parents for the past twelve years. Again, I definitely wasn’t perfect at it but I did the best I could at the time and I couldn’t be prouder of the men, husbands and fathers my boys have become.
In 2004, I had another tragedy. It was only a tragedy in my mind but have you ever noticed how you can create an entire horror show in your mind that never manifests in reality? That was how this started for me. My youngest son, Kyle, told me he wanted to join the Army and go fight in Iraq. Not being from a military family, I had had no first-hand experience with this kind of sacrifice. Honestly, I was fine with other people making this sacrifice but I wasn’t crazy about my son doing it. Choice Theory provided that navigational system once again. Knowing this was what my son really wanted to do, I wanted to support him and his decision. I asked him a lot of questions about his decision-making process and the things that concerned me. He had great answers for everything so I took him to the recruiter’s office and signed my son’s life over to the US Army.
He spent his 19th birthday in Iraq, survived his first tour only to turn around and volunteer for his second. You can probably imagine the stories I could have told myself about Kyle making an ultimate sacrifice of losing his mind or his life. The only way I survived him being in harm’s way for two full years was through the grace of God and Choice Theory. Kyle survived both tours—left home a boy and returned a strong man. It was a huge transformation but every day he spent in Iraq was an exercise in Choice Theory for me. I turned my television off so I wouldn’t see the scrolling CNN headlines about what was happening in the war. Whenever my mind would drift to thoughts of his safety, I would remind myself that my son was doing what he wanted to… what he thought was right. I lived through and thankfully, so did he!
Most recently, I credit Choice Theory with my miraculous healing following my hot air balloon accident in 2014. Due to an unforecast wind and an equipment malfunction, we had a rough landing that involved hitting an ironwood tree quite hard, causing me to break both my ankles. I had to rehab in Arizona over Thanksgiving while missing a lot of family activities. I was told it would be four months before I could stand in front of an audience and speak for 45 minutes but, I stood in front of an audience for three hours, two months after my accident! The doctors were amazed and credited my attitude in the recovery; my attitude came from Choice Theory. I set my mind on being grateful for the things I could do instead of the things I couldn’t. I looked for the joy in every day and found it.
Life is amazing when you know and practice Choice Theory. After over 30 years of practice and integration, Choice Theory is now not just a tool in my toolbox; it is my toolbox. It’s not a quick fix. Giving up external control beliefs and behaviors is a lifelong journey.