“If only, if only… If only people would do as they should, if only the economy was better, if only things were different! Then, I could be happy and satisfied.” Do you ever think this way?
Yet others often share neither our outrages nor our joys. Where one person is distraught, others may be indifferent or even happy. Are people insensitive or simply oblivious? Why isn’t everyone troubled by the same things that we are?
Here’s one explanation: Throughout our lives, we create “pictures” in our minds of our own personal, ideal world. These are pictures of people, things, and beliefs that we think could satisfy our basic needs.
In Choice Theory, that set of pictures is called our Quality World, and it forms a core part of our lives. We’d live there if we could.
So does your Quality World have anything to do with your day-to-day reality? You bet it does! What’s in there has a real impact on how happy and satisfied you are with your life.
If you see that your life pretty much reflects the pictures in your Quality World, then you feel good. Your needs are being satisfied. If instead, you see a large gap between reality and your Quality World, you won’t feel satisfied at all.
Our Quality World is a personal thing. Satisfaction isn’t determined by the specific pictures, but by how well you see your reality matching your pictures.
For example, if your Quality World picture is of your son “the athlete,” you may be unhappy if he turns out to be a scholar, while a parent with a scholarly picture would be thrilled with a studious son. A parent with a picture of a loving, devoted son might see athletic or scholarly accomplishment as equally irrelevant.
Similarly, if your Quality World picture of a spouse is that of a poet laden with flowers and wine, then you won’t feel satisfied if the spouse of your reality arrives with chicken wings, beer, and the TV guide!
There are also pictures of yourself in your Quality World–that is, the self that you want to see. You might have pictures of your appearance, your personality, your weight… Cosmetic companies, plastic surgeons, and diet organizations improve the reality of their bottom lines by promising to reduce the gap between how you are and how you want to see yourself.
How can knowing your Quality World be helpful to you?
It’s within your power to be more satisfied; that is, to reduce the gap between your reality and your Quality World. There are two approaches you can use: You can change your reality to bring it closer to your Quality World, or you can change the pictures in your Quality World.
If the gap between reality and your Quality World picture concerns something that you can control, you can use that gap as a motivator to change your reality. For example, owning a home is a Quality World picture for many people. Knowing that, you can use strategies to make it reality: create a plan, save your money, shop strategically, and so on. The clearer your picture, the more likely you are to recognize it when it’s in front of you.
However, many Quality World pictures are neither tangible nor controllable. We might have pictures of how other people should behave, or even of how the weather should be. For example, how did the reality of last winter match your Quality World?
Sometimes, the best way to reduce the gap is to change your picture. If you don’t like winter and you can’t change your reality (i.e. move away), then consider changing your picture of winter. Embrace the good fortune of living in a climate of changing seasons!
OK, maybe that’s too much to ask. However, realize that it’ll be difficult to feel happy and satisfied if your Quality World is filled with rigid pictures of things over which you have no control, such as pictures of what other people should be doing. Others seldom do what we think they should! And while you may have influence, do you have any control over their behaviour, really?
Remember: Some things are important; others are not. Some things are under our control; others are not. When something is important but not under our control, examining and changing our Quality World picture may be helpful.
Sometimes, changing our Quality World picture is the only way to reduce the gap. For example, when a loved one passes away, we are faced with a reality totally out of our control. Does that mean that this person is now removed from our Quality World? Not at all. We can change our pictures away from shared activities in present or future to pictures of the meaning that person has brought to our lives, or to how we might now live while honouring them.
The important things that we do are attempts to satisfy pictures in our Quality World. If you’d like to give this a try, pick one small area in your life where you feel dissatisfied. Compare your reality with your Quality World picture. Then, examine whether it’s better to change your reality or to change your Quality World picture. See what happens!