Stephane Thiltgen is a transformational “lifestyle coach” who helps people from all walks of life find their balance through his unique holistic approach interrelating exercise (particularly running), mindfulness/mind training, breathing science, nutrition, sleep science and other supporting habits: The Tao Lifestyle ™.
He coaches executives and business leaders in high pressure jobs deal with stress. By incorporating the principles of Tao Lifestyle ™, individuals reconnect to their whole person and gain better health, fitness, balance, productivity @ work and wellbeing. Tao Lifestyle™ emphasizes heavily on creating synergies between mind, body and soul which come together in a crucial way to help strike the ideal balance.
Coming from the corporate world, Stephane has a deep understanding of the many challenges one faces in everyday life. Living a healthy and wholesome life can be challenging and Stephane is living proof of how one can alter their lifestyle to strike the balance. A certified Holistic Health Coach - trained in more than 100 nutrition theories, a certified NLP practitioner, a certified Lean Six Sigma black belt, passionate about long distance running and endurance mastery, neuroscience, nutrition, mindfulness, sleep science Stephane is able to understand the many challenges one faces.
His lifelong and continuous quest to be a better version of himself led him to famous thought leaders like Robin Sharma, Eckhart Tolle, Anthony Robbins, S.N. Goenka and many others. He channels his deep understanding of exercise, nutrition and meditation though his unique approach to everyday life. A popular speaker in Kuala Lumpur, Stephane is regularly called to address corporates and the staff at wellness centres. He works actively with corporates to help their staff unleash their fullest potential.
In his free time, Stephane loves running alone outdoor to connect with himself and the nature around. Although originally from Belgium, he has made Malaysia his home for well over one decade. A passionate healthy & simple food cook, Stephane loves researching and testing new recipes.
Certified Holistic Health Coach
Certified Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner
Vipassana Meditation Trained & Daily Practitioner
Foundations in Neuroscience Dr. Rick Hanson Trained
My journey to the Tao Lifestyle™
“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”
Our life is often a sum total of the choices we make in the face of challenges that come our way. Along the way, as individuals, we can choose to listen to our inner voice or ignore it. Stephane’s story is no different. His responses to decisive moments in his life led him to his path of destiny which he firmly believes has influenced his own personal philosophy - The Tao Lifestyle™.
Childhood to early work life: Born in Belgium in a loving and caring family but mentally prisoner of the big family traumas...
“There is no land like the land of your childhood.”
Born to a humble family with farming roots in Belgium, Stephane’s early life can be described as a bitter-sweet phase. One one hand he had a loving set of parents, who wanted nothing but the best for their son. But living up to the high expectations set by his father made Stephane a perfectionist, constantly seeking validation from life and chasing lofty goals.
Parent’s often transfer their trauma to their kids without realizing. Deprived of the chance to get a university education and better life, due to some unfortunate circumstances, Stephane’s father had to choose a hard lifestyle for the sake of his family commitments. Stephane being the eldest child intuitively picked up on these frustrations his father faced. This made him want to be nothing but the best in everything he did - be it sports or academics.
Chasing perfection and validation led Stephane to develop an overly competitive person wrought with anxiety, fear and worry. Despite being a top student, Stephane lacked confidence in himself.
Stephane’s life can be described as a quest from here to finding his inner self and peace.
Early 2000th - 1st Turning Point: The start of my relationship with Michele, my (future) wife, and expatriation to Malaysia: New horizons, new resources. The light starts entering the prison walls...
Early Adulthood & First Decisive Moment
With lofty ambitions of becoming the CEO of a big corporation, young Stephane went on to graduate as an engineer with top credits. It did not take much time for him to however realize he would not be happy being an engineer. Still in a quest for excellence, Stephane went on to get a degree in Business Administration. Although these moves led to greater financial stability in his life, the inner sense of emptiness was becoming more and more obvious. Stephane had a fairly outdoorsy lifestyle and kept it up even during his early adulthood, playing football and running - although his mindset to sports was fairly competitive.
In Stephane’s own words, his first and biggest turning point came when he met his girlfriend during this period of time. She went on to becoming his anchor and wife. Her ambitions set the ball rolling for Stephane to move to Malaysia and opened his mind to a whole new range of ideas.
