Reaching a Crossroads

An amazing opportunity has presented itself. Although I’ve worked in the field of education for over twenty years in a variety of different roles, one thing I have never done is filled the role of classroom teacher. Sure, I’ve spent countless hours observing and assisting in classrooms, co-taught lessons, created and done presentations for students and facilitated lots of inservice days and training programs for teachers – but I’ve never had the total responsibility for a classroom for a whole school year. So when a term position opened up for an instructor in my college’s Social Service Worker program, it seemed like a no brainer. My two loves – social work and education – married together. What could be more perfect?
Except that I love my job. I work in a Mature High School program with adults who have often had to overcome incredible challenges to get there. I get to watch them learn and grow – often discovering that they are much more capable than they ever realized. It’s truly a magical place – how could I leave that?
As I struggle to make the decision of whether or not to apply for this new position, I realized that what was really causing me difficulty was not which job I wanted to do – but rather, being in limbo not knowing what picture to focus on in my head. I was reading William Glasser’s biography this morning, and was struck again with the idea that the outside world doesn’t cause feelings and behaviours – it’s our internal world that creates these. And my problem is that I have two clear pictures in my head – one of me working as a classroom instructor, and one of me working in my current role – and they both are incredibly need-fulfilling in their own way. I know that no matter what happens – whether I am chosen for this position or not – that I can choose happiness and fulfillment. I just don’t know what decisions are going to be made by external forces outside of my control. If I’m not offered the new job – I know I have the power to choose thoughts and behaviours that will make me feel relieved that I can remain with my current colleagues and students and continue the important work we do. And if I am offered the teaching position – I will feel excited about the opportunity to face a new challenge and expand my experiences and skills.
I could choose the opposite. I could focus on feelings of rejection and lost opportunities should I not be offered the position. And if the opposite were to occur, I could lament all the extra time and work that is going to be required, not to mention my lost hopes of a winter vacation this year!
This is the gift of control theory – having the knowledge that no matter what the world throws at me, I have the control to determine what I’m going to do, think, and feel about it. And with that knowledge, I can always choose happiness.
I’ll keep you posted! I don’t know what I’m going to be doing next school year – but I know it will be a great year!


Why Do You Work?

work_experienceI was listening to an age-old debate about social assistance this week. It all sounds very logical: If you pay someone to sit around and do nothing, why would anyone have any motivation to work? As a society, we shouldn’t give people hand-outs because we need people to be contributing members of society and not just learn to take and take and never give.

It sounds logical… but my experience tells me it’s not quite this simple….

I work with a lot of folks who are on assistance, and many of them are overcoming significant odds every day to try to get their education. They have dreams of achieving a meaningful career, and are quite vocal about the fact that they don’t want to be on assistance for the rest of their lives. Why are they not satisfied with sitting back and collecting cheques?

I’ve also worked with a number of colleagues who were counting down the days until they were eligible to retire. And yet, when the day finally came, they didn’t. They had no financial reason to continue working, and yet, they just couldn’t go.

And what about all the unpaid work that people do? I attended the YWCA Women of Distinction awards ceremony this year, and I was completely blown away listening to the stories of the amazing work that volunteers in our community are doing. I don’t know where these women could fit all their work into the day, but it exhausted me thinking about all the time, energy and commitment that these people demonstrate.

And even within paid employment, I see people every day who go beyond the call of duty in their work. They take on extra projects, work overtime, and really go the extra mile – knowing full well that their efforts will not garner any extra financial reward. Often times, their labours will not even be noticed. But they do it anyways.

So if it’s not just money that motivates us, what is it?

I think many of us have this fantasy that if we won the lottery, the first thing that we’d do would be to quit our jobs. But I wonder… would you really? If push really came to shove, would you simply walk away, or is there something else you get out of your work that you might not be willing to give up?

It’s obvious that our work provides us with something more than simply money.  So I thought it might be interesting to do a little research.  I’ve created a one question survey that will only take you 5 seconds to complete.

Click here to anonymously share what motivates you!

