What I Learned After 9 Months of Coach Training

If you had told me two years ago that I would become a coach, I would have asked if you were out of your mind. After all, I wasn’t a “people person”. And this involves regularly talking to people that I didn’t already know? No way, give me some code to work on instead.

Two weeks ago, I graduated from a 9-month ontological coach training program by The Coach Partnership and am now working towards certification. In this post, I’ll talk about what coaching is in general, how ontological coaching differs from other types of coaching, and share what I’ve learnt along the way.

Table of Contents

What Is Coaching?

It’s easier to first talk about what coaching is not:

The International Coach Federation defines coaching as a partnership with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

The key word here is partnership. There should be no power imbalance between coach and client. Both parties are equals in this relationship. In other professions like consulting or teaching, there is usually one party with more power in the relationship.

The underlying structure in a coaching relationship sets coaching apart from a normal conversation:

The ICF code of ethics sets out standards of ethical conduct expected of coaches. In essence, it is about putting the interests of the client first such as by keeping the contents of coaching conversations confidential, disclosing potential conflicts of interest, and holding the distinction between coaching and therapy.

What Is Ontological Coaching?

Ontology is the philosophical study of being. Ontological coaching is coaching to the way of being or what it means to be human.

Most branches of coaching focus on taking action for the sake of some desired result.

The set of possible actions someone sees is determined by how he or she sees the world. Ontological coaching takes a step back from actions and considers how someone observes the world. This is done by examining the 3 components of one’s way of being:

Being human or way of being involves these 3 things: body, emotions, and language.

Ontological coaching focuses on raising the client’s self-awareness to notice how their own way of being influences the possible actions they can see and hence, the results that they get.

With the internet providing access to so much information, I’ve found in myself and my clients that being stuck is rarely about the lack of knowledge. It is usually something in one’s way of being that gets in the way.

For instance, let’s look at a common belief of not being a “tech person”. When someone says, “I’m not a tech person”, they believe they are not good at dealing with technology and that improvement is unlikely. Difficulties with technology will reinforce that belief of not being a tech person. In contrast, someone who believes that improvement over time is possible will have an easier time learning to be proficient with technology1. This is how a belief in language influences how someone sees the world and the results they get.

Unfortunately, it is often very difficult at first to be aware of how we ourselves see the world. In that example, not being a tech person could appear so obviously true as to be an unchangeable fact.

This is where an ontological coach comes in by being an adept observer of body, emotions, and language. The focus of ontological coaching is developing self-awareness in clients of how they see the world (and the limitations therein) and with that awareness, shifting their habitual way of being for the sake of better results. Ontological coaching facilitates lasting change and transformation by working at the level of being - by coaching the person, not the problem.

What I’ve Learnt

As part of the 9 months of ontological coach training, I’ve done 23 hours of coaching in the field. I’ve found that I enjoy coaching, much to my surprise. These are some things I’ve learnt along the way.


To become an adept observer of others, one must first become an adept observer of themselves.

I decided to embark on this journey of becoming a coach to understand myself better. It started with attending a workshop by The Thought Collective that introduced ideas from ontological coaching in an experiential way. It resonated with me deeply and I wanted to find out more.

I have found coaching to be both simpler and more complex than I expected. The complexity comes from what goes into a good coaching session and meeting the client where they are. It is also as simple2 as learning to be fully present with someone.

As much as I enjoy making a difference in someone’s life, the greatest reward has been what I’ve learnt about myself and how I’ve grown as a result. If I had to choose, the highlight is being comfortable with not knowing, as that was something that seemed impossible before and opens many new possibilities.

What’s next? I intend to continue my coaching practice to become officially certified. If this sounds interesting or if you think that coaching may help you reach your goals, hit me up!


I am very grateful to the folks at The Thought Collective and The Coach Partnership for the role they’ve played in my growth.

Huge shout-out to my colleagues who have been on this journey with me (hi if you’re reading this!) and to Steven Koh for fully supporting my interest in developing non-technical skills.


  1. You may have heard of this being described as the fixed vs growth mindset.

  2. Simple but not at all easy.