How to Coach like a Greek Philosopher

Has anyone heard of Stoicism?


Two of the biggest influence on my approach to coaching – Process Focused Coaching, are Albert Ellis and Ken Ravizza. Both have passed on, and both were heavily influenced by the Stoic philosophy.

Ellis was described as a ‘Stoic Philosopher with a Sailor’s Mouth’. He was inspired by the writings of Stoic Philosophers to devise Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). REBT was the first form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and is still my preferred technique for athlete counseling.

According to Ellis, “people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.” This is a dead ringer to the quote below by Epictetus (one of the three most important Stoic philosophers along with Marcus Aurelius and Seneca).

“It isn’t the events themselves that disturb people, but only their judgments about them.” – Epictetus

Who’s studied Sport Psychology?

You would definitely be familiar with Ken Ravizza’s work. He drew heavily from REBT to develop techniques for helping athletes overcome perhaps the toughest mental game challenge of all – to detach themselves from results and to focus exclusively on what you can control in this very moment!

This is also based on a simple (but not easy) notion that provides the foundation for Stoicism – some things you can control and some things you can’t.

“Give yourself the best opportunity for success by focusing on the 60% that you DO have and make 100% use of that 60%…” Ken Ravizza

How to be a process focused coach

The expectations and fear associated with things that we do not have direct control over – results and the opinion of others, clouds our focus, and limits our confidence. The key psychological skills (Green piece at the top right-hand corner of the illustration) for Process Focused Coaching are all related to replacing these limiting expectations with process goals.

The Growth Mindset = Stoic Mindset?

Carol Dweck may or may not have taken reference from Stoicism but the underlying concept of the Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset is definitely similar – The Growth Mindset focuses on Effort and Learning (what you can control) instead of winning and looking good (things that you can’t control directly).

The ESL (Effort, Support, and Learning) Reflection Model is based on the Growth Mindset, and it is also one of the main concepts that drive Process Focused Coaching.

Here’s a very informative article about what Sport Psychology has learned from Stoicism, and for those of you who would like to learn more about the applications of this philosophy, I reckon this book – The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday, would be invaluable!

p.s. the purpose of this blog post is to share the practicality of the Stoic philosophy, and how it can benefit everyone. Hopefully, it will make you curious enough to find out more about Stoicism!

Coach Hansen

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