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The future of existential well-being: Coaching through global challenges


  • Global collective trauma, demographic shifts, and rapid advancements in artificial intelligence are shaping existential well-being.
  • The ICF Thought Leadership Institute’s STEERE framework highlights how social, technological, economic, ecological, regulatory, and ethical influences shape the future of existential well-being.
  • Coaches can empower individuals to create meaning, fostering resilience and purpose through existential well-being.

Existential well-being facilitates a life of meaning and purpose with the resilience to accept the inherent existential opportunities and challenges of the human experience. Coaching can help individuals create existential meaning in a future shaped by global collective trauma, demographic shifts, and rapidly evolving artificial intelligence.

Explore the future of digital well-being:

1. Trends shaping the future of existential well-being

2. Applying the ICF Thought Leadership Institute STEERE framework

3. Coaching frameworks for fostering well-being

4. Coaching can lead the change: Implications for the future

5. Learn more: Futures thinking in action

Understanding trends like global collective trauma, demographic shifts, and AI advancements is essential for anticipating future challenges. Coaching empowers individuals to cultivate well-being, equipping them with the resilience and foresight needed to navigate the existential complexities of our ever-changing world.

Global collective trauma is reshaping well-being

Global collective trauma is significantly affecting well-being, with a 14% increase in mental health diagnoses in 2023 compared to 2019. Collective trauma often increases existential anxiety about mortality, suffering, and the fragility of life. Embedded in collective consciousness, collective trauma rewrites shared narratives, behaviors, and emotional landscapes to become part of cultural memory. It can also positively redefine existential well-being because shared struggles can be catalysts for compassionate transformation. Coaching can help reframe existential crises as opportunities for post-traumatic growth, helping individuals and communities to evolve both culturally and spiritually. For example, coaches can guide clients in finding meaning and resilience in the aftermath of collective challenges, fostering a sense of shared purpose and collective healing.

Demographic influences on the ethics of identity

Global demographic trends, particularly aging populations, migration, and global interconnectedness, are poised to generate a broad spectrum of physical, digital, and non-human identities. For instance, there has been a 275% increase in diverse racial identities since 2010. This surge underscores the imperative to recognize an ethics of identity to fulfill ethical responsibilities to both individuals and communities. Coaching that emphasizes ethical dimensions of these identities can significantly enhance existential well-being in a future characterized by hyperconnectivity and demographic diversity. For example, coaches can help clients navigate and integrate multiple identities, fostering a sense of belonging and ethical responsibility within diverse and interconnected communities.

man holding three leaves

Principles of the Ethics of Identity

The ethics of identity explores the moral status, values, and rights associated with various identities, whether chosen or assigned. This concept seeks to understand:

Advancing artificial intelligence: What makes one human?

The rapid evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and technology invites reflection on the qualities and experiences that define humanity in an era when machines can mimic many aspects of human intelligence, language, reasoning, and creativity. These advances are impacting existential anxiety, with one study of the public in Saudi Arabia reporting that 87% of participants worry about AI-based catastrophes.

While AI may outperform humans by 2063, humans possess irreplaceable qualities such as empathy, emotional intelligence, and an innate drive to create purpose. Instead, the most significant impact of AI may be its ability to enhance or diminish the human experiences that shape identity. Coaching can assist individuals in leveraging AI to enhance personal growth, maintaining human qualities like empathy and creativity while adapting to technological advancements.

Global collective trauma is increasing existential anxiety while offering opportunities for compassionate transformation and post-traumatic growth.

Global demographic trends are creating a wide range of identities, highlighting the imperative of ethical responsibilities of a hyperconnected future.

The rapid evolution of artificial intelligence prompts reflection on what it means to leverage technology while maintaining human qualities like empathy and creativity.

Religion and spirituality influence existential well-being

Over 85% of the world population identifies with an organized religion, while millions more practice folk religions and spiritual beliefs. Humans may be innately spiritual, learning existential views early through family traditions, community practices, and cultural narratives.

