As an Islamic school administrator, teacher, and parent, the need for a healthy solution to stressors caused in part by others became apparent. When the students' volume rose, along with my blood pressure, frustrated teachers had to deal with more challenges than seemed fair, and provoked parents pounded on my office door, I discovered William Glasser's Choice Theory. The axiom it's based on is, "The only behavior we can control is our own." I found it to be good advice.
If we recognize that choices made by the many people in our lives impact us, then we also create rebounding dynamics for them. That is when the deeper, more profound value of Choice Theory becomes evident. We can choose to be reactive, but if we are wise-or have been severely burned by past incidents-we can be pro-active. In anticipating potential conflicts and stressors, we can assertively head-off the things that threaten to coerce us into choices we may regret later.
Can you think of potential areas in your life that bring you anxiety or frustration? Review the scenario and recognize the dynamics. Then imagine re-casting the formula. Did you let someone push your buttons, and did you react in a predictable pattern? In other words, did you play into their anticipated strategy? Consider the leverage if you reacted differently; in essence, you regain the power.
Glasser's Choice Theory does not imply that you have control over others, but the genius of it is to recognize that you can choose to interpret behavioral and emotional dynamics for yourself independent of the event. It's like choosing between a perception that a glass is half empty versus if the glass is half full. You can determine how you ultimately perceive events.
As Muslims, we understand that even when we are sick, injured, or have suffered a loss, we say, "Alhamdullilah," and we choose to be mindful and trusting in the wisdom and beneficence of Allah. Likewise, we can practice controlling our nafs, exerting willpower over the temptation from Shaitan to fear, to be angry, or to be abusive to those over whom we have dominance. Fear and faith cannot co-exist, and our choice reveals the quality of our iman. For if we truly trust Allah to protect and guide us, succumbing to fear, choosing not to have courage in the face of threat, indicates a weakness in our iman. If we are truly close to Allah, we should ask for His help and protection, and tackle those fears by demonstrating faith.
When we are in a position of authority, whether it be over students, co-workers, teachers, or as parents, we can recognize the value of Choice Theory to help others make sound decisions for their own quandaries. Since Allah has given mankind choice, we are able to frame acceptable choices to those around us as a means to guide them
It is with this consciousness that we become the guides of humanity, with reference to Islam and its inherent wisdom. We can teach with love, kindness, respect, and model the type of behavior we wish everyone to reflect in our environment.
Be consistent, be patient, be unflappable, in determining the choices you make and the choices you offer in consideration of others. This year, may Allah bless our Ummah and give us increase in our capacity to be the best humans with the gift of Choice.
Susan Labadi is the President of Genius School, Inc. ~A Professional Development Company,
How does Choice Theory really play out in your school, classroom, and professional practice? The following scenarios illustrate Choice Theory at work:
Students who choose to not do homework
"Would you like to choose between doing your homework at home or with me during lunch?"
Teachers who choose to be late each morning
"Please let me know which you would prefer, a late and reduced paycheck or extra duties so you can stay later after school?"
Parents who behave with more immaturity than children
"Shall we make an appointment for tomorrow, or would you like a few minutes to calm down?"