I am a writer, a coach and a Professor of Cultural History. I am the author of Exhaustion: A History (Columbia University Press, 2016) and The Art of Self-Improvement: Ten Timeless Truths (Yale University Press, 2021). I have also written a novel, academic works and journalism.
My writing has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, the Guardian, Psychology Today, PositivePsychology, Aeon, PSYCHE and other places. My research has been discussed on BBC Radio 4 and WBUR, as well as in Vogue, the Atlantic, National Geographic, the TLS, Philosophie Magazine, Psychology Today and New Republic.
I am deeply passionate about helping people transition from a state of exhaustion to a state of vitality in which they can direct their energy to what really matters in their life. In my coaching practice, I combine state-of-the-art and science-based coaching techniques, including Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), with tried-and-tested ancient wisdom. My focus is on the importance of deepening self-knowledge, on practising radical acceptance and developing the courage to act. I integrate ancient Stoic and radical acceptance techniques into my practice. For new is not always better. Sometimes, it is the ancient models that hold the key to our most urgent present-day problems.
Praise for The Art of Self-Improvement:
A "revelatory book."
— Kathryn Huges, Times Literary Supplement
"In a world where cynicism is too easy and 'self-help' can be pejorative, this erudite historical analysis is truly precious, affirming the intellectual dignity of the human desire to become better versions of ourselves.”
— Jonathan Rowson, author of The Moves That Matter: A Chess Grandmaster on the Game of Life
“Through her keen and sensitive reading of everything from Lao Tzu to Frozen, Schaffner demonstrates that the heart of human wisdom is the faith that we can improve. This book is erudite, engaging, and elegant—a wonderful read.”
— Jonathan Malesic, author of The End of Burnout
“With astonishing and entertaining excerpts from the literature of self-improvement and virtue from Western and Eastern systems of philosophy, and with fine pacing throughout, this book is a formidable contribution to the literature on self-improvement practices. The breadth and depth of the research is staggering.”
— Micki McGee, Fordham University
“This book is informative, comprehensive, and entertaining; while including history and research, Schaffner adds terrific interpretations of Disney and Nietzsche! It’s a necessary book for our Zeitgeist, adding ‘why’ and ‘how’ to Rilke’s poetic line: ‘You must change your life.’”
— Scott Haas, author of Why Be Happy?: The Japanese Way of Acceptance
“With remarkable range, this fascinating book brings alive new worlds of self-relations. It is inspiring both academically and personally.”
— Greta Wagner, Technical University of Darmstadt
03 blogs & journalism
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I'm an exhaustion, burnout and resilience coach. I combine science-based coaching models with ancient wisdom, especially Stoicism. My focus is on deepening your self-knowledge, helping you to practise radical acceptance and showing you how to develop your courage to act.
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