Religion and spirituality enrich the human experience through meaning-making and help find one’s place in the world by:

The role of culture in shaping spiritual beliefs and practices

Culture influences how individuals and communities create shared meaning through spiritual and religious traditions deeply rooted in cultural contexts, with unique traditions, rituals, and interpretations of existential questions. In individualistic cultures, spirituality is a personal, inner journey, while collectivistic cultures emphasize a communal experience that reinforces social bonds.

Coaching practices aligned with clients’ cultural backgrounds can leverage culturally relevant spiritual practices and beliefs to support existential well-being. For example:

  • Focusing on traditional practices like “Ikigai” can enhance a Japanese client’s sense of purpose and connection with family and community.
  • Integrating mindfulness and acceptance principles can help clients with Buddhist backgrounds navigate career transitions, aligning their values with meaningful career paths.
  • Incorporating Indigenous storytelling practices can support First Nations clients in integrating communal narratives to foster a deeper sense of identity.

2. Applying the ICF Thought Leadership Institute STEERE framework

Analyzing the critical social, technological, economic, ecological, regulatory, and ethical influences through the STEERE futures thinking framework provides perspective to help coaches prepare for the future.

Signals of change in existential well-being

Small, local innovations in existential well-being, which signal how the world is changing, provide a glimpse of the possibilities for enhancing existential well-being.

The membership of death doulas in the US increased 367% in the 3 years that included the COVID pandemic.

New solutions are emerging to help manage increasingly decentralized digital identities.

The benefits and challenges of existential well-being

Cultivating existential well-being by exploring life’s deeper questions to develop a sense of purpose is beneficial yet challenging



3. Coaching frameworks for fostering well-being

Existential Well-being: A Coaching Framework for Authentic Living

Existential coaching explores the fundamental questions of human existence, including the meaning of life, freedom, choice, authenticity, and death. By embracing the freedom and responsibility that come with it, clients can craft lives that are aligned with their values and rich with purpose. The principles of existential coaching include:

  • Humans are not born with a specific purpose; meaning is created through their choices and actions.
  • The freedom of choice involves owning the choices and their consequences.
  • Existential well-being values living authentically according to personal values, beliefs, and desires.
  • The inherent anxiety and uncertainty of human existence are acknowledged in existential coaching.

Rooted in existential philosophy, this coaching method embraces four dimensions:

The physical dimension focuses on the relationship between the physical body and the material world.

The spiritual dimension involves connecting to something greater than oneself, through a sense of purpose, faith, or existential beliefs.

The personal dimension concerns individual identity, values, and beliefs.

The social dimension addresses relationships with others and their role within society.

The Ethics of Care: A pathway to existential well-being

Understanding and promoting existential well-being as part of the ethics of care uncovers the meaningful bonds that enrich purpose while embracing vulnerability and responsibility. It highlights shared human experiences, life challenges, and uncertainties. Coaching can champion the human growth and self-actualization needed for existential well-being.

4. Coaching can lead the change: Implications for the future

Coaches support clients in authentic meaning-making by exploring their inner world to uncover and integrate their true selves. Coaching for existential well-being acknowledges and accepts the inherent ambiguities and tensions of the collective human experience.

  • Coaches can guide clients in integrating spiritual beliefs to provide a sense of purpose and connection.
  • Coaches can help clients navigate the freedom and responsibility of existential being by aligning their values, beliefs, and actions.
  • Coaches can support clients in reconciling competing worldviews and values, fostering an integrated sense of self.
  • Coaches can empower clients to embrace feelings of anxiety and uncertainty into growth opportunities by accepting and working with present realities.

5. Learn more: Futures thinking in action

Future thinking uses the “what if” approach to envision and prepare for various possible futures. Coaches play an important role in shaping these potential scenarios. 

  1. What if existential coaching became a key component of healthcare systems? Coaches could help patients and care providers find meaning and cope with the existential challenges of significant life transitions or end-of-life issues.
  2. What if existential coaches were embedded within government and businesses? The coaching mindset could guide leaders in making just and compassionate decisions and policies.
  3. What if existential coaches partnered with educational institutions worldwide? By integrating existential thinking into curricula, coaches could help students explore questions of purpose, freedom, and authenticity from a young age.
  4. What if existential coaches led community-based programs? Coaching could reduce social isolation and help people develop a sense of shared meaning.

Resources to Explore

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