Coaching Techniques

Build Self-Awareness: Ten Self-Reflection Exercises and Self-Assessment Tools

Ten exercises and tools in the quest for self-awareness, which may be one of the most valuable skills out there for coaches to help clients develop.

If you’re drawn to becoming a coach and helping others – you’re likely already highly perceptive, empathetic and self aware. And as a life coach, your role extends beyond helping your clients set and achieve goals. We serve as guides, custodians, and facilitators of a transformative process, leading our clients through a journey of self-awareness that drives both personal and professional growth.

Coaching is a powerful tool in the quest for self awareness, which may be one of the most valuable (and most underrated) skills out there. The goal of coaching is often to reach a goal, but to do that effectively, one often must examine one’s own thoughts, beliefs, motives and more.

Self-awareness is knowing our own character, feelings, motives, and desires. It acts as a mirror, providing clear and objective feedback about why we do what we do – as well as our values, and our goals.  When your client is more aware of who they are and what their values are – your client will become empowered to drive change and be a better partner, friend and colleague.

So how do we build self-awareness? Let’s explore ten self-reflection and self-assessment tools that you can provide to your clients to help build self-understanding. After all, Socrates perhaps said it best – “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

The Self Awareness Toolbox

These ten tools can help nurture and enhance self-awareness. Each one offers unique perspectives on self-discovery and introspection.


Journaling has been used for centuries upon centuries as a form of self-expression and capturing our ongoing inner dialogue. Journaling promotes awareness of our thought processes, emotions, and behaviors. It can aid in identifying patterns and triggers, and give us a place to process and dream.

A few questions that can guide your thinking:

  • What am I most proud of in my life so far? 
  • What are the three most important lessons I've learned in life? 
  • What is my definition of success? 
  • What are my fears?
  • How do I respond to stress or conflict?
  • How do I feel when I'm alone with my thoughts?
  • Who are the people who've influenced me most, and why?
  • What does happiness look like to me? 
  • How do I handle criticism? 
  • What am I passionate about? 
  • What's my personal mission statement? 
  • What drains my energy, and what energizes me?

The Wheel of Life

An empty wheel of life (via

This tool provides a holistic view of one’s life, helping to visualize key areas and surface the areas that require more attention and balance.

  • Take a pencil and paper and draw a circle, then divide it into equal segments based on the number of categories. The categories are: Career, Finances, Health, Friends and Family, Romance, Personal Growth, Fun and Recreation, Physical Environment. (Each segment represents one category. You'll end up with something that looks like a pie chart.)
  • Now, for each category, rate your current level of satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being very satisfied and one being unsatisfied. (Go with your initial gut feeling rather than overthinking it.)
  • Draw a line across each “pie” segment that corresponds to your rating for that area. Once you've done this for every area, you can shade in each segment up to the line. This gives you a visual representation of how satisfied you are in each area of your life.
  • Look at your completed Wheel of Life. A perfect wheel would be completely filled in, but most people's wheels are not. Where on the wheel is most and least complete? These are the areas where you're most and least satisfied, respectively. 
A completed wheel of life (via

Strengths and Weaknesses Analysis

How can we know where to improve if we don’t know our own strengths and weaknesses? 

Creating our own SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis can give us some pretty strong insight into how we operate in the world. While this often might make more sense in a business context, we can still apply it to our personal life with some small modifications.

Strengths: Strengths are the qualities that give you an advantage. These are internal factors, things that you have direct control over and can change. Think about:

  • What you do better than anyone else?
  • What unique capabilities and resources do you have? 
  • What do others perceive as your strengths?

Weaknesses: These are internal factors that can put you at a disadvantage relative to others. Consider areas where you could improve. Be objective but kind to yourself and don’t spend too long on this section! 

  • What do others do better than you? 
  • What are areas that others perceive as your weaknesses? 
  • Where might you benefit from additional skill building, training, or other forms of growth?

Opportunities: Opportunities are external factors that are likely to contribute to your success. These can be anything in the external environment that could provide a benefit. 

  • How can you use these opportunities to your advantage?

Threats: These are external factors that you have no control over. It might be useful to consider making a plan for dealing with them if they occur. 

  • How can you mitigate threats?

Personality Tests 

(e.g., Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, SAPA, DISC)

It’s possible that some people place too much emphasis on personality tests, but they can be a useful tool for providing insight into personality traits and behaviors. Patterns emerge – leading to better self-understanding. Be sure to answer honestly and with an expectation that you will gain further self-understanding, while also knowing that no personality test could ever capture the full measure of who you are.

360-Degree Feedback

Asking others for feedback can be daunting but a very effective way to understand how you are perceived! In a 360-Degree Feedback process, input is gathered from colleagues, friends, family and others who know you, as well as your own self-evaluation. While this process is more often used in a workplace setting, you can adapt it for use with other groups of people. 

