Transformative Experience

Transformative ExperienceOnly eight posts ago, I lamented that the more important our decisions are, the less thought we seem to put into them. We only invest enough thought to find what makes us feel good, I said, and I wished we would apply more rational thought to our big choices.

Maybe I was asking too much.

Philosopher L.A. Paul says that when it comes to truly life-changing decisions — ones that transform the way you think or your mode of being — there’s no way we can be entirely rational, because on the other side of those decisions we will be so profoundly changed that our present selves can have no idea what our future selves will think.

An example she gives is having children. As the father of six, I can testify that she is right: my childless self could never have anticipated how having kids would change me. I wanted kids, to be sure, but my reasons were not especially rational.

And as Dr. Paul suggests, the rational reasons that turned out to be important were totally unpredictable. For instance, how could I have known that an occasion in the course of raising my third child would end up totally changing my worldview for the better? Or that my new self on the other side of that change of view would be totally surprised by how it felt?

I suppose there could be examples of transformative experiences changing you for the worse, but in my experience, when life presents us with an occasion for transformation, there is a way to use it for good.

My mother told me once regarding a big decision, “Don’t worry; whatever you decide, you’ll make it the right choice.” What she meant was that I would end up ordering my life so that it fit with the decision; I did not have to worry so much about whether the decision would fit my life.

Maybe, as long as we’re not doing something bone-headed or wrong, and as long as we are alert to the positive possibilities in a transformation, we’ll come out OK. What do you think?

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