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Pia Søltoft: The art of choosing oneself. About Kierkegaard, coaching and leadership

Author Pia Søltoft sees in Kierkegaard's philosophy of dialogue an obvious contribution to modern coaching.


Pia Søltoft: The art of choosing oneself. About Kierkegaard, coaching and leadership. Academic publishing company, 2015

When I get a self-help book in my hand, I want to pull my six-runner. As a rule, I end up chilling the book in the trash and then sitting in the corner and rereading one of Samuel Beckett's novels or plays. Beckett's ability to blow humor into the bottom of the power does something about my ability to see myself and the people around – I see them as they are: fragile, ridiculous, loving.

We are performing. I mention this because powerlessness, or what Søren Kierkegaard calls despair (which is not quite the same), is a great place to start if you are to understand why this is not a self-help book. It is not a greenwood book packed with positive words to guide us towards the light. It is a book that in a way annihilates all other books on coaching. For the individual can only transform if he refrains from pushing the pain and despair before him. Seeing the despair in the eyes is a good start. The despair belongs to the kind of negativity that Chul Han (Træthedssamfundet) believes is disappearing in a society characterized by performance fixation and productivism. Chul His thoughts on the performance community are a controlling interlocutor in Søltoft's attempt to give Kierkegaard renewed relevance and power. According to Chul Han, the suffering and pathological condition of late modern man can be traced back to this "excess of positivity". The dominance of positivity is due to supersaturation, overproduction, overcapacity, overcommunication. We want too much. The great loser is the ability to doubt, our critical sense, and the courage to stand by ourselves; not following the pack, but slowing down and doing the thought work necessary to take values ​​seriously, understand their general character that raises us above self-interest.

Kierkegaard was a coach, she says – the word just wasn't invented.

We despair. Despair is linked to man's erroneous self-relationship, not wanting to be himself but being. There are various forms of despair, with despair of opportunity such as the one most widely used today. Here everything is possible, but also does not matter. We know him as the busy person who is too busy to perform and therefore not have time to think about what and why he or she is doing. "It is a matter of despair, because The Busy is really at all for love himself, sit himself, but only the self he or she makes up for by being busy. They love a self that others have determined is gracious on the basis of a number of time-typical and thus relative criteria that are particularly prominent in the late modern performance society. As a type, Den Travle is usually just an unrecognized Spitsborger, but can develop both into a Vindbeutel [a hoop that moves with the wind direction, editor's note], which constantly changes meaning, or a Vindsluger, which has no any opinion. " The one who constantly has to perform, reinvent himself, choose arbitrariness, is basically desperate, but keeps going by cynicism and indifference perhaps marked by an emptiness of daily, depressive melancholy. Gone is the sense of the duration, beauty and permanence of things. The meaning of life is parked in the work guided by a constant hunt for new projects. Maybe he's exhausted? But is he so tired that he is ready for Kierkegaard, ready to open up to the seriousness of values, ready for the art it is to exist?

The self as a problem. Now comes this southern Kierkegaard and says that the root of all our problems is to We dare not choose ourselves. There is one task to choose oneself. A task that requires passion and a special effort. Subjectivity is the truth because it is the key to the general. Subjectivity is the task of becoming a self. But the self is not a core inside, or a product of social circumstances; self is a problem, a relationship that relates to it to relate to itself. So, the self is Maad we relate to our way of thinking and feeling. What is special about man is that we are spirit, that is, the consciousness that can relate to being existing. Therefore, to exist is not a matter of course, but an art. It is a demanding and ongoing matter that has a profound impact on everything else we do. In the election, you take over your own story by making it your own substance while integrating it in a self-exploring way in the present. The active remembrance work makes something about us. You poet while you let poems. The ethical task is to take over our entire necessity in freedom. You choose yourself, not for your own sake, but for the sake of others. Being ethical is in the choice to become conscious; hence the self-distance that connects us to a necessity and thus the public. The strength of this act of consciousness bears responsibility. That is why it is one duty to become a self. In the neoliberal performance society, the responsibility of fellow human beings and the outside world is almost void of substance. We create and transform ourselves without getting beyond ourselves. We have misunderstood the basics: that we are not the origin of ourselves. That we are set by someone else. Kierkegaard called this "God." You could also call it the passion of thought – the activity of the thinking self with itself. What in repetition poses the self as a problem and connects and reconciles one with that which is outside, that which one is responsible for; the other; earth; the stranger.

Transformation through passion. Søltoft emphasizes that Kierkegaard does not have a specific ethics (rule ethics, judgment ethics et cetera); the basis of ethics business er the conscience or seriousness with which we choose to do what we do. But why is it an ethical act to become conscious of one's choice? The answer is, only through the seriousness of passion or the passion of thought is transformation possible. Only through passionate commitment can we seize the self as otherness. In the novel   by John Williams, the protagonist Stoner discovers a deep love of literature for an hour on English literature – a general course he took while still believing to be a farmer. After reading this Shakespearean zone, Stoner found himself becoming aware of himself in a way he had not been before. From here he changes his course of life: he chooses himself and becomes a teacher of English literature. But his passionate commitment colors his whole outlook on life and values. He makes the choice. He works for a living, and not the other way around. The teacher's act becomes a call to make an effort, to make the material his own. That he fails in other areas does not change substantially: the transformation through passion.

Kierkegaard as coach. Søltoft sees in Kierkegaard's philosophy of dialogue an obvious contribution to modern coaching. But Kierkegaard var coach, she says – the word just wasn't invented. It's hard to imagine Kierkegaard stepping into the business premises to teach managers how to lead and manage their employees. But so does Pia Søltoft for him. Inspired by the dialectic of the message that goes back to Socrates and the midwifery, it is about asking questions in a way that brings with the employee himself an acknowledgment and a possible answer. Nothing new under the sun. Kierkegaard's contribution, on the other hand, emphasizes the seduction and the ironic question that must dispense with the other's self-deception, showing that he does not take values ​​seriously or is guided by an erroneous self-relationship, a hidden despair. The leader must inspire with his responsible personality, and not play a role. But the last two small chapters in the book on coaching and leadership do not add much to the coaching field and may say as much about the parasite-like status of this field. The strength of the seduction of the indirect message is closely linked to a sensually exemplary force. Søltoft's text here is strangely abstract and is not at linguistic level with the sensitive learning process required in this indirect message. Several literary examples would have strengthened the case. But the book's grip on bringing Kierkegaard to the field as a counterbalance to the performance man's despair is well seen.

Carnera is a writer and essayist.

Alexander Carnera
Alexander Carnera
Carnera is a freelance writer living in Copenhagen.

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