Understanding Choice Theory

Making Informed Decisions for a Happier Life

Written by Sam Fattahi, RCC


Life is a constant series of choices. From the moment we wake up in the morning until we close our eyes at night, we face decisions that shape our lives. Some choices are simple, like what to have for breakfast. Others are more complex, such as deciding on a career path or choosing a life partner.

But have you ever wondered what drives our decision-making process? Choice Theory, developed by Dr. William Glasser, offers valuable insights into understanding our choices and how they influence our overall well-being.

Make the right choices in life; how do I make good decisions

What is Choice Theory?


Choice Theory is a psychological perspective that explores how humans make decisions and the impact those choices have on our lives. Dr. William Glasser is an American psychiatrist who developed this theory in the 1950s. This theory has since contributed significantly to the fields of psychology, education, and personal development.

At its core, Choice Theory suggests that all behavior is driven by our innate desire to meet our basic psychological needs. According to Dr. Glasser, these five basic needs are:

1. Survival

2. Love and Belonging

3. Power and Achievement

4. Freedom and Independence

5. Fun and Enjoyment

Healthy relationships where couples understand and meet each other's needs

How Choice Theory Works


Choice Theory posits that our choices are attempts to satisfy one or more of these fundamental needs. Let’s break down how it works:

1. Quality World: Each person has a “Quality World,” which is a mental picture of the people, places, things, and experiences they believe will satisfy their needs. Our choices are often made to bring us closer to the items in our Quality World.

2. Perceived Choice: Dr. Glasser argues that we have more control over our choices than we might think. Even in challenging situations, we can choose how we respond. These choices are driven by our perceptions of what will best fulfill our needs.

3. Total Behavior: Choice Theory defines behavior as a combination of four components: acting, thinking, feeling, and physiology. When we make choices, these four components work together. For instance, if you choose to pursue a particular career, it involves not only actions but also your thoughts, emotions, and physical responses.

4. External vs. Internal Control: Dr. Glasser distinguishes between external control (trying to control others or blaming external circumstances for our problems) and internal control (taking responsibility for our choices and actions). According to Choice Theory, happiness comes from exercising internal control and making choices that align with our needs.


Practical Applications of Choice Theory


Understanding Choice Theory can have a profound impact on various aspects of our lives:

1. Improved Relationships: By recognizing that others also have their Quality Worlds and needs, we can enhance our interpersonal relationships by striving to understand and meet each other’s needs.

2. Personal Growth: Choice Theory encourages us to take responsibility for our choices and work toward satisfying our basic needs in healthy ways. This can lead to personal growth and greater life satisfaction.

3. Education: In the field of education, Choice Theory is applied to help students take control of their learning and make choices that lead to academic success.

Finally, and not least of all, …

4. Mental Health: Choice Theory is used in therapy and counselling to help individuals identify and address the underlying needs driving their behaviors and emotions.



Choice Theory offers a valuable framework for understanding human behavior and decision-making. By recognizing that our choices are driven by our innate needs, we can make more conscious decisions that lead to greater happiness and well-being.

Whether in our personal lives, relationships, or professional endeavors, Choice Theory empowers us to take control of our choices and ultimately shape the lives we desire. So, the next time you find yourself at a crossroads, remember the power of your choices and the role they play in fulfilling your fundamental needs.

If you feel intrigued by the above and feel it could help, book a free 15-minute consult with me now.


Farsi-speaking Registered Clinical Counsellor in Coquitlam and Maple Ridge. Farsi-speaking couples counsellor, Farsi-speaking counsellor for kids and families

Sam Fattahi, RCC | Innova Coquitlam, Maple Ridge & Online