Having lived all his life in Belgium, moving to the tropics did not come easy for Stephane. His girlfriend was determined to make him try the experience and she even offered to pay for his first trip to familiarize himself with the country. Not long after, Stephane found himself crossing the Straits of Malaya. Finding himself a job was not too difficult given his network as well as his educational background and skill sets which were much in demand in Malaysia. However, all of this came at a price. Stephane had to adapt his linguistic proficiency considerably to be fluent in English. Equipped with better English, Stephane was now exposed to the works of some of the biggest thought leaders of our times as well as Eastern Philosophies. He voraciously read books on Buddhism & Taoism as well as the likes of Eckhart Tolle, Anthony Robbins to name a few.
This move to South East Asia also exposed him to Yoga. Stephane began practicing and learning about the philosophies of Yoga under Shilpa Ghatalia, who developed her own integrative yoga practice. Breaking his physical rigidity and inflexibility also started breaking many mental barriers for Stephane. Stephane attributes this phase as the foundation to his growing awareness of what makes him truly happy. Even till today, Stephane follows his yoga routine. During this phase, Stephane also let go of his life-long obsession with football and instead began running outdoors to replace it. The Hash House Harriers (PH3) is an international group of non-competitive running social clubs. In Malaysia, most of their runs are in the jungles or plantations. Running outdoors made Stephane experience a sense of tranquility and he began chasing this sense of calmness and happiness more.
In 2006, Stephane did his NLP certification and the next year he attended a seminar by Anthony Robbins. The ingredients for the Tao Lifestyle were brewing, albeit slowly.
2007 - 2nd Turning Point: My first marathon race and new learnings. Passion to running came to another level and it incrementally became a way to create some “space” in my busy life as a management consultant......
First Tryst With Marathon & The Second Piece In The Puzzle
When life has a plan for you, it starts to blossom in a beautiful way, even if at the time that it happens, it may seem like something you don’t like. While his personal life seemed to grow in a beautiful way, all was not rosy in Stephane’s work life. The SME he was working with ran into issues. And the entrepreneurial streak in Stephane made him try freelancing. This was his first taste in a life outside of the a regular 9 to 6 job. While freelancing gave Stephane the time to focus on his inner growth, work was not always predictable. In search of a purpose, Stephane decided to prepare for a full marathon. Stephane may not have known it then, but it was his second turning point.
Ever the perfectionist, Stephane began preparing for his Marathon by reading books about running as well as practicing those techniques. In December 2007, Stephane ran his first full marathon at Singapore finishing at 3 hours 40 minutes. Since then, Stephane has read every possible book about running and incorporated the techniques, deepening his understanding of the mental and physical aspects of running. Many of these techniques have found their way into the Tao of Running philosophy that Stephane teaches.
When Stephane went back to the corporate world in 2009, running still continued to be a big part of his life. It was his “me time” - a time for internalizing, introspecting and de-stressing. Even when Stephane joined Accenture and was traveling extensively for work, his love affair with running only blossomed more. Running was his answer to work and the pressures that come with a high profile consulting career.
In 2010, the year of his 35th birthday, Stephane challenged himself with what he describes as a big hairy audacious goal. The goal he set for himself was his “Running around the earth challenge” or running 40,000km in a healthy way for the body-mind system and finishing it before turning 70. Having run 15,500 km in 8.5 years without injuries, one can say he is well on his way to hitting this one!
2013 - 3rd Turning Point: 1st Vipassana (which means “insightful”) meditation retreat. Running & mindfulness merge and the foundations of Tao of Running™ ’s framework came slowly into place......
First Tryst With Vipassana & The 3rd Piece In The Puzzle
Having read Manish Chopra’ s The Equanimous Mind, and his experience with the 10 day Vipassana retreat that he went through, Stephane wanted to test the transforming effect of Vipassana for himself. He felt he could relate with Manish’s thoughts and felt the urge to try and experience this ancient form of meditation.
Thus began, what can only be described as, the third decisive moment in Stephane’s life. After some research, Stephane decided to head to a temple in Thailand which offers a Vipassana retreat. The experience was tough both mentally and physically. Although Stephane did not know it at that time, he caught Dengue and this took a toll on him. The challenge (mentally) was practicing the tenets of mindfulness and equanimity, even more so with fever and physical pain.
