In my previous article on reality therapy, I explained that the reality therapist does not believe it is necessary, or even helpful, to hash over the deep-rooted causes of one’s problems. Instead, he believes that fulfillment of an individual’s needs in the present, regardless of what traumas he may have suffered in the past, is all that matters. In other words, through the power of free will we have the capacity to modify our behavior.
I thought about this some years ago after watching a segment on 60 Minutes Wednesday about a remarkable man by the name of Thomas Quasthoff. Quasthoff was born near Hanover, Germany, one of the earliest thalidomide babies. At birth, he had no arms and a deformed body that would grow to only about three feet in height.
His parents, concerned that they could not properly care for him, sent him away to an institution for the disabled when he was very young. But after a few years, he returned home and was placed in a regular school.
While his classmates played soccer, Quasthoff took singing lessons. It was the start of a long journey that would bring him fame and fortune as one of the finest and most famous baritones in the world. For four decades, until his retirement in 2012 due to persistent health issues, Quasthoff performed full-time in countries around the globe and was adored by fans everywhere he appeared.
Incredibly, Thomas Quasthoff is the epitome of self-confidence. He displays an endearing, self-deprecating sense of humor, and his smile and boisterous laughter are infectious to everyone in his presence.
In his interview with the late Ed Bradley, Quasthoff described sleeping in a room with a dozen or so other disabled children, many of them both mentally and physically challenged. Reflectively, he said, “It was a hard experience. But, on the other side, now I say it was very good for me, because … I know how hard life can really be.”
He went on to explain, “I accept my disability as a fact. I cannot hide it, and I don’t want to hide it. I don’t want to be judged as a disabled person. I want to be judged as a singer.”
When Bradley started to ask him what he would do if he had to choose between being an able-bodied person who didn’t have his ability to sing or a disabled person with his enormous talent, Quasthoff quickly interrupted him with, “I would stay like I am.” The segment closed with Quasthoff saying, “My life is very, very fulfilled. I’m a very happy man.”
Through the power of free will, Thomas Quasthoff chose to forget the traumas of his past. He recognized that there was nothing he could do about his disabling thalidomide injuries. But, at the same time, he believed he could fulfill his needs through a singing career and a very active life. He refused to use the horrifically bad hand he was dealt at birth as an excuse for failure.
Thomas Quasthoff is yet another reminder that the main difference between success and failure — between happiness and unhappiness — lies in the power of choice. Responsible choices and responsible behavior lead to happiness and success. Irresponsible choices and behavior lead to unhappiness and failure.
Never forget that while you are a product of your past, the reality is that you can’t change any of the unpleasantness you may have endured. Which is why you should be ever vigilant when it comes to fighting the temptation to look back.
When the past no longer clogs your thought processes, it paves the way for you to focus on exercising the self-discipline to act responsibly in the present. Acting responsibly today is the key to fulfilling your needs and getting from where you are now to where you want to be in life.