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​Understanding Change

We think we understand change and we go about it in the ways that we believe will work. Turns out, we don't understand change at all. 

There are different stages to changing. The state of change you are in right now will determine your next steps. Understanding how change works—and what's specifically in your way—will set you up for success. Without this understanding, you are siloed to the default future you are living now. We call these 'ontological drifts'. What's required is a break from these default drifts.

What Drives Your Decisions?

You’ve been being in the world as yourself up until this point. This is an invitation to stop and see how you’ve been showing up in your life, or in some cases not. To see the mechanisms at play that have you showing up the way you do. And to finally step into a new way of being that is in alignment with the future you say you want.


As part of life, you have default habituated, conditioned ways of being. These default ways aren’t ‘wrong.’ They have helped you create the very experience of the life you have now. But in order to move forward or in a direction you desire, you must be able to discern where it is that you are empowered with choices and where it is you are already deciding. As human beings we experience cognitive blindness as blind spots, or ontological transparencies. As part of our shared humanity we are all looking out into the world making interpretations with cognitive bias. A pervasive and critical mistake, we often times don’t know that we have made an interpretation and we live that interpretation as if it’s the what’s so. Until we are able to see these areas of blindness, it's Groundhog Day. 


Seeing this clearly gives you access into the moment where you are at "choice"—the precise moment where you’re empowered, and life’s possibilities are born.

What is Ontological Coaching?

Firstly, it’s important to understand what ontology is. Ontology is the study of being, as in what does it mean to be human. Ontology is an inquiry into the nature of human existence. We inquire into human behavior in both our outer-worlds and inner-worlds. When we start to learn about how we are being, we call this ontological learning. As part of our work together, we will be curious and inquire deeply into the whole of who you are and you're becoming

The golden rule in ontological coaching. This is at the core of the difference between ontological coaching and teaching, training, therapy, consulting, other types of coaching and other learning modalities. YOU are the expert and authority of you. 

Why is examining how we are being at any given time as humans so important? Because “we cannot be what we cannot see.”

What's at stake in our blindness is whatever it is we say we want for ourselves and our lives. That future you want to create requires you to be specific ways in order to create it. How you are being is the underpinning to what you see and how you interpret the world around you. The tricky part is that you can’t see what you can’t see, and you don’t know what you don’t know that you don’t know, and it’s at this crucial intersection that an ontological coach steps in to facilitate sight, new ways of seeing, new or enhanced ways of being. 


By giving you new frameworks for showing up in the world, you as the observer will be supported in creating new observations, making new actions available, and creating the possibility for a more fulfilling life with a freer, more effective sense of self.  You’ll be ready to embrace opportunity and launch yourself on a path that best suits who you are and what matters to you. 

Our coaching programs create a shift in being (embodied change) through ontological learning, self-discovery, and valuing difference as the cornerstone of empowerment and developing self-awareness and self-agency.


Aha Moments

As Ontological coaches we will facilitate you having coveted "aha moments", those moments of sudden insight and discovery. Some of these discoveries create an Ontological Shift that releases you from your box or frees you from your limitations. An aha moment is one of many ontological experiences, and that is what this methodology is all about. It’s an experience that words can only really point to, whereas the coaching itself truly shows you.

Why an Ontological Coach?

3 minutes read

Deeper Dive | What's so special about Ontological Coaching? 

6 minutes read

As a world leader in ontological coaching Alan Sieler offers an in-depth reply to the question, What Is So Special About Ontological Coaching?


The ontological approach

The essence of an ontological approach to life, coaching and leadership is about becoming a different and more powerful Observer. The meaning of power in this context is the ability to take more effective action in order to live a more mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually enriched life, in which we can contribute more to others and the betterment of the world.


We can only participate in a world that we observe and how we observe is generated from our Way of Being. The ontological approach focuses on the potential for transforming our Way of Being, which includes its expansion and deepening, as a path to participating in a more meaningful and fulfilling manner in everyday life.


Ontological Coaching

Variously described as “the gold standard of coaching” and “profoundly transformational”, Ontological Coaching has developed an enviable global reputation for being at the cutting edge of coaching practice. As a robust and rigorous coaching methodology Ontological Coaching is powerful framework for navigating the often uncertain, disruptive and ambiguous nature of everyday life. These are big claims and, as we know, big claims can be hollow so it is worth outlining the basis for these claims.

Ontological Coaching is unique, and therefore stands out as being distinctively different from other approaches to coaching. The uniqueness of Ontological Coaching can be captured in sixteen key points under a number of headings.


Holistic and integral


  1. Ontological Coaching addresses, and provides a way to make sense of, the multi-dimensional nature of humans as biological, linguistic, emotional, somatic, cultural, historical and spiritual beings.

  2. Ontology is the study of being and Ontological Coaching focuses on Way of Being as the avenue to deep and sustainable behavioural change. Way of Being is the underlying driver of our behaviour and communication and is where our perceptions and attitudes live, many of which can be restricting us but are deep-seated and out-of-awareness.

  3. Ontological Coaching is an explicitly holistic approach to what is required for sustainable change, working with the integration of language, emotions and body that comprise a client’s Way of Being. Language, emotions and body are each areas of learning and change and there must be shifts in all three areas for change to endure.

