What Is Ontological Coaching?

Ontology concerns what things are.

Epistemology concerns how we know what things are.

Through ontological coaching, we examine and question the ontology and epistemology of things so that they become conscious to us. Once we are conscious of them, we “have” them, instead of them “having” us.

Consider this example ⬇︎

Two kids – one very young, the other older – are up in a skyscraper. They look down at the street. The very young one might say, “Look at the tiny people and tiny cars!”

Meanwhile, the older one might say, “See how tiny the people and cars look!”

Both the kids were able to look at things. But only one of them was aware of how he was looking at things. As revealed by their language, the conditions through which the street was viewed (i.e. the vertical distance) “had” the younger kid, but not the older kid. The older kid was aware of the epistemology.

This is a simple illustration of the sort of awareness that I strive to help my clients achieve, through my ontological coaching work. I help my clients to shift from looking at things to looking at how they are looking at things. This awareness is precious, because awareness is prerequisite for change.

The Value of

My Ontological Approach

"How" → Result

Most often, people tweak the ‘How’ to get the results they want. This is the most visible part of the equation and therefore the easiest to work on. This is where trainers, teachers and consultants will do their work. The focus is on techniques, methods and tools. The belief here is, if I use the best “thing” in the “correct” manner, I will get the result I want!… but we know that in real life, this is hardly a guarantee.

"Why" → "How" → Result

Despite having resources available for their ‘How’, people don’t always achieve the results they want. Therefore, a deeper level would be to examine and strengthen their ‘Why’. The focus is on reasons, motivation, stakes, etc. This where most personal development programs or even coaches will work on with the client. This can be effective, if the client has clarity of the goal.

However, haven’t you met or heard of someone who is cognitively aware of their ‘Why’, but yet is somehow unable to get the results they are after? Maybe you are that person. You know your reasons for wanting or even needing the results. But somehow, you seem stuck at the same problem or issue. You may have tried multiple “How’s”, but you’re not closer to your goal .

“Who” → "Why" → "How" → Result

We can go even deeper by working on the ‘Who’. The focus here is on our narratives about self, identity and the world around us. When we are able to shift our “Who’s”, our “Why’s” and “How’s” will shift as well. In fact, our options often increase. What previously seemed impossible may become accessible.

More often than not, what prevents us from getting to the goal is not so much a lack of resources, but our narratives of why we cannot access those resources. These narratives set us up in corresponding moods and bodies, to the point that they reinforce one another, making us truly stuck.

If we slow down enough to unpack and question our “Who”, we start moving towards freedom.

Shifting Your “Who”

An ontological coach creates such change by working with a client in three main ways: linguistically, emotionally and somatically.

Linguistics concern the words you speak to the world and the words you speak to yourself in your head. This is the cognitive, mental domain, involving things such as thought and mindset. Not surprisingly, this is where most of the coaching work all over the world is done. Ontological coaches are highly aware that the words you speak don’t merely reveal what’s inside you… they shape the world outside you as well. I can work with you to deconstruct your language, giving you fresh new awareness of what you have been unconsciously creating through your words, so that you can go on to create what you want, consciously.

Emotions are a huge part of why and how we do the things we do. This domain is often a mysterious and/or confusing area, as many have been taught to chase after the “bright” emotions (e.g. bliss, excitement, affection) while avoiding the “dark” ones (e.g. grief, boredom, anger). A large part of the population may also regard emotions as something undesirable, almost like a burden. Ontological coaches can guide clients to mine their emotions for clarity that may take more time or effort to achieve through words. I can also help you learn how to navigate your full range of emotions, so that you experience the full range of your life as well.

Somatics concern the body and all that is physical, including things like facial expression, breathing and how we move – or do not move – the body. It also involves how we feel ourselves from the inside; physical sensations, emotional qualities, energy, etc. The sum total of these physical factors contribute to how we make sense of ourselves internally, as well as how people perceive us from the outside. It should not be surprising that many of these factors are invisible to most people. I can make these things visible to you, so that you can enjoy freedom and control in both body and mind. You will also gain an additional source of clarity.

These three domains – linguistics, emotions and somatics – make up your ‘Who’. New awareness in one of these domains can ripple off into the other two, creating a shift, a whole new way of being useful towards the results you seek.

The job of all coaches is to move their clients towards the results they want. While this is also true for me, my focus is not so much on helping my clients perform better actions, which is the ‘How’. Rather, I work with their personal ontology and epistemology to shift their ‘Who’. What identity are you taking on that makes you see the world this way? If you wished for the world to respond to you in a different way, who would you need to be?

Starting to taste the philosophy?

Let me attempt to explain why working on the ‘Who’ is a big deal. It involves a well-known supervillain. 


“Who” Are These Superheroes?

Please indulge the geek in me as I draw an example from pop culture. Compare Prof. X and Magneto, from Marvel’s X-Men franchise. Both are leaders of mutants (evolved members of humankind possessing super-abilities). They both want the same results – a world where their mutant kind can live unharassed by ordinary humans – but one takes a peace-building approach, while the other takes an aggressive, militant stance. Each leader’s ‘Who’ determined their ‘Why’ and their ‘How’.

And indulge me again as I draw the example of Thanos, one of the key antagonists in the Marvel film, The Infinity War. You may have heard of his big idea: to make life sustainable, he will extinguish half of all lifeforms in the universe using a gauntlet with almighty powers. This intention set him up as the big boss villain, inciting numerous superheroes to take him down. But here’s the thing: if Thanos could do anything he wanted with his powers, why didn’t he choose to double the resources across the universe, instead of killing half of all life?

The latter choice created suffering for himself and the world around him, while the former choice would have created less or no suffering. What was the ‘Who’ that Thanos held for himself, that motivated him take one course of action over the other?

In this context, we can suffer when the ‘Who’ we hold do not serve the results we want. It sets us up against overwhelming difficulties and grief, and we may not see why.

This is why, in my ontological coaching work, I focus on discovering and expanding the ‘Who’ of my clients. When we take care of the ‘Who’, the ‘Why’ becomes clear, and the ‘How’ will naturally present itself. 

This is as true for us as it is for superheroes.

Discover The Superpower Of Shifting Your 'Who'

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