Ontology and axiology in coaching
Thank you, Riaad and Gavin, for the interesting conversation about ontology and axiology as it relates to coaching (well…to life really). Ontology, axiology and I would like to add epistemology are really important concepts and powerful ideas. And, when it is put into action its even more powerful. I know that there are many who will think ‘what the heck’ you’ve missed me totally. Indeed even after years of study it takes me a moment to get into that space of really understanding when a conversation arises.
Even outside of coaching (and the academics) every team, manager, leader, psychologist, therapist, facilitator… and generally everyone having to work with human beings needs to have discussions around this.
Let me take a bat at it:
Ontology relates to our being, the nature of being. It has to do with our purpose. Not necessarily in a spiritual sense although people may differ on this point. For me, I can scarcely not view it in relation to God as ontology has to do with purpose. But I think what is important, having brought spirituality into it, is that the dimension of inner purpose is strong. As opposed to being motivated from the outside.
A strange way of putting it could be to refer to ontology as ‘use.’ What is my life ‘useful’ for? And, the more important consideration (for us in coaching and therapy is (as you have also noted): Where do you go in your mind to answer the question? ‘What are my ‘being’ useful for?’ or ‘In what do I find (or give myself) purpose?’ From a narrative practice perspective in which I’m formally trained my consideration would be: What are the events in my life, who are the people I encouter in telling (constructing) my story. And from this the life breathing thought: This picture or story of my purpose, where does this cast me in the future, and how do I feel about that, what will support it, how real do I see it, and more.
Axiology, as I understand it has to do with values as opposed to value (singular). In other words ‘What is important to me?’ ‘What are the kinds of things that get you in motion, especially relationally?’ A quick search will also reveal many references to the the values of ethics (what is ‘good’ and ‘right’) and aesthetics (questions about the nature of culture, beauty, art, nature/creation). What would be important again is where, in what are my values rooted.
You mentioned that people change only incrementally when their view of the world (that has to do with ontology and axiology) are restricted. I agree. That means that people only change on the surface. However, and I did not hear this when you spoke, to change your fundamental outlook to life, takes more than 1 session with a coach (or even 10). It takes a community and long term relational accountability. Wow, that is the important part.
On the surface any employee or executive can change. Especially the latter specie is more purpose driven. The problem sometimes is that their change is sort of custom-built around the needs of the company. When you engage profoundly with ontology and have the community to walk with you a mile or six your change should be noted in all aspects of life.