life-coaching-jmaTo say that humans are complex beings is an understatement. The ways we think, feel and behave, our likes and dislikes, are influenced by so many factors — some beyond our control, some not — that we are constantly changing. In short, we are riddles. Even to ourselves.

Sometimes the best way to gain a better understanding of ourselves is to enlist the help of someone else. You want someone who knows you well, and ideally, who also has a deep understanding of human behavior. A life coach can fit this bill. Through meaningful, exploratory conversations and the use of proven methodologies and exercises, a life coach can provide illuminating insights into the person you are. In a life-coaching partnership, you’ll discover the following:

1. Whether you lack self-awareness. Do you push people away? Are you too aggressive in your interactions with others? Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, are you finding that others often try to take advantage of you? Perhaps you’re perceived as timid or shy, when you’re really just introverted?

You’ve likely received feedback before — perhaps from a supervisor, a parent or a friend — that surprised you. How we perceive ourselves is often starkly different from how others perceive us. “Human beings have a strong tendency to distort other people’s feedback to fit their own views,” wrote psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson in her book No One Understands You and What to Do About It. “We know this intellectually, and yet we rarely seem to recognize it as it’s happening.” A life coach can work with you to better understand how your words and actions come across to others, and how to communicate more effectively in order to convey your true intentions and reach your personal and professional goals.

2. If you are engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors. Some self-sabotaging behaviors — like an addiction to drugs or alcohol — can be easy to diagnose (but not to manage). But others — like perfectionism, procrastination, or unhealthy physical habits like overeating or not exercising — are more subtle, yet deeply entrenched. They might form a core part of your personality, or be ingrained in your daily routine. A life coach will help you examine all areas of your life to determine if you are engaging in behaviors that are holding you back in some way, and work with you to correct those behaviors.

iStock_000061035944_Small3. Whether you have low self-esteem. Self-esteem isn’t only a challenge for teenagers. Many people struggle with anemic confidence levels well into adulthood — and some don’t even realize it. Low self-esteem is a product of negative thought processes, which are very common yet difficult to change, especially if you tend to be naturally pessimistic. A life coach can show you techniques for positive thinking, which can drastically improve how you feel about yourself.

4. Strengths you didn’t know you had. Some talents are easy to measure — for example, you know you have numerical talents because you always received A’s on your math exams and have an easy time keeping mental track of your monthly budget. But other talents are more subtle and can be harder to readily identify, like empathy or synthesizing information and recognizing patterns. Each of us has skills and abilities that others do not, but we often undervalue what we do well, thinking that anyone can do it.

Through thoughtful conversations and tools like aptitude testing, a life coach can help you discover and use your unique strengths — and even show you how to build a more meaningful life around them.

5. Goals you didn’t know you wanted to pursue. Many people seek out a life coach because they feel “adrift,” without purpose or meaning in their lives. Maybe you have a stable job, a comfortable home and satisfying personal relationships, but you’re feeling the treadmill effect — you’re “expending energy but going nowhere.” Through introspective conversations and exercises, a life coach will help you discover (or rediscover) your passions. You might revisit a dream that you left behind in college, or decide that you want to turn your favorite hobby into a career. A life coach will help you set goals that inspire and motivate you, and then get down in the weeds with you as you work toward achieving those goals.

We all want to know ourselves better. Engaging the services of a life coach can not only increase your self-knowledge, it can help you use that knowledge to create a better life for yourself.

What would you love to learn about yourself?

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