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Marti Jones: I know people who spend all their time getting what they want and they're not happy people. So is there more to reality therapy than just getting what you want?

Brian Lennon: Regarding the general discussion about people getting what they want!
Glasser has always spoken of "What do you REALLY want?" rather than simply "What do you want?" Let's elaborate on this.
A man goes into a DIY shop and asks for a paint-brush.
"What do you want to do?" asks the lady behind the counter. (People in DIY shops really should be qualified in Choice Theory!)
"I want to paint my car" replies the customer.
"Maybe a can of spray-paint is what you want!", advises the shop-lady.

The moral is ... if this man had received what he wanted would he have got what he really wanted ... which presumably was a reasonably presentable car (spray-painted) rather than a streaky one (brush painted)?

People come to therapy with all sorts of problems but in RT/CT terms these problems might be classified into three (often overlapping) types:
1. My picture does not meet my needs (although it is easy enough to achieve in behaviour).
2. I cannot make my picture happen (i.e., translate into behaviour,
although it would be need-satisfying).
3. The inner logic of my pictures has problems.

An example of situation one is the picture of drugs. I can get drugs easily enough but ultimately they do not meet my needs (although I only put them into my picture album in the first place because they appear to meet them).
An example of situation two is where I know that the picture of joining the local choir is need-satisfying but I am too shy to approach the club premises. I lack the skills or knowledge to make my picture happen in the real world of behaviour.
Situation three is one that fascinates me and is directly relevant to this debate about wants. The paint-brush, for example, appears to be what I want but there is a flaw in my logic, the way I connect my pictures together. Paint-brushes are simply not for painting cars! The way people handle (or generally mis-handle) time-management is full of examples of logic break-downs but I will leave that discussion for another time (pardon the pun).
Many people come to counselling because their lives are messing up in spite of apparently getting what they want. In a sense they have all the paint-brushes they have ever asked for and wonder why they are unhappy. In Choice Theory happiness is getting what you NEED, not what you want! In my daily life I hope that what I want will ultimately get me what I need but sometimes I get it wrong!
One important theme in Reality Therapy counselling is helping the client evaluate the effectiveness of their current wants. "If you had what you want, would you be happy?" "Is this what you really want?" "How much do you know about what you want?" "Do you also want the consequences of what you want?" "How many years, life-times will it take you to get what you want at the moment?"

Apicelli: Are the people you are referring to getting material things or things such as better relationships, marriages, peace, more time? I know many people who have all the possessions they want but are miserable or feel a void. I also know people who have opted out of ownership to a simpler life style to gain more control over their lives.

Padraig O'Morain: According to choice theory we are motivated to get what we want. We feel frustration when there is a gap between what we want and what we are getting. For as long as we are alive and kicking there will always be that gap between what we want and what we are getting, because there is always a new want or situation. So what matters is how we manage that gap between what we have and what we want: some things we can move towards more effectively, some we must learn to accept less of than we would like and some we need to take out of our wants altogether or push them way back in the queue. In many ways, Reality Therapy is about how we manage that frustration and what we do with it.

Padraig O'Morain: I think that to say people are motivated by what they want is not the same thing as saying that getting what they want will inevitably "make" people happy. A lot of RT is about negotiating the conflicts between your wants and those of others, or between contradictory wants you might have. Somtime it's the way in which people go about getting what they want that makes trouble for them.

John Radice: I would like to share a quote with you that was important to my dad:

"Happiness is not getting what you want, but wanting what you have."

While it is somewhat of a twist of how we understand "want" in Choice Theory as it directs our behavior, I think it provides a powerful insight as to how to address many of the realities of our lives. Just a thought......

Apicelli: I would be interested to hear how people think this idea of want relates to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It seems that after we secure one want, goal etc we (I anyway) am onto the next. What I may see as a desire to continually improve others may see as perpetual dissatisfaction.

John Radice: Choice Theory makes a distinction between Needs (survival, belonging, power, fun, and freedom) from our Wants (which are the pictures we have in our head as to how to satisfy those needs. Our wants or pictures change as to how to best fullfil our needs because we change. As a child, my picture of fun was playing ball with my friends. As an adult my picture has changed to going to a movie or having friends over the house for dinner. With new information, experiences, etc. we look for different ways to satisfy our needs. Without changing wants we remain static with no life mission or growth. It is true that what you see as a way to improve, others may see as perpetual dissatisfaction. That's because they are looking at the world through their perception of life with their own pictures and wants as to how to best get their needs met. Fortunately, it is not through their perception that you must live your life but through your own.