WHAT IS "Being"?
The term "Way of Being" comes from a field known as ontology and loosely correlates with the concept of "mindset". We'll talk a bit more about that below.
But for now, what does Being: the Change stand for?
Being: the Change also signifies a shift away from the traditional learning and development approach of focusing on people's behaviour (their "doing") and focusing instead on the underlying thinking and feeling that drives that behaviour (their "being"). This tends to produce behaviour that is more authentic, reliable and sustainable, because it is aligned with their mindset.
Being: the Change, like the quote on which it based ("You must be the change you wish to see in the world"), supports people to take responsibility for the results they're getting and equip them with the skills to achieve their goals by focusing on their "Way of Being".
BUT What the heck is ontology?
Let's get something out of the way: ontology has nothing whatsoever to do with oncology (thankfully). Rather, ontology is a branch of philosophy that is concerned with the nature of being. In other words, what does it mean to exist? What is reality? What is a thing?
While this might sound esoteric, a substantial body of knowledge known as "ontological coaching" has been developing since the 1970s. This discipline draws on the pioneering work of philosophers such as Martin Heidegger (existentialism) and John Searle (linguistics), as well as biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, to form a comprehensive methodology for understanding how people's language, emotions and body interact to create their "Way of Being". The approach was created by Fernando Flores, a Chilean engineer, entrepreneur and politician, and has been developed by others, including Australian-based (but globally renowned) expert, Alan Sieler.
So that's a bit of the history. But what is ontological coaching really about?
ONTOLOGY: WAY OF BEING
Ontology is about our "Way of Being", which broadly correlates with the concept of "mindset".
As mentioned above, ontological coaching blends wisdom from philosophy, linguistics and biology to form a unique and comprehensive framework for understanding how people function in the world. While the notion of “mindset” can be a bit generic, ontological coaching examines mindset at a deep level as a function of three domains - Language, Moods/Emotions and Body.
This model can be used at an individual level and/or at a collective (team or organisational) level.
Just as "Way of Being" equates to "mindset" at an individual level, it equates to "culture" at a collective level. In either case, an ontological approach looks to diagnose and address misalignments in mindset or culture in order to stimulate transformative growth.
Individual "Way of Being" (Mindset)
Language: how we listen to and interpret information from our environment and how we interact with other
Moods/Emotions: how our emotions (short-term) and moods (longer-term) predispose us to certain thinking, communication and behaviour
Body: how our posture and breathing influence our Language and Emotions and give us access to possibilities for change
Collective "Way of Being" (Culture)
Language: how the perceptions, stories and narratives that occur within a team shape their interactions (e.g. trust) and attitude about what is possible for them
Moods/Emotions: how the collective mood of a team or organisation enables or limits their ability to execute their plans and achieve their goals
Body: how practices and structures within a team or organisation (e.g. conversations, meetings and so on) enable and support communication between its members
Case study: Working with a leadership team in the financial services industry to examine their relationships with internal and external stakeholders and develop strategies for building trust between them
Case study: Working with a leadership team in the infrastructure construction industry to examine the language (conversations) and moods within the organisation that support or detract from accountability
Why I'VE ADOPTED an ontological approach
In early 2016, I had reached a crossroads in my career - although it felt more like a precipice. After leaving my legal career of 12 years, I had spent over four years developing my expertise as a facilitator and was absolutely loving my new career. But then things took an unexpected turn when I was tapped on the shoulder to manage the business that had spawned my facilitation career. My dream role turned into a nightmare, including frequent episodes of anxiety, frustration and self-doubt. A "series of unfortunate events" led me to the conclusion that I needed to move on from that role, but I didn't know what to do next. I knew I didn't want to work for another training organisation, but I didn't have the confidence to go out on my own. I was in turmoil.
Then... a thoughtful colleague introduced me to an ontological coach. Within two or three sessions, I had made profound shifts in my Way of Being, initially by dismantling some of the ideas and opinions that were holding me back ("negative self-assessments") and later by helping me to understand and self-manage the emotional shifts that occurred as I resigned and left the business. I also learned how to be more aware of my body and how subtle shifts in my posture and physical alignment could affect my thoughts and moods.
Let me be clear - I'd had other coaches before and had trained as a coach myself in 2009-10. So I thought I knew my way around most of the standards strategies that coaches use to stimulate new insights and behaviours. But the relentlessly methodical and yet profoundly gentle nature of ontological coaching was something else entirely.
A few months later, I enrolled in the Graduate Diploma of Ontological Coaching. And 12-18 months later, I can honestly say that I am a fundamentally different person. I still have the same personality and values, but I feel much more secure, confident and optimistic about my ability to live the life I feel I deserve. I have reached a truce with my inner critic and spend more of my life in a space of wonder and curiosity. My friends tell me that I look more relaxed and comfortable in my own skin. And although I am still subject to ups and downs like everyone else, I now have a much more resourceful way of managing the challenges of life.
Needless to say, I am incredibly passionate about sharing this approach with others and have been delighted with the impact it's had on my clients so far.