Why H B Changed His Theory Of Decision Making

“Our heads are round so that our thoughts can change directions.” Francis Picabia

This is an article I wrote 40 years ago, but never posted as a blog, regarding a dramatic personal experience that caused my view about the power of beliefs in decision making. Sharing this with my readers is the purpose of this blog.

This experience occurred while I was writing and speaking about my approach to decision making to many different audiences. This happened during workshops in several CYA facilities in California, (now known as California Division of Juvenile Justice), while presenting an exercise I had done many times.

I was teaching my decision making process to the teachers, counselors and students in the “rehabilitation prisons” for California youth. The exercise was called Four Future Metaphors, found in Teaching The Future, 1976 by Draper Kauffman. It is about one’s beliefs about personal control of the future. (It can be found on Goggle, A Metaphoric Future). One metaphor was a Roller Coaster with the message: “We are locked in our seats and there is nothing we can say or do that will change the course that is laid out for us.” The other metaphors were less restrictive, The Mighty River, The Great Ocean, and the Colossal Dice Game.

In my many previous experiences with adults and students, sometimes one or two people would select the Roller Coaster as their metaphor. In the CYA workshops almost all the students chose it!  And their counselors were not surprised.

This experience was a shock to me and an “eye opener.”  I realized I would be wasting my time (and theirs), teaching them how to take charge of their future by making wise decisions. They didn’t believe they had anycontrol over their future. They didn’t see a need to learn decision making skills. I could understand their belief system when I understood their previous life experiences and projected future life experiences.

These were all boys, minorities, and usually from the LA area, who had committed a serious crime. When they returned home, it was usually to a gang neighborhood, and their father was probably in jail; 90% ended up in federal prison.

This experience caused a paradigm shift in my thinking about teaching decision making. Information and rational strategy were the hallmarks of my decision making approach at this point. Now beliefs would become an important part and eventually a major part. What these inmates in our “youth prisons” needed was a new belief system about their future. I have often said: “Your image of the future may be the most important factor in determining what it will be.” A new future belief system cannot change their fathers  or where they grow up, but can change their mindset about how they see themselves. There are many examples of this actually happening.

Today, the power of beliefs is even more evident. In politics, families, racism, sports, gender, the military, business, energy, climate, success and failure, national and international attitudes, etc. Beliefs become behavior. We are what we believe. I am sure this one experience wasn’t the only cause of my change of view about beliefs. In the 1980’s, the other experiences I was having speaking and writing about decision making, with feedback, influenced me. And my reading also had an effect on me. At the time I was reading The Aquarian Conspiracy by Marilyn Ferguson, 1980; Transitions by William Bridges, 1980; Thinking About Thinking, Clark McKowen,1986; Positive Illusions, Shelly Taylor, 1989; and The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zukav, 1979.

This, of course, was the time also when the “new physics” was emerging into public view, which brought out increased interest in the “old Eastern philosophies” and the incomprehensible  interconnectedness of reality. My view about beliefs was influenced by all of this. I published my Positive Uncertainty article in the Journal of Counseling Psychology in 1989, which was my going public about my belief of the power of beliefs.

Everything begins with belief. What we believe is the most powerful option of all.  Norman Cousins

This entry was posted in Beliefs. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Marianne Fontana says:

    With all the “craziness” in the world today, it becomes harder to think I have control over anything but myself. It is harder to identify how I see things in any rational way in light of all the changes in our personal world as well as in the world around us. When I examine my beliefs I wonder if they were ever relevant. Oh my, time of change is great.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.