Friday 15 June 2012

Existential Decision Coaching

The worlds of existential and coaching may at first sight appear to be polar opposites. Smoke-filled Parisian cafes and angst-ridden discussions about the futility of it all  might appear to have no place in the  boardroom or when  dealing with your own personal issues.
A new book,  Existential Perspectives on  Coaching, would suggest otherwise. The perspective it offers is that the existential dimension is exactly what is needed to provide depth to the process.

David Arnaud and I have written a chapter aiming to demonstrate exactly this in the realm of  major life decisions.

The management literature informs us that there are 5 logical steps to decision-making
1) Understanding the situation and framing the decision-problem
2) Understanding what matters
3) Searching for options
4) Choosing the best option
5) Implementing the decision

It is helpful to work through these stages logically when making decisions. As you do so, though  you may well  encounter existential concerns, often  masquerading as doubts, anxieties and paradoxes.
The six existential concerns that we find most relevant to decision making are as follows:-
1.    Emotions -including existential guilt and existential anxiety
2.    Values and Meaning
3.  Freedom, Responsibility, Facticity and Choice
4.  Uncertainty
5.  Sedimented beliefs, behaviour patterns and values
6.  Time and Mortality

So how can this work in practice?
Consider Susan  who is 35 and  contemplating whether to have children. She tells you, her coach, that  she thinks about the question every day and lurches between desperately wanting to have children and thinking she wants children, but not just yet. Her sleepless nights and news of friends' pregnancy and recent birthday bring her to see you, a coach who specializes in decision-making. Using the five steps given by the management literature will help - it provides a logical framework, and helps her focus on her questions.  What it does less well is her her deal with conflicting emotions or  provide the tools for reflection on values or  other existential concerns. Our chapter goes into much more depth about how this works in practice with a case involving a career change and one about making a choice about a relationship.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Wise Decision Making in a nutshell

At times, wise decision-making can be very complex - and on this site we won't shy from going into some of the difficulties - such as how to tackle decision paralysis, whether you should ignore or take notice of strong emotions and desires during decision-making and how to deal with uncertainty.
I was asked the other day to give a two sentence summary of what I'd learnt most from over a decade of helping people with decisions. I thought I would share with you my advice
Most important, ask yourself what really matters in this situation - not just what matters to you at this second , but what will matter in a years time, and what matters to people you care about? Secondly, what can you do in the next hour that will either work towards achieving what matters, or help you find out information towards doing so.
That's it.  In a nutshell

  • Think about what matters
  • Take a step towards it

Of course there will be some decisions where you will need unravel your emotional reactions first and deal with complex situations - in which case seeing a decision coach may be a good idea.  But try these two steps first and see whether it helps.

Saturday 9 June 2012

A case study in wise decision-making

Michael is expecting to receive a very large sum of money when companies he has shares in go to market. But he is very anxious about how this will affect his life, and what to do with the money.
Read how the Progress Decision-Making Procedure helped Michael