  4. Language: Ontology has a different and deeper approach to language, working from the premise that language is central to how reality is generated. Humans are languaging beings that continually create what is real for them by the specific ways they do and do not engage in language. An ontological coach supports clients to identify different ways of participating in language to generate more constructive realities.

  5. Emotions and moods: Ontological Coaching places great emphasis on the crucial importance of moods as often deep, subtle and powerful aspects of our emotional existence. The application of a unique framework of specific mood, which enables clients to develop more helpful moods and therefore develop more constructive perceptions and behaviours. The power of moods is that they continually shape perception and behaviour and they are at the heart of our wellbeing and the cornerstone of our relationships. Understanding and applying a unique framework of some basic and universal moods enables clients to experience more helpful moods, thereby developing more constructive perceptions and behaviours.

  6. Body and physicality: Another important premise is that the body (postural alignment, muscle tension and breathing) plays a crucial role in perception, learning and change. Respectfully coaching to the body typically opens up significant new insights for clients that are highly unlikely to occur through language or emotions. Long-standing moods and entrenched unhelpful beliefs are embodied, so while clients may change at an intellectual level, this will not be sustainable unless the body changes.

  7. Biology: An ontological coach honours four fundamental aspects of human biology.

    • the nervous system is that part of our biology that is responsible for our perception and behaviour;

    • all learning and change occur in the nervous system;

    • humans are biological beings that can only change themselves, meaning that the primary responsibility of the coach is to co-create a relational context that enables clients to self-generate change; and

    • a fundamental biological law that all change revolves around what is to be conserved or maintained. Clients are more open to change when they are reassured that vital things that matter to them will not be compromised.

  8. Culture and history: Humans always exist in a cultural-historical context that defines the space of what is possible and not possible for them. It is essential that the coach is attentive to the “cultural fit” of desired change to ensure that the client is able to engage more constructively in their cultural-historical setting.

  9. Conversations and commitments: Humans are conversational beings that get things done and create the future together. How well people relate with each other, coordinate and cooperate and get things done is greatly influenced by how effectively they engage in conversations and commitments; this is a fundamental business process. A central part of the coaching methodology is:

    • understanding that there is a wide range of different types of conversations;

    • appropriate engagement with different types of conversations; and

    • how to effectively make and manage commitments.

Strong theoretical and methodological foundation


  1. Ontological Coaching rests on a robust theoretical foundation that combines biology of cognition, philosophy of language, existential action philosophy, philosophy of emotions and philosophy of the body. Each of these academic disciplines generated breakthrough thinking during the 20th century from which emerged a new practical understanding of how humans function, learn and change.

  2. The theoretical basis of Ontological Coaching means that it is a deeply grounded non-psychologically based approach to perceptual and behavioural change.

  3. With a strong theoretical basis Ontological Coaching has an extensive set of unique concepts and models, which are referred to as distinctions (for example, basic linguistic acts, types of conversations, some basic moods of life, somatic patterns) that are easily applicable for any coaching client.




  1. Paradoxically, Ontological Coaching is much more than a coaching methodology for one-to-one interventions. The ontological approach offers five simultaneous methodologies:

    • a uniquely powerful coaching methodology;

    • a personal development methodology (through self-coaching);

    • a leadership methodology (the only place leaders can lead from is their Way of Being, which is the primary means of developing constructive conversations to positively influence others and build trusting relationships that produce desired business outcomes);

    • a methodology for building high-performance teams (teams function and accomplish required outcomes through conversations; successful teams skilfully using language, moods and body language to effectively coordinate action);

    • a business improvement methodology (the ontological perspective on business improvement and successful organisational interventions has been the subject of articles in the Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review).

  2. Ontological Coaching goes beyond coaching only from a script of questions or a set of techniques. Based on an extensive repertoire of applicable ideas and distinctions ontological coaches have acute observational and listening skills. This positions them to be responsibly inventive in the design of powerful questions and the sharing of ontological perspectives that are relevant to the client’s requirements.

  3. High quality coaching requires the coach to be a continual learner, especially a continual ontological learner, which is essential for living well and adapting to continually unpredictable and changing circumstances. Ontology has a unique approach to understanding what it is to be a learner. Learning to be a learner involves understanding how our Way of Being can inadvertently block us and our clients from learning. Ontological coaches continually seek to develop a more helpful Way of Being that enhances their coaching effectiveness.

  4. Finally, what is unique about Ontological Coaching is the practical awareness of how coaching in general, and Ontological Coaching in particular, is historically situated, and why ontological learning is especially relevant in the uncertain, unpredictable and often disruptive times that seem to characterise much of contemporary life.


This is an extensive list of points that can open up a space for further consideration. You are encouraged to be aware of what most stands out to you from the list and, when you are ready, return to re-read other points. You might like to allow yourself to reflect on these and to further appreciate the distinctive nature of Ontological Coaching.


In conclusion, some questions that it might be useful to contemplate are:

  • What is your mood, having read this paper?

  • What thoughts are associated with your mood?

  • What do you notice about your physiological response to the paper?

  • What further actions would you like to consider?

  • What questions would you like to explore?

  • How do you imagine that Ontological Coaching can contribute to your life?

  • In what specific areas of your life could Ontological Coaching be helpful?

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