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.

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