Making Choices – Spitting in Your Soup

\”Fundamentally, we are a product of choice, not nature (genes) or nurture (upbringing, environment).\”

Stephen R. Covey, The 8th Habit 

I found this semester to be very refreshing teaching a course called, ‘Theories of Counseling and Techniques’ at the Addis Ababa University.   When I am asked to lead round table discussion’ on ‘Making Right Choices’ by AWiB, I decided to use two of the therapy techniques to lead the discussion.

William Glassier developed ‘Reality Therapy’ which assumes that people are responsible for their lives and for what they do, feel, and think.  Since this theme resonated with the round table discussion on “Making Right Choices’, I used the questions he asked to lead the discussion.

1)    What do you want? 

About ten of us were in the discussion forum to identify one thing we want to address it.  Different questions were raised before answering what we want. Is this about our carrier? Family? Religion? Present problems? Past issues? Children? Work? Spouse? Friends? What do you want – about what?  We all decided to pick up one issue which we think was very important at that stage of our lives without selecting a context of choice.

Out of the many things coming to our mind, we chose one thing that mattered most to us at that moment.  This showed that we had the ability to choose even from the multitude things that run into our head.  … I want to change my job.  I want to be healthy.  I want to start a program.  I want to get rid of being with some dysfunctional groups.  I want peace.  I want rest.  I want to stop repeating the same mistake in a different format, and so forth were mentioned as priorities to deal with.

In life, we may not have a chance to choose our parents, background, pains we passed through as children and so forth.  Our choice is what we can do with them now.  What do you want now? Healing? Progress? Relationship? Skill development? Education? Connection? If you can identify what you really want, you may head in the right direction.  We can only deal with one thing at a time and we might as well start with what is right for us at that moment.  We may be presented with too many alternatives.  However, we may keep on listening to our heart, to identify what we want and decide to get what we want.

2)    Is your behavior getting you what you want?

After we pass the first step in identifying what we want in life, the next question is what we are doing consistently to get what we want.  In other words, our behavior should match with what we want to do or be to take the road that takes us to our destination.

The second question we answered in the round table discussion was assessing our lives if our deeds are aligned to what we want.  At times we want to be healthy but would not exercise, or eat balanced and right amount of diet or fail to have adequate sleep regularly.  Other times, we do things randomly and expect to get what we want. The second thing that determines achieving our goals is our conscious alignment of what we need with our desired goals.

Sharing about our assessment of our deeds, one of the participants said, “I desperately need to rest but I only have time for my work and my children and I cannot rest at this stage of my life.”  That was when I remembered another technique by Adlerian therapists called, “Spitting in the Client Soup’ and used it to show her how much the sacrifices she made in terms of her time and money for her children was unfortunate that she has no time for her personal life and her need for rest.

The expression of spitting in a soup was taken from boarding schools to get someone else’s food by spitting on it. Adlerian Therapists use ‘spitting in the client’s soup” as a technique to take the joy out of the negative behaviors patterns of others.

What are you are doing like making money, managing family, and so forth that are very important but you neglect your inner need?  This is time to take stock of what we are doing to align them to what we want.  Choices could be limited to choosing our attitude, reactions, behavior and thinking.  Right behavior usually emanates from making right choices in spite of what we feel. 

3)    If not, what are you willing to change to get it?

I want you to notice the question asked here.  It is not: ‘What are you not doing?’ Or ‘Who are the negative influences in your life?’ Or ‘What hinders you from achieving your goal?’  The question is “What are you willing to change in your life to get what you want?”

This called upon avoiding any excuses that we unconsciously learned to live with problems we do not like.  No excuse is good excuse compared to getting what we want.  By our action or inaction, we choose our lives and with choices come result.   We may perpetuate dysfunctional style of life, by doing nothing about the things we complain about.

As Glassier assumes that people are responsible for their own choices, decisions, goals, and the general degree of happiness in their lives, we may need to make some sacrifices to get what we want.  As we have freedom to make choices so we must take responsibility for our choices.  Actively engaging and changing certain things to get what we want ultimately will help us have better.

In the round table discussions, we identified areas we are willing to work on such as communication skills, listening to people, modifying schedules to make time for oneself, catching oneself when repeating same mistakes, avoiding our temptations in life and so forth.

Our life is a blending of the choices we make. In order to improve our life, we need to make conscious decisions based on good values, long-term results, loving motives and staying true to ourselves.  There are influences in life that can work for us or against us.  Our choice will determine our path.

Many of us seem to be comfortable with the excuses we make not to change and remain in dysfunctional or dissatisfying life or not working towards getting what we want.  That is the excuse soup I want to spit on for you to feel disgusted not to live with pretexts, instead keep on choosing enhanced life and deep connection by your action.

I want to conclude by repeating the three important questions:

  • What do you want?
  • What are you doing to get what you want and,
  • If not, what are you willing to change to get what you want?