Recently I have been watching a TV show called Blowout. It is a reality show about a hair designer, Jonathan Antin who struggles to get his Beverly Hills salon up and running. Not only do the Hollywood stars visit his shop but also many other women come in for makeovers with the hope that they too will look like the rich and famous. In fact, when their makeovers are finished they really do look more glamorous than when they walked in. Actually, the TV is filled with shows like these including the famous Extreme Makeover and Dr. 90214, which depicts Beverly Hill's plastic surgeons reshaping and changing the appearances of women of all ages. In these shows the women, in particular, discuss how they feel stuck in a midlife crisis or are anxious about a life transition.
When I am at the fitness center I observe women and men of all ages and sizes feverishly working out. Personally, I think it is tremendous that women are working to create a new persona for themselves. It would be simple to conclude that these women are just focusing on their outward appearances. I do not know if this is the case or not. My hope would be that women are just as concerned with their mental and spiritual health as well as their physical appearance. I believe many are doing just that, but what about those who are not? What about those women who sense a lack of direction or purpose in life, which can be associated with a mid life crisis? What about those women who are dealing with a life transition and are anxious about their abilities to handle it or just feeling overwhelmed by life itself?
Often there is a stigma attached to seeing a psychologist, entering into therapy or counseling or seeking guidance from a religious institution. Certainly if one is severely depressed, suffering from addictions or other mental and spiritual disorders then counseling or therapy is indeed appropriate. But what about a healthy person who does just feel stuck, lacking a direction in life, or overwhelmed, is there a place for them to turn? The answer to that may lie in being coached. Ontological Coaching, in particular, is not about transforming one's personality. It begins with the premise that the person is healthy and their self is intact. Ontological Coaching is about opening up new horizons of learning, which in turn expands how you observe future possibilities and opportunities. In essence, this is how you view your very being or soul.
How is Ontological Coaching different from other forms of coaching? The answer lies in its expanded view of language. The desire to alter outcomes or improve an individual's performance is a central goal in traditional as well as ontological coaching. The difference is found in the process. In traditional coaching one typically observes an action, the results of that action is assessed, a determination is made as to what is missing, the actions are then modified, the modified actions are taken, and then the cycle is repeated. This approach does tend to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the known actions. However, the assessment is only concerned with the known actions or possibilities that the client sees as reality. I believe when someone is suffering, perhaps in the throes of a mid life crisis or a life transition it is because their self or the ability of the self to observe future possibilities or opportunities is limited or narrow in scope. In Ontological Coaching a new element is added to the process. This critical piece is the language of the observer. Suffering is a linguistic or social phenomenon as opposed to pain, which is a biological phenomenon.
It is well known that our results have a great deal to do with our actions or lack of actions. What is less clear is that our actions themselves have to do with the observer that we are or the way we "see things". We tend to think we observe reality as it is but what we really are observing is reality as we observe it. Each individual has his or her own way of observing and thus each has his or her own interpretation of reality. What this means is if we constrain ourselves to our own observations then we are limiting the sphere of future possibilities to what we deem as reality. We become caught in the drift of life. When we reach intersections, such as a mid life crisis or life transition, we are blocked by our own transparent actions or habits. We then become trapped or stuck in our own interpretations. What we deem capable of producing as future action becomes limited. As you can see there is nothing necessarily psychologically wrong, our self or being is intact, it is just limited by our language, which includes our power of observation and the development of future possibilities through speaking and listening.
Why then does this make ontological coaching more effective than traditional coaching, especially in the long run? The answer lies in the ability to expand the coachee's interpretations and therefore their future possibilities and opportunities. Ontologically we claim that the observer or the self of each individual is comprised of three elements, our language, our emotions and moods, and our physical presence (both biological and postural). By working within the sphere of these three elements and, in particular, expanding the domain of our language the ontological coach can shift the observer and the self of his coachee. The result is not just goals that are more effective and efficient, but ones that are expanded to contain new possibilities and opportunities never thought possible by the individual.
Robert Wummer of http://IntersectionsCoaching.com is an ontological coach who specializes in life's transitional times and the intersection (or collision) of an individual's personal and professional goals. His work is extremely effective in the development of integral leadership practices.