Research Paper By Melanie Escalante
(Performance & Life Coach, BELIZE)
A key take-away from my journey through the International Coach Academy (ICA) Advanced training is a deep appreciation for my own self-awareness and for providing the space for others to create that for themselves. I am amazed at what I have uncovered regarding my own judgments, underlying beliefs, confidence, thought processes, mindsets etc. I am equally grateful for having done the work to cause much of what was working against me, within, to fall away and create space for a new way of being around my ability to be an effective coach. It is for these reasons that the topic for my graduation requirement Research Paper had to be Know Thyself, through Coaching.
What is Self-Awareness?
The ICA Creating Awareness Module indicates, “awareness is having an inward focus, not an outward focus. Awareness is knowing the patterns in our everyday life, understanding our beliefs, our mind, our spirit, our body.” Connected Coaches Blake Richardson states “Self-awareness, meanwhile, is a conscious perception of your character (the strengths and weaknesses), feelings, emotions and motivations.” Self-awareness recognizes the mind as a tool, a resource to navigate through life. A self-aware person understands the processes of the mind (conscious and unconscious) and the mind’s role in creating and storing programs for unconscious use. Programs are necessary so we can move through most of life effortlessly not having to be alert, on a conscious level, throughout 16 hours or more of the waking day. We can shower, brush our teeth, dress, drive, dance, text, ride a bike, play, cook etc without having to think about it. The mind however doesn’t choose which programs to store, it just stores! So while there are many useful functional programs such as those previously listed, there are many others that create our state of being and how we act or react based on perceived positive or negative stimulus. These programs could be around well-being, general life outlook (happiness, optimism, self-esteem, self-control), emotionality, social outlook, judgments etc. Brian Tracy states, “The subconscious mind – something that has a huge effect on every action, but is constantly overlooked.” Once a person truly recognizes the conscious and unconscious functions of the mind they become self-aware. They are then able to explore which of the programs work for their best self and are able to consciously view their character traits, strengths, weaknesses, feelings and motivations and decide what to shed and what new programs to develop and install.
Why be Self-Aware?
Here are 5 reasons to be self-aware:
Through the ages Greek philosophers expounded on the Greek aphorism “know thyself” whether in the context of where you fit in line with what is happening around you or, in order to control how you interact and act in certain situations or, to have confidence in yourself and not concern yourself with others opinions of you.
With the prevalence of social media today there is a groundswell of people and organizations encouraging, even urging, a return to authenticity. If a person wishes to be authentic – then knowing themselves and being true to themselves is the core of their authenticity. Between 1599 and 1602 when Shakespeare wrote Hamlet he recognized this in the following much used quote, “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” An article in MindBodyGreen.com states, “To know your truth fully and express it authentically, you first need to cultivate a deep and trusting relationship with yourself. Ultimately, this begins with awareness of your thoughts, as well as awareness of your whole-body experience and how you interact with the world each day.”
The Bible, Proverbs, chapter 23, verse 7: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”. This can be considered a warning regarding the power of thought and how it translates into our way of being. What needs to be explored, however, is the man’s ability to choose his thoughts, to recognize that he is the thinker and therefore must choose to think the right thoughts so that he becomes those thoughts!
Upon reflecting on the recent suicide of Anthony Bourdain, pulling from the title of his CNN show Parts Unknown, Arianna Huffington of Thrive Global highlights, “there are many parts unknown around the world, but millions seem to have forgotten that exploring parts unknown inside ourselves is also a necessary part of a full life.” Huffington goes on to suggest that of all our relationships the one we have with ourselves is the most important. It follows then that it is incumbent upon us to reflect on who we are, to pull out our mental programs, review them, analyze them, massage them if we want to keep them and, jettison those that no longer serve us.
Huffington cautions, “So many of our collective resources go into drawing us outside of ourselves – new clothes, new makeup, new gadgets, new recipes – that we’ve lost the sense of what should be in the background and what should be in the foreground of our lives.” This could be a timely word of caution to guide us back to who we are, back to our authentic selves, the forgotten person within, so that we can know, express ourselves fully and develop systems and connections to meet our own needs as well as the needs of others.
Marianne Williamson – Our Deepest Fear
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear in that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the World. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel unsure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. As we let our own Light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
If altruism is a core value, Marianne Williamson suggests that living in our Light serves the world by consciously giving other people permission to do the same, that a liberated life liberates others. Our concern for the well-being of others then is surely motivation to know ourselves.
Dave DeVries from Missional Challenge posits, “it is self-awareness that really enables you to understand what you are experiencing. The greater your self-awareness, the more likely that you will demonstrate responsibility.” It follows then that a person seeking understanding about their life journey and seeking to create positive change may pursue self-awareness, creating a deeper appreciation of their own life and interconnectedness with people and things as well as their impact on one another. Having clarity on their goals and experiences in achieving them, a person is more inclined to take responsibility to address what they have allowed to
block them and put in place the necessary structures that better support them going forward. Through greater understanding they will be empowered to adopt new steps to enjoy relationships, behaving more positively vs. creating obstacles.
In order to develop meaningful connection with others you will want to know how others perceive you, what distances you from people and what draws them closer. This applies to both personal and professional relationships. Being aware of your connection strengths and weaknesses with friends, family, peers and persons in authority, will provide opportunities to adapt, adjust and to build the quality relationships you desire and consider necessary for your best life.
The more self-aware you become the more your connection with the environment opens up. You begin to realize your interconnectedness with everything and as a result, foster a great respect for all things living.
BusinessDictionary.com informs: “Leadership involves: establishing a clear vision, sharing that vision with others so that they will follow willingly, providing the information, knowledge and methods to realize that vision, and coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders.”