Let’s see what we might learn…

Thanks for helping!

Finding Freedom In Art


I am a pretty driven person.  I have a daily “to do” list for both home and work, and if I don’t cross off a significant amount off both lists each day, I feel like I’ve wasted a day.  I know I shouldn’t feel guilty about taking time to do nothing and just relaxing, but when I do, I usually can’t sit for long before I think of something else I could be accomplishing, and then I can’t sit still.  And when I do sit down or crawl into bed at the end of the day, my mind is usually racing, thinking of what I need to do when I can get up and get going again.

But this week, something cool happened.  A friend of mine asked me if I would take an mosaic art class with her.

Now, I’ve never really considered myself an artistic person.  My memories of art class back in grade school are about following the directions to create a replica of the teacher’s example.  There was never much creativity involved, which was fine by me, because I didn’t think I had much of that anyways.

But this class was different.  The instructor asked us to choose colours that spoke to us. She told us to “go with what the glass decided”.  And somehow, I was able to let loose a bit, and just see what happened.

And what happened was that each one of us created something unique.  And while I was creating, my mind became calm.  I couldn’t believe how late it was when we finished – I totally lost track of time!

It really made me think about art in a different way.  It’s not just about the product, it’s about the process.  And allowing myself to get lost for those few hours gave me an experience of freedom that I don’t usually grant myself.  I felt very peaceful and satisfied as I crawled into my bed that night.

Our world is so very focused on power and achievement that it’s easy to get trapped in that mindset that in order to be successful, you must use every minute wisely.  Every time I go online, I’m bombarded by articles about how to cook the perfect meal, decorate my home like a magazine layout, throw my kid the birthday party of their dreams, succeed at work, have the ideal marriage… the list never ends.  But when our need for power prevents us from achieving a balance with our other needs, we are denying ourselves the opportunity to live a full and happy life.

So, while it’s fine to have goals and to be driven to achieve, don’t forget that it’s just as important to spend time with the people you love, have some fun, and allow yourself those moments of escape.


Special thank you to our wonderful instructor, Marlies Soltys for teaching me more than just how to create a mosaic piece!  You can check out her studio at:

(just for fun… can anyone guess which one is mine in the picture above?)

The Best Weekend Ever!


Of all the basic needs, I think the one that I crave the least is freedom. The relationships in my life are extremely important to me. I want to be a competent and successful person. I love to laugh and have fun. But freedom? As long as I have those other things, what difference does it make?

But then I had this weekend. My husband and kids were all away. I was totally all by myself. This doesn’t sound like a recipe for an amazing weekend. Amazing weekends are filled with fun and friends! Making memories with my kids, and experiencing new adventures!

But something happened. I went to sleep when I wanted, I woke up when I wanted. I ate what I wanted when I wanted. I did exactly what I felt like doing for 2 whole days.

By Sunday night, I was thinking about how rare this is. I go to work every day and have to meet the expectations set out for me. I come home and feel that I have to get supper on the table, and get some laundry done. I owe my husband and kids some of my time. I need to connect with my friends, who are going to start to wonder how important they are to me if I don’t stay in touch. It’s not that I don’t like doing these things. I love my job. I like to cook. I enjoy time with my family. I have a ton of fun with my friends. Laundry, well, that’s a different story, but for the most part, the things I do each day are things that bring me pleasure.

But in spite of this, when you feel that you HAVE to do something, it drains your energy. Even things we want to do can be exhausting.

And that’s what I realized this weekend. In spite of my days being filled with things I want to do, I don’t have a lot of time in my life where I am truly free to do exactly as I wish.

And having had that time this weekend, I feel energized and ready to face the world again.

It makes me wonder… would the people around me be happier and more motivated if I provided them opportunities when possible to make decisions for themselves? Are there times that I am unnecessarily limiting the freedom of other people?

Are there ways that you could help others to be able to meet their need for freedom?

