A Coaching Power Tool Created by Renee Townsend
(Business Coach, UNITED STATES)
You never find yourself until you face the truth. Pearl Bailey
Self-awareness is more than the simplistic words of René Descartes
I think; therefore, I am.
Whereas Descartes focuses on the proof of existence, self-awareness refers to the ability to know oneself truly. When we are self-aware, we understand our motives, values, desires, and feelings. In essence, we understand what makes us tick.
Oftentimes we have goals in mind. We envision where we want to be in life. However, we may find ourselves struggling to make progress. We know our goals are possible, and we may even know how to reach those goals. Rather than moving forward, we may lag and put off the tasks which will lead to our ultimate success.
The disparity between achieving what we are capable of doing and what we are actually doing can cause internal dissonance. It can lead us to question ourselves. Not so much our ability to accomplish (as we know we can achieve), but our self-worth. That is, if I am capable but not doing what needs to be done, then there must be something wrong with me. These thoughts are self-defeating and counter-productive to achieving our desires.
In contrast, if we understand the root of our behaviours – why we do or don’t do the things we set out to do – we can work toward a peaceful resolution. In turn, we will be able to focus on the goals which are most meaningful to us with a dedication that is comfortable. Once we understand how we can be our own roadblock to success, we can make choices that lead to our desired outcomes.
Living every millisecond with ourselves from the moment we are born, may lead us to believe we truly understand and know ourselves. However, if you’ve ever asked yourself why you acted the way you did in a particular situation or have been confused by your response, feelings, or another aspect of yourself, there is a lack of self-awareness.
We may even hear of people going on ventures to “find themselves.” Surely, they are not lost when a GPS can pinpoint their exact location? No, what they mean by “finding themselves” is achieving self-awareness. It is a personal self-discovery journey to understand their hopes, dreams, values, and the wholeness of what makes them… well, them.
We often go through life on auto-pilot. Our brains are conditioned to take the path of least resistance. As such, we simply act and behave without putting much thought into why we do the things that we do. In general, we tend to take the reasons behind our actions for granted. One of the first steps to self-awareness is analyzing our actions and emotions.
In this exercise, consider a current goal you are struggling to accomplish that is within your reach, but you are not doing the tasks necessary to achieve that goal. If you don’t have a current goal, use a past goal that you did not accomplish. Ask yourself the following questions to help identify the internal roadblock keeping you or that kept you from reaching your goal:
- The last time you thought about working on a particular task related to the goal and had an opportunity to accomplish the task but didn’t, what did you choose to do instead?
- What was more desirable about the task you choose to focus on instead of the task related to your goal?
- What about the less desirable tasks were you avoiding?
- By avoiding the less desirable tasks, what was your emotional reward?
- What patterns do you see in the tasks you avoid versus the tasks you achieve?
The above and similar questions can help you understand the causes of putting a damper on your motivation. There’s also the flip side. There is a reason the goal remained a goal or is still a goal you’ve yet to accomplish. Sometimes we create goals which do not align with our values, true thoughts, or beliefs. If we can identify the source of our goals and understand the reason behind keeping the goals, it may renew our desire to succeed. On the other hand, it may also allow us to release a goal that is no longer benefiting us and ease our burden.
Though the above example referred to goals, we can analyze any and all aspects of ourselves. Just as we can ask our questions about our behaviour and emotional responses which cause us discomfort, we can also examine areas which give us peace. If we are able to understand behaviours and situations that ease our mind, we will be more capable of seeking those scenarios.
Self-Deception Leads to Self-Defeat
Being human is to lie. We don’t just lie to other people; we also lie to ourselves. The lies we tell ourselves often acts as a defence mechanism. It helps us reconcile situations we really are not okay with accepting. By accepting the lies we covertly tell ourselves, we are able to “trick” ourselves into believing our actions, our feelings, and/or the actions of others are not harmful. These lies are a form of self-deception and interfere with our ability to achieve self-awareness.
Oftentimes we deceive ourselves because we’re trying to remove some of the dissonance associated with our true thoughts and behaviours and what we believe is the expectation. When we remove the expectations, whether self-imposed or externally imposed, we can get to the underlying beliefs which are leading us to self-deception.
On the surface, self-deception may not seem harmful, as it acts as a coping mechanism. However, it really equates to a lack of self-acceptance. Coping mechanisms come into play because we are not okay with the way things are. We rely on coping mechanisms because we are hurt mentally and need a way to overcome that pain. Unfortunately, coping mechanisms do not remove the root cause of the pain… it only buries the issue, allowing it to resurface to cause hurtful situations, time and time again in the future. As such, self-deception is self-defeating and devaluing to our personhood.
Seeking the Truth
For the brain, self-deception can act as the path of least resistance. Avoiding the truth may seem like the easiest solution, but it can come with the most severe consequences. In contrast, seeking the truth allows us to heal and move on to actions which are most beneficial to us.
We can seek the truth first by accepting the situation for what it is. First, we move to acknowledge that the situation is problematic, our emotions are causing us distress, our behaviours do not align with the person we want to be, and/or any aspect that is causing a disturbance in our life.
This acknowledge allows us to realize that life is not perfect. And that’s okay. Once we recognize we are in a less than ideal situation and will face less than ideal situations in the future, we can work toward remedying the situation and even take preventative steps.
Oftentimes, clients may be engaging in self-deception but be unaware of the phenomenon happening. As a coach, mentioning the disparities you observe to your clients can be powerful. It can help clients recognize false beliefs, which may be interfering with their progress, while also opening opportunities for understanding.
You, as the coach, can enhance observations with powerful questioning that ask how a particular self-deceptive thought process has benefited your clients. Doing so will help your clients to recognize when they’re relying on self-deceptive practices and shift to thoughts and behaviours which are self-empowering.
Likewise, observations which recognize when clients’ shift to self-awareness can be equally enlightening. Doing so helps clients to focus on achieving a value-centred result which aligns with their true self.
Achieving self-awareness can be empowering. Self-awareness allows us to recognize the habits which support or hinders us from being successful in various areas of our lives. It also allows us to understand our emotional responses to circumstances, which in turn allows us the opportunity to better manage our reactions.
- As a coach, what are some questions you could ask your clients to help them identify self-deceptive thoughts?
- How might you encourage clients into a deeper analysis of their thoughts and behaviours?
- How does being self-aware of your own thoughts, beliefs, values and other areas benefit the coaching process?