Anthony K. Tian in a hbr.org article states, “You can’t be a good leader without self-awareness” and “self-awareness lets us better understand what we need most from other people, to complement our own deficiencies in leadership.”
Matt Tenney of Executive Coaching Consultancy notes, “Self-awareness and self-regulation are also crucial for making good business decisions. The more resilient we are in stressful situations, the better our decisions will be under pressure. Self-awareness also helps us to see more clearly when we are making decisions out of habit and to be more willing to move out of our comfort zone. Self-regulation helps us to stay out of our comfort zone when we realize that that’s what we need to do in order to achieve optimal results.”
If you want to be an effective leader self-awareness is evidently a vital component of leadership.
Why is Self-Awareness important to a Coach?
The International Coach Federation defines coaching as, “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
From a business perspective Doug Upchurch from HR.BLR.com posits, “it’s coaching conversations, not management conversations that provide the richness of development opportunities for employees.”
HR Monthly magazine summarized the efficacy of coaching by reporting that, “recent studies show business coaching and executive coaching to be the most effective means for achieving sustainable growth, change, and development in the individual, group, and organization.”
We coach because we want to serve people, we want to see them create success and enjoy the journey towards achieving their full potential. To be given the opportunity to walk alongside another and be given their confidence in such a deeply personal way is an awesome privilege, therefore we want to be effective. We want to create the best possible impact for our clients.
According to Connected Coaches Blake Richardson self-awareness, “is the first step to improving your effectiveness as a coach.”
Matt Tobutt of Human Technics explains, “Excellent self-awareness enables a person to see the effects of their approaches, behaviours and skills on others.” As a coach, self-awareness creates an opportunity to move to a higher level of expertise. Self-awareness provides for you to notice if you are leading a client based on your own biases rather than being led by your client. It helps you to acknowledge thoughts and feelings you may have in a coaching session. It puts you in a position to let them go in service your client and whatever they are experiencing in the coaching moment.
Additionally, a coach’s self-awareness creates space for the coach to develop awareness of his or her client. The earlier a coach is able to connect with and assess their client, the earlier they can identify their best coaching approach for that individual, communicating and delivering a coaching approach in a style that the client will be receptive to.
Executive Coaching UK notes, “Being more clear about where we are strong helps boost confidence because it helps us focus more energy on doing what we’re good at, which increases our overall sense of confidence. But, being more clear about our weaknesses is also essential.” Confidence in the knowledge of our weaknesses as coaches we empathize with our clients in theirs. In this space we are able to create a trusting and empathetic environment for safe and confidential coaching conversations.
How does a Coach help to Create Self-Awareness?
Dave DeVries of Missional Challenge states, “awareness was a necessary part of discovering appropriate actions” and goes on to note “I see that raising the client’s self-awareness as an important outcome of coaching (with or without additional action steps}”
Initially, the process begins with asking powerful questions around the topic and the goal or goals that a client brings to coaching. It is in articulating responses to the questions that the client may often be surprised by what arises to the surface. The ICA Creating Awareness Module notes that the coaching process, “requires a person to speak their intent, to put their thoughts into words and this can be the first step to committing to a new way of doing something” and “Powerful questions support your client in stopping in their particular pathway of thought and looking at a situation from a different perspective.” Often times in this process clients explore, deeply if necessary, their values, their dreams, the programs/underlying beliefs that are holding them back and those that support them to confidently move forward.
Coaches also create awareness by sharing observations or feedback and/or reflecting what a client says. Observations and feedback may present alternative perspectives through which a client may look at an issue they bring to coaching and, may help them to realize there are multiple ways to view and/or address their situation. When a client hears their own words paraphrased back to them they may gain an insight into their own thought patterns, beliefs, blind spots or expectations around a certain matter having previously been unaware of their own language and preprogrammed reactions to certain events, words or other stimulus.
Engaging a client in various psychometric assessments such as Strengths Finders, Insights Discovery DISC, Enneagram, Wheel of Life Balance are tools that a coach may suggest to assist a client in understanding certain aspects of themselves more deeply. If the coach is knowledgeable in interpreting related reports they may review and discuss with the client.
A coach may also suggest journaling. Clients often experience awareness in the process of writing down daily occurrences, or reviewing what they have written, looking for strengths, weaknesses, lessons learned and emotions created.
What is a Client’s Perspective of the Process?
As a client goes through the process of creating awareness they may experience shifts in perspective that take them well beyond their comfort zone. This journey can be thrilling, freeing and at the same time disquieting or even painful. It is important that the coach hold a safe and confidential space for the client through this experience while assuring the client that the client has control of the direction of the session or sessions at all times. The coach also checks-in with the client from time to time to ensure that the process remains helpful in moving towards to client’s stated goal. The client takes the lead and the coach works to serve the client’s intention.
In an executive-coaching.co.uk article we learn that, “self-awareness can further boost confidence because it helps us navigate challenging situations with the knowledge that we can skillfully deal with the emotional reactions that come up during those situations.” So as clients return to coaching over a period of weeks and months, a coach will generally see the client opening up to more opportunities that occur around them and possibilities that occur within themselves. As self-awareness sets in, clients identify certain ways of being that no longer serve them and quite often they experience fear, anxiety and stress loosening their grip. They then find that when faced with challenges where these emotions have previously left them stuck, caused them to procrastinate or just refuse to engage, they are now empowered to choose the tools and the programs that will support them in achieving or overcoming. With each win they experience, the client becomes more competent and confident and deepens their faith in their ability to perform at their best and live an abundant life.
https://executive-coaching.co.uk/newsletters/how-self-awareness-boosts-confidence/ http://www.humantechnics.com/the-role-of-self-awareness-and-reflective-practice-in-developing-coaching-expertise/ http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/leadership.html International Coach Academy: Creating Awareness Module