After the retreat, Stephane began testing meditation techniques he learnt with running and slowly discovered how, under certain conditions, he could actually apply some of the techniques he had imbibed during his stay at the temple. This brought incremental benefits to his running - his enjoyment grew and his mind training benefits took his running to another level.
The framework for his Tao of Running began falling in place like a jigsaw puzzle, piece by piece.
2015 - 4th Turning Point: 2nd Vipassana retreat and quit my corporate job to launch Tao of Running™ holistic approach to health and well-being...
Launch of Tao of Running & The 4th Piece In The Puzzle
In 2014, Stephane took a sabbatical from work intending to take part in another Vipassana retreat as well as pen down his ideas to create the framework of the Tao of Running. This time Stephane went to Kuantan to experience the Goenka school of Vipassana.
By this time, a few of Stephane’s friends expressed interest to try his approach. Thus, in January 2015 was born the pilot version of the program which he tested with a group of friends. With many of them enjoying benefits such as losing weight, gaining more focus at work, feeling less anxious and stressed, finding joy and peace in the act of running, and so on... - the immense positive feedback nudged Stephane to consider doing this and helping more people.
Stephane confesses that during the 1-2 years that he was practicing meditation and running with meditation principles, he became incrementally aware that his inner life and his “true self” was not really aligned with what he was doing as a consultant, even if he was intellectually stimulated and good at his job. A big part of the stress he was generating within was related to that. He also understood, despite his childhood ambitions, he did not really want to become a CEO, he was merely conditioned into believing that he did. On the other hand, it was so much more fulfilling for him to help people and guide them improving their life.
Not many of us can find our true calling. Many of us live and fade away without realizing what makes our inner self happy. The quest remains unfulfilled for some. Some people explain it as a void, a sense of emptiness despite having a happy marriage, kids and career. The few people who do pursue and follow their inner self, gain incrementally. The little boy from Belgium found his calling in 2015, in his 40th year, in Malaysia.
In May 2015, Stephane took the biggest step in his life. Shedding the coat of a consultant, Stephane lept head first into setting up Tao of Running and then Tao Lifestyle. Ever since, he has had over 100 people who have gone through his program and benefited from it. Stephane admits he has learnt and gained from this experience and would not trade it for anything in his life. He has also continued developing his skills with trainings on the science of happiness, endurance mastery, neuroscience and a certification for holistic health coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York city.
Today - The journey does not stop there: Launch Tao Lifestyle™ a “natural” extension of Tao of Running™ resulting from the learnings, feedback and requests of the participants in the programs and a way to guide more people redesigning their lifestyle for a fit body, a sharp mind, a happy soul!...
The Story Today - The journey is never ending...
The continuous personal development, learning as a holistic health coach with his clients, and quest of Stephane to help more people led him to design new offerings under the umbrella of Tao Lifestyle where the focus is less on running and more on the customization of the approach to meet the specific needs of his clients whether they are from the corporate world or individuals.
Stephane admits, “I cannot say that I don’t care anymore of what the outside world thinks of me but my value in life is less depending on that. I have switched incrementally from an outside –in perspective to an inside –out one.” Having turned 43 this year and raising two lovely kids with his loving wife, Stephane continues to use running as a way of making him more whole and cultivate his health, fitness, mental balance, resilience and wellbeing. In his forties, he very often betters the performance of his younger age self and in a "effortless way".
In 2017, Stephane lost his father to heart disease, which reinforced even more his will to help others change their lifestyle to prevent that. However, the little boy from Belgium has come a long way. He is glad that he had a chance to make peace with his father before his demise and tell him how much he loves him. Stephane continues to live in Malaysia with his family and help as many people as possible with Tao Lifestyle.
A quote from Steve Job summarizes this journey of Stephane Thiltgen quite well.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
– Steve Job
- Passion for personal improvement & human sciences: Certified NLP Practitioner, neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, nutrition theories (Certified Holistic Health Coach), science of breathing, science of happiness.
- Passion for business improvement: Process improvement expert (Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt) for the last 11 years (e.g. Accenture)