I walked to the middle of the circle holding my name tag in my hands. Turning around to face the other course participants I held up my name tag and declared in a voice from the centre of my being, “This is my name tag but this is me and I am legitimate!”

It was late Sunday afternoon^[2002] and I had just completed Newfield Institute’s Coaching in Action program. A full-on three days of learning about the ontology of being. Language, emotion and body. My exposure to this field began in February when I met Alan Silcock, my now business partner and one of the contributors to this site. He had a way about him that was different to anything I’d ever seen in the business world. A grounding and sureness of purpose that was easy to work with. I subsequently learned that Al was a practitioner of Ontological Coaching. This gives him a way to understand himself through the continual self-observation of his actions against an understanding of the language he uses, the emotions and moods that he feels and the body that he lives in. It wasn’t long before words and phrases like “listening”, “preciseness of language”, “request” and “ungrounded assessment” were part of my daily life as well. But to learn more, I attended Coaching in Action.

Coaching is a field slowly coming to prominence. It deals with who we are and how we can learn to change ourselves. It isn’t mentoring, psychology or training. Rather, a coach uses their understanding of language, emotion and body to help a coachee achieve “breakdowns” and see a different view of the world. Our world is how we observe it and by changing that observation we can significantly change our world. For example, we often live in the assessments of others. That means our belief in what others think of us is so strong that it effects our behaviour and can often cause suffering. However, many of these assessments are “ungrounded”, that is, we believe them without validity. Understanding they are in play makes it possible to eliminate the effect and so being living the way we want to and not how we think others want us to.

Basic Linguistic Acts

The ontological approach to coaching sees Language as one of the three key spheres of influence upon who we are and how we act. It identifies a set of Basic Linguistic Acts that we can incorporate into our conversations. I tend to think of them as “power words and phrases”. You can pick someone who has had training in the field because their language is populated with words such as “request”, “declaration”, “assessment” and “distinction”. Use of these words has two effects. Firstly, they are strong in definition and so therefore create an incredibly efficient way of speaking backed by a preciseness in meaning which eliminates much of the time wasted in clarification. Secondly, they have an effect on the world and can change your observation thereof.

During the weekend I was able to use my language to change my view of the world several times and free myself from situations that we causing me great discomfort and anxiety.

Emotions and Moods

’Does the mood I’m in serve me at the moment?‘

This seemingly simple question asked within the ontological framework can quickly open up new possibilities for action. We can often be unaware of the mood we are in and the effect it has. The course showed me some of the most common moods and how they become evident in my language, actions and body. This is important because now that I can recognise the mood I am in, I can choose to move to another mood simply by changing my language and body. Imagine how powerful it is to move from a mood of resignation to one of ambition simply by changing your language in a heartbeat.


On Sunday morning the group was into a debrief of the previous day’s learnings. I made comment on a point and was invited by Alan Sieler to explore an issue in front of the group. As I discussed my concern, there was a breaking hesitancy in my voice and I was actually rocking back on my feet. My body was exhibiting my emotion stronger than my words could. We experimented in changing my world by changing the way I held myself. It was difficult to get into the right body for what I wanted to achieve. Eventually I managed it and the result was powerful indeed.


Coaching in Action is three days of learning and self-discovery in a beautifully facilitated environment. It isn’t mystical or new-age, but rather a well thought out and consistent approach to learning. It was a pleasure working with a new way of being and to have shared it with such a group of people.