The Practice of Flourishing and Deep and Sustainable Change
My approach to philosophical coaching draws upon insights and creative methods from ancient philosophical and spiritual traditions, along with techniques from the emerging science of neuroplasticity, with the aim to help you flourish and achieve your fullest potential both personally, professionally as well as spiritually. The overall goal of philosophical coaching is to help you cultivate your character strengths or virtues – as they are known in philosophy – so that you can grow into a more resilient, fulfilled and contented person. Someone that is able to live and work with excellence and to attain long lasting happiness. This happiness, or eudaimonia, as it was conceived by the ancient Greeks, is a steady and continuous state of contentment and harmony that characterises the whole of your life; not just the subjective, positive and relatively unstable “good feelings” of pleasure that result from pursuing purely hedonistic activities. Philosophical coaching is both an emotional, and a cognitive wisdom orientated practice, that is based on deep insight and deep action. Not only will you develop the "right" understanding and view of your life but, most importantly, you will understand how to act in the most excellent manner in the face of challenges and opportunities. You will become empowered to act and live in a meaningful, morally justifiable and sustainable way that promotes both your interests and those around you, be they family, colleagues, organisations, communities or the more-than-human world. Working together, you will increase your self-awareness and you will acquire a greater clarity about your values, your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your aspirations. You will cultivate practices and habits that increase your self-mastery, while also developing deeply embedded aims and goals. In contrast with mainstream life and career coaching that focuses only on specific goals, philosophical coaching is more of a holistic and wholesome mind, body and spirit training for your total character/personality. In this respect, philosophical coaching helps you achieve deep and sustainable change.
Philosophical coaching is predominately a form of mentoring that is based on a supportive, authentic, accepting and caring relationship. A relationship that also can be seen as a kind of spiritual friendship that is grounded in the pursuit of transforming your life. In that respect, my role resembles a “midwife” that helps you to give birth to a more mature, evolved, resilient, capable and wise self. I am a catalyst and a facilitator of change, helping you to develop virtuous character strengths that assist you to achieve personal growth and practical success in all aspects of your life. Although the whole process is directed solely by your aspirations and your goals/needs, at times it will be necessary for you to be willing to follow recommendations and to remain open to thought provoking and challenging questions that aim to propel your self‑reflection and help you to question unhelpful beliefs and behaviours that impair your growth. The virtues of openness, curiosity, patience and courage are important in this process of clarifying values and exploring new ways to achieve your aspirations and goals. In the process of creating a more wholesome and fulfilled life, you will need to embrace uncertainty and sit with patience, determination and persistence until the new you emerges. Most important of all is patience. There are no gimmicks nor shortcuts to success. The recipe is simple: hard work and dedication, together with good guidance. So the two of us will work together to help you become a better person. To help you live a flourishing life.
The first stage of philosophical coaching is to help you to develop Deep Insight. Fundamentally, insight is a practice of deep inquiry by which you increase your self‑awareness and gain an understanding of your character strengths/virtues, as well as areas for improvement. Deep insight brings clarity, but most importantly it will give you a blueprint to your success and happiness. Insight is a 360 degrees process, where information and knowledge come from body and mind, as well as external sources. Thoughts and emotions, body sensations, gut feelings, as well as feedback from others close to you, are all equally processed and taken into account. In order to gain deep insight, we will use philosophical inquiry methods such as Socratic Questioning in tandem with contemplative methods such as Mindfulness Meditation. Inquiry will often focus on general questions such as: What is a good life? What is success? What is virtue? Which activities and attitudes lead to fulfilment and happiness? During this stage, apart from gaining insight into yourself, you will also develop your ability as a deep and thorough thinker. This is often a by-product of philosophical coaching that will equip you for the rest of your life with the strength of clarity in the way you think, see and communicate.
We will also follow with more specific questions focused on gaining insight into your life. The most important question at this point will be to understand: What is it that you wish to change and achieve? In essence, we will conduct a thorough inquiry in order to uncover your goals and aspirations. We will look at your values and beliefs and will make sure that you have the right goals; goals that do not conflict with your values; goals that are achievable, ethical and sustainable. We will also come to understand how your goals fit within the wider context of your life, including the influence of others and the environment that you live in, and the impact that your flourishing might have on others and the wider eco-socio-political environment/context. While exploring and setting your specific goals, we will make sure that you do not to lose sight of the overall goal of becoming a more resilient, capable and fulfilled person. This approach is not simply based on positive thinking. Instead, it comes from the perspective that we need to see the world as it is, with all its uncertainty, instability and adversity, and accept it as it is. But of course, we also need to see the world’s beauty and to see how the challenges we face fit within the big picture. Developing Deep Insight on where you are now, what you want to change/achieve and how you are going to do it leads to Deep Action to help you achieve change and success.
