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Ever wish your students were more motivated? If you’re like most of us, you have tried an array of rewards and punishments to motivate kids. There’s only one problem: it doesn’t work. At least it doesn't work well enough. People (yes, even students) aren’t motivated from the outside so rewards and punishments only work to a point. We are internally motivated. That’s why it's essential to engage and inspire students to be motivated to succeed in school (and life.)

If you’re ready to move beyond the reward/punishment model and embrace a whole new way to understand motivation, I encourage you to come back regularly. It’s time to challenge the status quo and create schools and classrooms based on what really motivates behavior.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Quality World Pictures: The Importance of Flexibility

In “Looking To The Future: A Strategy for Parents,”  I suggested parents ask themselves what they want for their kids when they are 25. If you are familiar with internal control psychology (choice theory), you know that we are internally motivated by what we want, what choice theory calls the quality world picture. To parent effectively – or to be successful in any other pursuit – it’s essential to have a clear quality world picture of what you want. There are times, however, when having a want that is too specific is counterproductive and leads to unnecessary misery. Let me explain.

Imagine you are a parent. If you have a quality world picture that your children are “happy, successful, and responsible,” there are multiple paths your children can follow that fall within those broad parameters. Having broadly defined goals for your kids allows them ample freedom and lets you feel a sense of satisfaction no matter what they choose to do as long as it is responsible and allows them to be happy and successful.

On the other hand, suppose you have a much more specific dream for your kids: you want them to become highly paid professionals. If one of them chooses to become a carpenter, or an artist, or a member of the clergy, you will be disappointed as long as you cling to your highly defined picture of success. (And, by the way, they will have to deal with being the child of a disappointed parent, not an easy role.) Imagine you want your child to become a cardiologist and, lo and behold, they become an internist! Because they choose not to live up to your highly defined picture, you have sentenced yourself to needless misery. (For those of you who think I’m engaging in hyperbole, the Summer Olympics are about to begin in a couple of days. I shutter to think how many families have been needlessly traumatized because a child failed to live up to a parental dream of being in the Olympics.)

For these reasons, it is often preferable to develop more loosely defined, fluid quality world pictures. As Dr. Glasser has mentioned on numerous occasions, what you put into your quality world is up to you. Parents, it’s only natural to want your kids to be successful. Give them a priceless gift by defining “successful” broadly enough that they can pursue their dreams and not feel as if they have to fulfill yours.

What I am talking about is not only true in parenting. It applies to other aspects of your life. About twenty years ago, one of my kids had a friend who father lost his job. He was a highly paid executive in a major corporation and he very much enjoyed living the life of a wealthy man. Because he had put aside some money, he was able to maintain his lavish lifestyle for some time while he looked for a new job. His quality world picture of a “good job” was so rigidly defined (including a prestigious title, a company with a reputation, and a salary commensurate with what he previously earned), he turned down several offers of work. All the while, he continued to spend extravagantly, even when his savings were depleted. Over time, he lost not only his money; he lost his wife and family. Because he was so consumed by a too specific quality world picture and was unable to make peace with a new reality, he nonconsciously chose misery and the destruction of his personal life.

Quality world pictures. They are a double-edge sword. We absolutely need them. They are the source of all motivation. But if we refuse to be flexible, if we refuse to accommodate reality, if we insist that everything be exactly as we want it to be, they can lead us down a path of endless misery.

As always, if you enjoyed this and found it useful, please send the link to your friends. Thanks.

For information about books by Bob Sullo and to schedule a keynote, workshop, or series for your school, agency, or parent group visit 

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