If you read this intro before…skip to the blue below.
I had this idea in my head. Maybe put three pictures up in my office, each representing something important about what I do. Counseling reminder. A touchstone for the eye of sorts. Well, like I said, it was in my head and as I realized one of the three pictures I wasn’t going to be able to get, and the others were certainly copyrighted, the three sort of evolved as I looked for alternatives. So in looking for a different way to go, in my head, we went from three reminders to 96 reminders. It’s why my wife refers to what comes out of my noggin as ‘cumbersome’ on occasion.
So. I am mostly a counselor, but I have also studied and practiced a bunch of other things including cuisine and photography. I always wanted to have an idea why some folks in every field are wildly successful compared to many of their contemporaries, so I always checked a bunch of them out. So, here come 96 people and quotes attributed to them, if there are any – 24 chefs, 24 photographers, 20 people associated with psychology directly, and then 28 none of the above people whose lives or words remind me what to strive towards as a counselor, a counseling business owner, and a general human being. The only problem was stopping. There have been a lot of people who for one reason or another inspire me, lots more names on the potential list but it had to at least pause somewhere, so here we are.
I don’t rightly know if writing these out and posting them will be of any use to anyone else but I’m reasonably sure codifying the whole thing will drive it home for me and hopefully offer some encouragement and centering for our folks. Hope you get something out of one or two of them too.
In basic psychology you will definitely hear Skinner’s name and it will almost only be associated with Operant Conditioning. If you pursue more psych, you may end up training a rat in a box named for him. My initial reaction as a red-blooded American individual to the idea that much of who we are is trained into us by external forces chapped my hyde. Then you go on to learn more about yourself, and life, and work with people…and well, it’s truer than we may like to think. Great thing about it though, if it’s true, we have a practical mechanism to extinguish problematic thoughts and behaviors and alter ourselves in the ways we so choose later on.
Outside of that Skinner appeared to take great interest in education and seemed to be interested in finding ways to bring out the best of people of all stripes. I can get behind that. Here are some words attributed to him.
“A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.”
B. F. Skinner
”Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.”
B. F. Skinner
“We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading. Knowing the contents of a few works of literature is a trivial achievement. Being inclined to go on reading is a great achievement.”
B. F. Skinner
“The only geniuses produced by the chaos of society are those who do something about it. Chaos breeds geniuses. It offers a man something to be a genius about.”
“No one asks how to motivate a baby. A baby naturally explores everything it can get at, unless restraining forces have already been at work. And this tendency doesn’t die out, it’s wiped out.”
“It is a surprising fact that those who object most violently to the manipulation of behaviour nevertheless make the most vigorous effort to manipulate minds.”
“The consequences of an act affect the probability of its occurring again.”
“The way positive reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount.”
B. F. Skinner
“Give me a child and I’ll shape him into anything.”
“The ideal of behaviorism is to eliminate coercion: to apply controls by changing the environment in such a way as to reinforce the kind of behavior that benefits everyone.”
“The environment shapes people’s actions.”
What B.F.S. reminds me of regularly is to consider all of the life-long forces which continue to influence and leverage myself and clients, and everyone else we interact with, for that matter. To just look at someone and tell them to just do something differently, ummmmm, they have almost always already considered and tried just that very thing. What other forces and pressures have conditioned them throughout life, keeping them from accomplishing the very things they desire? How can we create a conditioning program to make those changes and that life more available to them? Something in my soul chaps at the idea how well trained we are in our “individualistic” society. Something else electrifies my soul, the idea that we are capable of retraining ourselves. That we can use the same techniques and pressures to form ourselves in whatever shape we so choose.
The other things Skinner talked about reinforce what should be part of the counselor creed which is to allow the client to chart their own course, make their own decisions, and to use these or any psychological tools as they see fit. My job is not to tell people what books to read or what to become or do with their lives, my job is to make reading or becoming easier and exhilarating, even or especially when it starts off difficult or miserable, which for me, only increases the value of getting there.
Learn more about Skinner here: