Anna Katharina Schaffner Website



I coach you from exhaustion to vitality


01 about

I am a writer, a coach and a Professor of Cultural History. I am the author of two acclaimed books, 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, various academic works and journalism, and I am editor-in-chief of the Emerge website.

My writing has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, the Guardian, Psychology Today, PositivePsychologyAeon, 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 Todayde Volkskrant 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 ACT, with tried-and-tested ancient wisdom. My focus is on the importance of deepening self-knowledge, as well as working on values and character strengths. I also integrate ancient Stoic techniques and the art of letting go 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.

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02 books


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

Want to see all of my blogs and journalism?


04 coaching

I coach the exhausted, helping you better to understand and to manage both the internal and external causes of your stress. Via Zoom, I help you to refocus your attention on what really matters so that you can stop wasting your energies in non-productive internal and external battles and achieve a wonderful work-life balance.

Would you like to find out more? Get in touch for a free 20-minute exploration chat.


05 speaking


06 contact

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  • Anna Katharina Schaffner