"Cadet Morris, this is your last chance, two wrong answers already, one more and you are painting rocks for the weekend, you didn't want to go on leave and see your family anyway, did you? In the trenches of Gallipoli, your forefathers, the ANZACs fought for the freedom of this country, they used their initiative, creating bombs out of jam tins. I want to know what brand of jam were those tins?"
My heart leapt, Morrie knew the answer to this one! We had been cramming our military history last night and I remembered this one, 'Golden Circle Pineapple Jam' the one with the rising sun logo. He just had to get it or we would all be out there this weekend helping him paint those rocks.
Morrie replied, he sounded confident and I was sure he remembered too. "Sir, I believe that the brand of jam that the ANZACS used at Gallipoli was definitely COTTEE'S Jam"
That was when the yelling began.
The sixteen of us spent what was meant to be our first weekend of freedom for twelve weeks giving the local geology a makeover with a bucket of white paint and a brush. In our starched Army uniforms with sweat running down the backs of our legs in the stifling Canberra sun.
What has this got to do with Choice Theory?For me it was a turning point in my life and an opportunity to put to the test this idea that even when the going got tough it was how I thought about it and what I did that was the most important of all. What's more interesting is that at the age of seventeen I was given a gift of knowledge that set me up to grow and develop into the person I wanted to be through the challenges of my life.
To be honest I didn't always like that knowledge and sometimes I pretended to forget it or just plain ignored it! Looking back now I see that it is the philosophy on which I have lived my life and I am grateful for where it has taken me.
There isn't anything mystical or new age about Choice Theory. It is just a wonderful way to organise and understand your thinking that helped me (and countless others) to appreciate how and why I behave. Sounds easy? Well if you can wrap your mind around the idea that you choose everything you do then you are more than half way there!
Not a car, a gift for lifeMy story begins with the fact I was born into a household in which my psychologist father loved to practise what he preached on his kids! Yep, I'm not joking we were walking, talking, (talking back!) guinea pigs! Like most strong willed (high freedom and power need) kids it took me a good twenty years to actually listen to what my parents were saying. When my father announced that my post year twelve gift was to take a course in Choice Theory - I was just a bit disappointed! No car?! No expensive watch? Definitely no holiday to Bali? (for the Gen Y's - schoolies was not yet invented!) Nope not for me! In the end this gift from my parents as unexciting as it first seemed was in fact a gift for life, it became the pen that taught me to be the author of my own story.
I was on the verge of adulthood. I had enlisted into the Australian Army as an Officer and was just weeks away from my recruit training. In the four day course I was presented with the idea that whatever emotions I felt, thoughts I had or physical feelings I had - it was all under my control. It was mind blowing and turned my view of the world on its head! I had just been through adolescence and emotions just seemed to happen to you, at least that's what my friends and I had thought. Now I couldn't let myself see others as the cause of any of my unhappiness, but saw it was my choice about how I viewed each and every life experience.
A different approachA month later I sat in a crowd of eager and apprehensive recruits waving goodbye to my family as we drove off into the horizon towards our new life in the Army. One of the differences between me and the rest of the young recruits on the bus was that I knew that no matter what I was going to face over the next eight weeks of induction I was mentally prepared to cope. I knew how to understand my emotions and to change my thoughts and how to control my physiology – those physical reactions that see so many people ‘break down’ during Army induction training.
Many of my fellow recruits would bounce from up to down, disaster to despair as we played the game of Army life for the first time. A lifestyle that is never predictable or stable and constantly throws you curve balls! Without a solid footing in understanding their behaviour many of my fellow cadets were swinging at the curve ball wildly, spinning on the plate just trying to get their balance as the next ball came flying at them!
I had my share of challenges and disasters (to be honest probably more than my share!) but with the understanding I had of my own psychology I managed my thoughts and emotions to successfully negotiate those first challenging weeks. It was later on during further training that the true value of applying Choice Theory came to the fore. That however, is another story entirely! It’s now 15 years later and I credit that first Basic Intensive Week in Choice Theory as the key to much of my personal success. The main concepts that the only person whose behaviour we can control is our own and that all behaviour is Total Behaviour and is made up of four components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology helped me to negotiate the obstacle course of Army life.
The Officer was standing in the shade, sipping an icy cold can of cola and eyeing us suspiciously. Morrie was beside me bucket in hand and his brush's bristles all squashed from their task of making boring old rocks look respectable.
'Hey Morrie' I giggled "I reckon we've only got another five million rocks to go!" "You know the craziest thing is about all this? sure were missing out on our weekend but were not the only ones" I grinned and shot a look back over to the gum tree where the Officer was standing sipping on his cola. "Just remember mate, they can take away our weekend but they can't take away our sense of humour!"
Morrie looked up and smiled, "Hey thanks, I tell you what, I don't think I will ever forget Golden Circle Pineapple Jam for as long as I live and I reckon we've got more like three million rocks to go" and turning back to the next rock in line Morrie flourished his paintbrush and gave his rock a makeover, starting with a big smile and two twinkling eyes.