Reality Check: Saddle Up!

The professional organization that’s associated with teaching the world Choice Theory occasionally sends out inspirational quotes. A recent one came from an unexpected source: John Wayne.

According to the Duke, “Courage is when you are scared to death, but you saddle up anyway.”

What’s the choice theory connection?

Choice theory views all behaviour as “total,” that is, behaviour is not limited to action, but also includes thoughts, feelings, and physiological responses. Being familiar with the idea of total behaviour can help us as we make our choices.

Lauren is the beneficiary of money which has been designated specifically for education. She doesn’t see herself as academically inclined; if anything, her school history has left her feeling more challenged than motivated.

Thus, the prospect of school is frightening—Lauren views it as subjecting herself to an environment where she will once again feel powerless.

Lauren’s fear shows itself in various unpleasant ways: her palms sweat and a queasy feeling takes over her stomach. Her physiology is on alert, letting her know that it’s uncomfortable.

Her feelings chime in too, as her outlook is overtaken by doubt: “What if I try and fail? What if I’m simply not good enough? What will people think of me?”

Her thoughts then pile on with misleading logic: “I don’t have time to go to school. I’m too busy. It’s more sensible to forfeit the money and forget about it.”

Although Lauren’s physiology, feelings, and thoughts are all leading her to make the choice to back out, what’s really going to count? The component of total behaviour that will determine Lauren’s future direction is…her action.

Here’s a piece of information that may be helpful for Lauren as she struggles with her decision. As one takes action in the direction that one wants to go, thoughts, feelings and physiology may follow and come on board in a positive way.

For example, can you relate to this experience? You feel discouraged or sad or afraid, so you don’t want to get out of bed. However, because of some compelling reason that you can’t control, you recognize that you need to get up. So, you do.

Then, once you are up and around people and doing things, you suddenly realize that you feel better; you are less discouraged, happier, not so fearful. You took action in a positive way, and your physiology, feelings, and thoughts have followed.

Even when seemingly overwhelmed by compelling feelings, whether of fear, anger, or discouragement, we can act and think in ways that resist the feeling.

John Wayne’s comment is essentially saying that the feeling doesn’t have to be in charge. Saddle up anyway. This is not to suggest that it’s easy to defy that feeling. However, it’s possible, and courage is one manifestation of doing just that.

Now, in spite of her unsettled stomach, feelings of doubt, and thoughts of uncertainty, do you think Lauren will manage to “saddle up” and register for school? As Lauren’s friend, what would you suggest she do?

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