Mike Livingstone

Thesis title: How meaningful and useful is the concept of the Life Space in Executive Coaching

Start year: 2020

Supervisor(s): Dr Ioanna Iordanou, Dr Adrian Myers

Research topic

The aim of the study is to explore the meaningfulness and practical utility of Kurt Lewin’s concept of the life space ) for executive coaches, in order to develop a framework to assist them in working with the complexities of the psychological environment during one-to-one executive coaching. Lewin coined the term “life space” to articulate the concept of the subjective psychological world or “total situation” of an individual and their relationship to their particular environment. The life space is the totality of the situation as the person experienced it at that moment in time. Lewin also referred to the concept of the “the field” and developed “field theory” as the methodology to investigate the concept and properties of the life space. With this methodology Lewin concluded that the meaning of a single fact depends on its position in the field, and in order to adequately explain social behaviour it must be understood in its social ecology. He suggested that it is therefore necessary to discern and represent the structure of the life space or the total situation. In other words, in order to adequately understand the effects of the field on behaviour one must first of all establish if the properties of a social situation or life space as a whole are adequately represented.

To achieve the aim of the study I will critically analyse the literature relating to the scope, currency and validity of the concept of the life space for executive coaching. I will then develop an initial map of the life space from my own experience of executive coaching and from a critical review of the research literature. I will use a Conceptual Encounter method with a series of semi-structured interviews to enable this map to “encounter” the recalled and relived experience of the life space of a small purposively selected group of executive coaches in their coaching work. I will collect and analyse the data generated to develop the initial map into a detailed, precise, meaningful and practical framework to assist executive coaches in working effectively with the complexities of the psychological environment during the one-to-one coaching session. Finally, I will evaluate the extent to which this framework offers an effective and important ingredient to the process of executive coaching, so as to make a new contribution to the knowledge base of executive coaching practice and theory, coach education and development, and areas for future research.


Life space, executive coaching

Academic school / department

Oxford Brookes Business School