David Krueger MD
We are often ill-equipped and unready to prepare for our most transformative challenges. Even to imagine the nature and extent of specific never-before experiences and decisions.
For example, if you were offered a chance to become a Vampire, to suddenly gain incredible superpowers in exchange for relinquishing human existence, would you do it? The difficulty is that you can’t possibly make an informed choice. You can’t know what it would be like to be a Vampire until you are one. There is no lived experience as a human being to inform what it would be like as a Vampire. All of your past experiences simply do not apply. Professor of Philosophy at UNC Chapel Hill, L.A. Paul, poses this Vampire problem in his book, Transformative Experience.
We often begin decision analysis with what we know, then make adjustments and conclusions from these anticipated facts. But intuition uses existing models and mental representations based on known experiences to inform instantaneous unconscious simulation.
As Professional Coaches, how can we help clients navigate something they have never experienced? Perhaps never even conceived a game plan or model to inform or guide? An example would be engaging change and transformation of a significant new experience such as the accompaniments of extreme success including fame, wealth, and power. And then how to sustain and enhance that success beyond where someone has ever been before? Any decision that is truly novel poses a significant challenge. The act of imagining is simply not enough to inform what it might really be like to be blind, a slave, a Canadian goose, or a Vampire. These experiences, including extreme success, require decisions that cannot be ceded to logic, scientific inquiry, or previous experience. There is no normative standard to frame or anchor a life-changing decision that also changes the future.
What can you focus on to consider possibilities in the face of significant change and transformation?
- Initial mastery of self-regulation and states of mind to balance the stimulation of excess emotion and the temptation to respond impulsively
- Clarity and loyalty to the foundation of personal identity: needs and ideals/values that form a bedrock sense of self.
- Shift perspective: a year (or five years) from now, look back to what you will be glad you have done.
Four fundamental questions to inform the development of this model:
- What was the most unprecedented or extreme experience you dealt with successfully?
- What personal tools did you use for that experience?
- What best practices can be applied now to navigate the new situation?
- Who will you become in making the choices you consider?