SMALL CHANGE: your timeline



an ebook


Ciarán Fenton

How small changes in your behaviour have a big impact on how you work, lead or follow

That’s the title of an ebook I wrote in early 2020, initially, as a series of 50 short blogs – index here – and as a framework for a longer book.


Section 1 YOU

Section 1.5 Your timeline

Once we have identified our D Liability (see Section 1.4) we can explore why we behave the way we do which, according to academic research, is often rooted in our formative years.

I use a simple timeline and set of questions to explore these issues with clients:your timeline

  • What was your birth year? That’s the start of your timeline – DOB.
  • At what age did you start to act independently of parents/guardians? Say, 18/21 – that’s the first milestone on your timeline
  • What behavioural decisions did you make in your formative years up to, say, 18/21, if any? Examples: I decided…
    • to keep my head down
    • to be the class joker
    • to trust no one
    • to be everyone’s friend
    • to please
    • to win at everything
    • [don’t recall making any “decisions”]
  • To what extent do you feel you have made new behavioural decisions in adulthood?
    • I haven’t changed much
    • I’ve changed a lot
    • Don’t know one way or another
  • How might you like to reframe your life over the next three years, if at all?
    • I’m happy – nothing to reframe
    • I’m unhappy – lots to reframe
    • Always happy to explore new ways of “being”
  • To what extent do you feel your current behaviour will determine the rest of your life?
    • Of course it does
    • Haven’t thought about it
    • I feel stuck
  • Are you familiar with Transactional Analysis – the concept of Parent/Adult/Child (PAC) behaviour?
    • Yes and it helps
    • No and I’d like to know more
    • Yes and it doesn’t help


Transactional Analysis

According to the International Transactional Analysis Association,[7] TA “is a theory of personality and a systematic psychotherapy for personal growth and personal change.”

  1. As a theory of personality, TA describes how people are structured psychologically. It uses what is perhaps its best known model, the ego-state (Parent-Adult-Child) model, to do this. The same model helps explain how people function and express their personality in their behaviour[7]
  2. As Berne set up his psychology, there are four life positions that a person can hold, and holding a particular psychological position has profound implications for how an individual operationalizes his or her life. The positions are stated as:
    1. I’m OK and you are OK. This is the healthiest position about life and it means that I feel good about myself and that I feel good about others and their competence.
    2. I’m OK and you are not OK. In this position I feel good about myself but I see others as damaged or less than and it is usually not healthy.
    3. I’m not OK and you are OK. In this position the person sees him/herself as the weak partner in relationships as the others in life are definitely better than the self. The person who holds this position will unconsciously accept abuse as OK.
    4. I’m not OK and you are not OK. This is the worst position to be in as it means that I believe that I am in a terrible state and the rest of the world is as bad.[8]
  3. It is a theory of communication that can be extended to the analysis of systems and organisations.[7]
  4. It offers a theory for child development by explaining how our adult patterns of life originated in childhood.[7] This explanation is based on the idea of a “Life (or Childhood) Script”: the assumption that we continue to re-play childhood strategies, even when this results in pain or defeat. Thus it claims to offer a theory of psychopathology.[7]
  5. In practical application, it can be used in the diagnosis and treatment of many types of psychological disorders and provides a method of therapy for individuals, couples, families and groups.
  6. Outside the therapeutic field, it has been used in education to help teachers remain in clear communication at an appropriate level, in counselling and consultancy, in management and communications training and by other bodies.[7]

William Glasser and Choice Theory

William Glasser was an American psychiatrist. Glasser was the developer of W. Edwards Deming’s workplace ideas, reality therapy and choice theory. His innovations for individual counselling, work environments and school, highlight personal choice, personal responsibility and personal transformation.


We almost always have choices, and the better the choice, the more we will be in control of our lives.

We are driven by five genetic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun.

Good or bad, everything we do is our best choice at that moment.

What is your best choice for, say, the next three years of your timeline?

Ciarán Fenton

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