Choosing Happiness

What an amazing young woman!  18 years old, and away for home for the first time.  Living in a university dorm, and making her way through all that is new and unfamiliar.  Away from family, away from friends, unsure of what the future holds.

I remember being this girl.  And it wasn’t that pretty.  I was miserably home-sick.  I locked myself in my dorm room and hid from the world.  Thank god for the resident assistant who noticed and dragged me out to meet people and get involved.  I would probably still be there if it hadn’t been for him.

But this young lady explained to me how happiness is a choice.  That even though things are tough, you can do things that make challenges like this better or worse.  Even though it is understandable to have the desire to retreat into loneliness and sadness, that you have to think about how your behaviour is going to affect what happens next in your life.   Even though you cannot control when hard times hit, that you are totally in control of what you do after they hit.

So, she forces herself to overcome her shyness and get out and meet people.  She takes risks and gets involved in activities that may not be her favorite, but allow her to be active and involved.

Yup.  She’s figured out at the tender age of 18 what it’s taken me years of courses and study and life experience to learn!

the only thing you control

Are you making decisions right now that are going to get you to where you want to be?

Our Discomfort With Achievement

finish lineOf all the basic needs that we have, I think power is the most misunderstood.

We all accept that relationships are important, and that we all need love in our lives.  We appreciate that everyone needs some fun sometimes – after all, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!  Freedom is something so basic to us in Canada, that it’s hard to think about what life would be like if we didn’t have the freedoms we do that are guaranteed to us by law.  But power…. it’s a little stickier.

I have an assessment that I use in Restitution training to help people see how their behaviour is driven by the needs.  When someone has a strong desire for any of the other needs, it isn’t such a big deal.  But I’ve frequently seen people get very uncomfortable when power is identified as a strong need for them.

Why does this need get such a bad rap?  What is wrong with someone striving to achieve?

I think sometimes it’s because power is associated with those who have abused power.  We think about the damage done by “power-hungry” people who fulfill their power need by controlling others.  But power doesn’t have to be achieved at someone else’s expense.  Power can be found in that sense of accomplishment – when you master something that you’ve had to work hard for.

Yet, we remain uncomfortable with sharing that satisfaction with achievement.  We don’t judge people as being “braggy” when we share our pleasure about entering a new relationship or having an awesome vacation.  But talk about an achievement, and others sometimes roll their eyes and criticize you for being so full of yourself.  Or, if someone is talking about an achievement you have made, you may feel embarrassment for that being shared.  Often I’ve heard people minimize their accomplishment – “It’s not that big a deal”.

Why is that this basic need is one which so many of us have difficulty accepting as a necessary part of satisfaction and happiness in life?

I wonder….is this a Canadian thing?  For those of you who have experiences in other countries, do you see this too?


The Picture You Create For Your Kids

I listened as a mom explained how she was sacrificing her own well-being for the sake of her children. Her marriage gave her little happiness – her husband seemed to care only for himself, never taking the needs of his wife or children into account. She carried the weight of caring for the family all on her shoulders. She seemed overwhelmed, tired and quite frankly, pretty miserable. But she loves her children, and firmly believes that she is giving them a stable childhood by ensuring that they have a mom and a dad living together under the same roof.

I can’t help but admire how strong she is, and how she is able to think of her children first. But I wonder – is this really what’s best for those kids? Is it possible that she’s choosing misery, and that in the end, it’s not what’s best for her kids?

Control theory teaches us that we each carry pictures in our heads of the ways we can meet our needs. If we don’t have a picture of a certain behavior, we can’t put that into practice in the real world. What pictures are these children learning about how to have a relationship?

Are they learning that a relationship is all about equality and sharing?

Are they learning that relationships bring happiness?

Are they learning that being in a relationship means thinking of another person, and not just yourself?

I’m certainly not advocating that marriages should be given up on lightly. I wouldn’t want my kids to learn that you run away from relationships at the first sign of difficulty. But I wonder how this mom would feel if her children ended up in relationships that were similar to the one she is in?

Is this really the picture she wants her children to have? Is this really what’s best for the kids?