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The theory of William Glasser's choice

The theory of William Glasser's choice

November 26, 2022

In our daily life we ​​are constantly making decisions. What to do, eat, who to be with ... It is true that we are influenced by a large number of people (.the family, social, academic and work environment have a great importance in our lives and can partly direct our behavior) but , however, ultimately we are the ones who go or make the final decision to act or not. We choose

From psychology, this fact has been studied from different perspectives and has generated several theories. Among them the theory of the election of William Glasser .

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The theory of Glasser's choice

The theory of William Glasser's choice proposes that the human being is capable of self-control . In fact, the control of one's behavior is only under our control. Our brain and mind allow behavioral control from within.


This theory comes from the cognitive paradigm , and proposes that although the outside world influences us, we are the only ones responsible for our own actions. The environment only provides us inputs, which we interpret and to which we react in a certain way according to our choices. Thus, the theory of choice assumes that we are able to control our thoughts and actions, and even influence our emotions and physiology.

The contribution of Glasser, in turn, assumes that blaming others or at random is a way of avoiding our responsibility , to avoid accepting that we have decided to act or not to do it by ourselves.


The human being must be able to interpret realistically situations, take responsibility for their own behaviors and even emotions (as they are generated internally and it is possible to act to modify them) and be governed by their own and social needs , being the follow-up of ethics a way of giving oneself value). Otherwise, problems such as mental disorders or problems of adaptation to the environment may arise.

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Why do we act? The basic needs

Glasser's theory indicates that the human being has a series of needs that must be met. Specifically, the theory of choice proposes the existence of five.

First of all, basic survival: feeding and sleeping, both regulated by internal mechanisms. Another of the most important needs is belonging , in which we need the affective bond with our peers, loved and close to our environment. The third of the needs would be that of power or competence, thanks to which we feel fulfilled by meeting our objectives and reinforcing our self-esteem and sense of competence.


Freedom and the ability to choose it is, besides a fundamental part for the theory of the election, another one of the basic needs of the human being. The last, but also very important is the need to enjoy, to enjoy our actions.

For these needs are not replaced by themselves: it is necessary that we take action to achieve them. This leads us to affirm that the ultimate cause that drives us to act is endogenous: the will to give them satisfaction. And with that, we choose what behaviors we carry out and how we do it . And even, as the events that take us or away from them affect us: perception, cognition and emotion are internal elements in which we have a certain capacity for control.

The seven habits

William Gassler proposes that the existence of seven habits with destructive effects and that prevent the correct development and well-being of the people that surround us and even of ourselves. These habits suppose an attempt to restrict the freedom of choice or to evade responsibility for it. These habits are to blame, threaten, complain, criticize, punish, scold and bribe.

On the other hand, in the same way he considers that there are another series of habits that encourage good development , a good relationship and that respect the right to choose and to take responsibility for their own actions. In this case, the habits that the theory considers constructive are listening, trusting, encouraging, accepting, respecting, negotiating and supporting others.

Applications of William Glasser's theory

The theory of William Glasser's choice has applications in different fields , highlighting among them clinical practice and education.

Mental problems within the theory

The theory of choice considers that most of the problems that arise at the psychological level have their origin in poor personal interaction , it being necessary to improve the link between the individual and the environment and their peers in order to start a recovery.

As we have said before, we also have to work on the correct perception of reality and responsibility with our own actions and reactions to the environment. The reality therapy is used for it .

Another aspect to note is that when dealing with any problem it is necessary to focus on the present, which is the moment in which the patient is able to act and cause changes. The symptoms themselves are not as relevant since these are seen as a maladaptive way of dealing with deficient relationships. Thoughts and behaviors can be modified directly, while other aspects can be modified through them.

In order to help patients, the therapist works on aspects such as interacting with others, identifying and evaluating present behaviors that may be maladaptive, jointly planning more adaptive ways of acting and committing to carry them out without accepting excuses or imposing sanctions.

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The theory of choice in the world of education

Another area in which William Glasser's choice theory can be applied is in education. In this area it is necessary to take into account that learning will follow the same patterns as behavior , being something internal and not external.

Thus, the figure of the teacher is that of a guide (with a vision similar to that of constructivism), which helps students to generate their own learning. Significant learning is stimulated and the rote is critiqued. The student must be able to find the usefulness of what has been learned , or else it will end up forgetting. Thus, the tasks must arouse interest, and address to that the subject is gradually acquiring greater autonomy and ability to choose.

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Bibliographic references:

  • Shock, J.W. (2014). Approach to the Theory of Choice. Scientia Research magazine. 3 (1) Adventist University of Bolivia.
  • Glasser, W. (2004). Introduction to the Psychology of External Control and the Theory of Choice. Choose, 2, 7-8.

Glasser's Choice Theory (November 2022).


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