As a human being, you inhabit a concrete world where choice and action are ultimately unavoidable. Essentially, you define yourself through your actions. During the second and most important stage on your journey to transformation and flourishing, I will use philosophical coaching techniques to teach you how to act upon the insights that you have acquired and implement them in very real and tangible ways in your everyday life. Together, we will develop a tailor-made plan of Deep Action that it is aligned with your aspirations, while at the same time creating a set of specific practices that will help you develop your character strengths and achieve practical success. These practices will often include methods such as:
- Mindfulness-Based Strengths Practice (MBSP), in order to identify and strengthen your character strengths and develop new ones
- Journaling, to become aware and challenge unhelpful habitual actions
- Active reading of seminal philosophical, spiritual and personal development texts, to provide you with inspiration
- Memorisation and daily repetition of maxims to fuel your motivation
- Guided visualisation, to help create positive habits and pre-empt obstacles
- And, most importantly, Behavioural Activation, where you “try out” and test new strengths and skills and new ways of doing and being, so they become habitual actions
All the above practices can be characterised as Deep Action, as they not only help you to change your behaviour but most importantly, they help you to rewire and restructure your brain, effecting deep and sustainable change in both your body and mind. This is the unique offering of my philosophical coaching approach, where I integrate Practical Philosophy methods with cutting edge Positive Neuroplasticity techniques in a coherent and efficient way. These techniques will help you achieve specific goals and transform yourself into a more excellent and capable person that can flourish and live a happier life.
Philosophical coaching embraces a holistic understanding of growth and development, which aims to provide you with the resources you need to find greater fulfilment and to flourish. It creates deep and sustainable change in your personal, professional and spiritual life. It does so by helping you to cultivate your character strengths, enabling you to act and live with excellence, mastery and wisdom and to create an overall happier and more contented life.
Philosophical coaching will help you cultivate character strengths such as:
- Presence, which will result in insight and clarity, enhance your attention, reduce mental clutter and boost your abilities for concentration and focus.
- Compassion, which will help you to become a more empathic, accepting, just, forgiving, non‑judgmental, kind, humble, caring and loving person.
- Temperance, which will enable you to achieve self-discipline and mastery. Temperance is about acting with moderation to avoid excess and become more able to overcome and control unhelpful habits, appetites and emotions such as excessive anger. Most importantly, temperance will help you restrain from pursuing false materialistic and hedonistic goals.
- Courage, which will strengthen your will to enable you to persevere with determination and bravery in order to accomplish your goals and overcome obstacles and adversaries (internal and external). It will also help you avoid succumbing to false security, comfort and complacency. Cultivating courage will allow you to pursue your goals with zest, enthusiasm and vitality, while also enhancing your resilience overall.
- Transcendence, which will bring a strong sense of union, connection and belonging to the world around you, both human and more than human. This will result in a deepened sense of purpose and meaning and heightened spirituality. Transcendence helps you to become more attuned and appreciative of the beauty and goodness around you. Enhanced gratitude and hopefulness are also by-products of cultivating transcendence and spirituality. Strengths that help buffer you against nihilism and enable you to take constructive action both for yourself and the wider world.
- Practical Wisdom, a continually unfolding character strength or virtue, which will help you acquire an exceptional breadth and depth of knowledge and perspective both of your life and the world. This will equip you with a form of emotional and cognitive noble intelligence that will enable you to make appropriate judgments and perform right acts. Practical wisdom fosters a sense of greater availability to the world and a letting go of hindrances and dogmas, which will result in an opening up to curiosity, creativity, ingenuity, action and change. Fundamentally, practical wisdom will help you arrive at your “truth” and create your own philosophy that will lead you to flourish.
Developing and acquiring the above general character strengths and virtues, will also enable you to pursue goals and change in specific aspects of your life, such as:
- Peak Performance: Where you will become competent and efficient at reaching maximum performance in your work, whether you are a leader, scientist, athlete or other high performing individual
- Decision Making: You will be helped to make ethical and sound decisions and resolve or navigate dilemmas (both professional and personal)
- Navigating Transition and Change: Such as career and job changes, relocations, divorce/relationship endings or retirement
- Relationship Deepening and Flourishing: Both within your personal life – with partners, friends (enhancing sociability), and communities (where you are assisted to develop rich and supportive social networks) – and your working environment (promoting leadership and cooperation qualities)
- Confidence and Assertiveness: Focusing on helping you to become a more confident and assertive person, which will enable you to flourish both personally and professionally
- Creativity Boosting: For artists that experience lack of inspiration or that feel stagnated, this process will help you experience a renewed sense of creativity
If you think that philosophical coaching might be the right approach for you, please get in touch so we can arrange our initial meeting. I provide philosophical coaching in Edinburgh and during retreats that I organise periodically. I also provide philosophical coaching via Skype, where I work with people from all over the world.
I look forward to helping you.