Caution: be thoughtful when creating the questions, and be sure that you are ready to hear what others think of you!

Step 1: Figure out who you want to get feedback from. Be selective about the first group – you can always ask more people as you get used to the process. 

Step 2: The next step is collecting feedback. Perhaps you can use a feedback tool or form, and put in different questions about your own competencies, behavior, skills, and performance. It’s useful to put a mix of rating scales and open-ended questions.

Step 3: Once all the feedback is collected, it's time to analyze it. You could separate the different responses from different groups so you can see trends and differences. (Perhaps you’re more passionate at work, or humorous at home.) This helps you understand how your performance and behavior are perceived differently by different groups of people.

Step 4: After you look at the feedback, it can be interesting to note areas where your perception of yourself differs from how others see and experience you. Consider any areas where you may want to make a change!

Meditation and Mindfulness

There is so much noise clouding our thinking day to day, so many pressing ideas and obligations. Meditation techniques can help quiet the mind, focus attention, and increase awareness of the present moment. 

Meditation and mindfulness can also create some much needed space for us to begin to gain awareness of what is truly important to us, which in turn gives us a ton of information about who we are as people.

Resource: How to Get Started with Mindfulness

Core Values Exercise

Identifying your core values helps to clarify what is genuinely important to you, and can help act as a compass for decisions and actions.

But what if you’re not sure what YOUR values are? 

  • Begin by setting a timer and brainstorming values that resonate with you – you can look up a list of values to get some ideas. From the bigger list you’ve made, select about 10-15 that resonate most strongly with you. 
  • Define what each of those values means to you, personally. Consider each value and how it relates to what matters most to you. 
  • Reflect on times in your life when these values were particularly important. How did this set of values guide your decision-making? How did they influence your feelings and behavior? 
  • After thinking about them a bit, you might find some values aren't as core to you as others. Feel free to remove some values from your list and refine your definitions as you go.
  • Now that you have a pared-down list, rank the remaining values in order of their importance to you. (Yes, all of them matter to you, but the goal is to recognize which ones are most valuable to you.)
  • Now select your top five. Congrats! These are your core values at this time, the ones that guide your decisions, behaviors and attitudes.

Look at these five values. Think about your day-to-day life and major life decisions. Are these core values reflected in how you live and the choices you make? If some of them don’t ring true, it might be worth revisiting and adjusting your list.


This involves using mental imagery to envision a desired outcome or to explore past experiences. Visualization can uncover hidden aspects of our psyche and emotions. 

Future Visioning is one such coaching exercise – which roughly follows these steps:

Step 1: Find a calm, quiet area and make some time and space to relax. Think of a topic you want to explore. It could be a desired future outcome, a past experience, an emotional state, or a challenge you're currently facing. Ask it of yourself as a question, or frame it as an intention. “What does my ideal career look like?" or "I want to explore my feelings about the recent argument with my friend."

Step 2: Close your eyes and create a mental image that represents your guiding question or intention. This could be a literal representation or something more abstract. Allow the image to form naturally in your mind, without forcing it, and let it grow detailed.

Step 3: Spend time exploring your mental image. What do you see? How does it make you feel? What thoughts or emotions arise? Can you interact with the mental image? You might see it change, or you may feel yourself drawn to explore different aspects of it.

Step 4: Notice and remember aspects of it that you want to explore later, and write down any insights when you’re done exploring your mental image.The meanings and insights may not always be immediate but can gather meaning the more you consider them.

Emotional Intelligence Assessments

Emotional and Relational Intelligence are on the rise as highly valued skills in the workplace. Tools like the EQ-i 2.0 measure one's ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions, contributing to improved self-awareness. 

Psychology Today’s Emotional Intelligence Test (45 minutes to complete)

MindTools How Emotionally Intelligent Are You? (15 minutes to complete)

Professional Coaching

And of course, our favorite tool for exploring and understanding the self – coaching! 

Working with a professional coach can provide objective insights into behavior and thought patterns. A coach's outside perspective can help challenge assumptions and bring clarity. Plus, over time, a coach can help you clarify not only your insights into yourself but your goals and desires.

If you’re looking for a coach – check out Lumia’s Directory of Alumni Coaches

As someone who is interested in coaching, you’re already interested in understanding and examining the self. By integrating these tools, anyone can cultivate a deeper sense of self-understanding, which provides a solid foundation for growth. Patience is key; it's a gradual process of self-discovery that unfolds over time. 

Besides, the relationship you have with yourself is the longest one you will ever have with anyone – the opportunity and gift to explore our own mind and desires is a great and generous one!

Bonus Lumia Resources:

Ready to Become A Coach?

One of our values at Lumia is that we dare to be different. Our life coaches ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like a partner in the process, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.

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