How To Coach Yourself: A Step-by-Step Guide To Self-Coaching

Want to know how to coach yourself effectively? Then you’re in the right place.

When the moment comes and we start to feel low on energy, we may struggle with decreased life satisfaction and reduced effectiveness. Therefore, it’s crucial to be able to recognize the causes of diminished vitality and to possess the skill to implement tools aimed at enhancing it. How can we utilize self-coaching for this purpose?

How To Coach Yourself:

Diminished vitality can result from our overall condition. For proper development, humans require balance. Self-awareness often serves this purpose, enabling us to know and take care of what matters to us at this moment in our lives. With this knowledge, we can fulfill our needs, which vary from person to person.

Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, categorized human needs according to a hierarchy that dictates the direction of human development. Like most humanists, he believed that every individual ultimately strives for self-actualization and self-realization. Pursuing the fulfillment of this need, according to him, is the source of well-being in life. According to Maslow’s concept, each of us has two types of needs – lower and higher order. Satisfying the lower order needs enables the fulfillment of the higher order ones.

This means that, in order to develop and thrive, each of us needs to first meet the lower order needs, such as physiological needs: food and drink, sleep, rest, procreation, clothing, shelter, and means of livelihood. Without well-being in this area, it’s very difficult to focus on anything else.

If we suffer from a decreased level of life satisfaction, let’s first check if our basic needs are met. In short, before reaching for tools for planning change, let’s check if we are well-fed and rested. Our physiology strongly determines whether we utilize our potential in life and how we do it.

Among the higher order needs, Maslow listed: deficiency needs (meaning that the lack of their satisfaction itself results in a decrease in well-being), the need for safety (personal, economic, health), the need for belongingness, the need for esteem, growth needs (meaning that their presence strengthens the sense of well-being, but the lack of their satisfaction does not directly lead to illness), and the need for self-actualization. All these needs constitute fundamental categories of different motivations that guide human life. The key to satisfying them is self-awareness.

What does self-awareness entail?

Self-awareness involves understanding oneself, including one’s thoughts, emotions, motivations, strengths, weaknesses, and values. It is the ability to introspect and recognize one’s own patterns, tendencies, and behaviors. Self-awareness allows individuals to have a clear perception of themselves and their actions, enabling them to make informed decisions, manage emotions effectively, and navigate through life’s challenges with greater resilience and authenticity.

In essence, self-awareness is akin to shining a light on the various components of our lives, akin to layers of a cake, and the ultimate shape of it depends on the level of mindfulness we attribute to each part. Homeostasis is a state where each part is cared for adequately, relative to the moment in our lives we find ourselves in.

Our hierarchy of values and needs changes as we evolve. Some priorities remain constant, but a large portion of goals and needs arise from our current stage in life and the developmental crises we face.

As humans, we have a broad range of needs: social, spiritual, health-related, safety, and professional development needs, among others. How we attend to them, often beyond our conscious awareness, largely depends on how we manage our time and activities in life. And this is something we can learn.

The starting point for making changes to increase satisfaction involves building self-awareness of how we live. Without engaging in a dialogue with ourselves about this, few changes we introduce will be effective. However, when dealing with low motivation and vitality, before questioning how we live, what is important to us today, and how we take care of ourselves, we must first ask ourselves how our body feels.

This means that when working with decreased mental and physical well-being, we first monitor our health to rule out purely medical reasons that may cause such effects. There are many diseases that affect the quality of life, including levels of energy and vitality – hence the principle of focusing on the body first, then the mind, is most appropriate when seeking the sources of problems.

Working on self-awareness

Before we embark on planning and implementing changes, I encourage you to engage in a brief exercise of self-awareness. It is self-understanding that enables effective life changes leading to increased satisfaction.

In order to help ourselves, we must know ourselves, often from a perspective we never considered before. Adopting a metaposition, or the position of an observer, slowly allows us to see more and better understand why we behave the way we do.

How to work on your psychological well-being?

To work on your own psychological well-being, it’s important to understand the processes governing motivation and to have a better understanding of yourself. Once you have this understanding, you can utilize techniques for implementing changes that serve your needs and goals.

One tool that can be used to maintain psychological well-being is self-coaching, a well-known and popular method for working on one’s own psychological condition. It is a developmental method that involves applying coaching tools to oneself. This means that in the process of self-coaching, there is no involvement of a third party.

However, this doesn’t mean that seeking support from a specialist isn’t an option. Sometimes, it is even advisable, especially when we see that the changes we are making aren’t yielding the expected results. But before turning to a coach, let’s explore what changes we can make independently, using the knowledge we have gained about ourselves. Implementing changes often requires self-control, which can be supported by understanding the change process and utilizing effective ways to carry it out.

Self-coaching typically involves systematic self-work aimed at stimulating the process of self-motivation. This is facilitated by asking oneself specific questions and providing answers, based on which we can plan to introduce various changes in life. The process usually begins with increasing self-awareness and then progresses to implementing specific changes in subsequent stages.

Exercise 1: Wheel of Needs

Draw a circle and try to place on it all the needs you consider important in your life. Divide them into as many parts as you recognize needs – like a cake that we cut into slices. For each need, assign at least two examples of ways in which you fulfill it.

If you recognize needs that are important but not being met, try to find a way to change that. You may notice that there is a significant disparity between the skills of fulfilling different needs. This disparity is an area you can change by directing your activities in a way that you need today.

Sample list of needs: health, relationships, spirituality, work, personal development, family life, relaxation, novelty and discoveries, passion, safety, belongingness, acceptance, etc. Working with the wheel of needs, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you see when you analyze your wheel of needs?
  • What feelings do you experience in relation to this?
  • Which needs are you most focused on fulfilling?
  • Which needs are you ignoring?
  • Which needs are you unable to fulfill?
  • How does this affect your life?
  • What do you want to change?
  • What are you satisfied with?
  • How will your life change when you change what you want to change?
  • How will it impact other areas of needs?
  • What do you need to decide to make a change?
  • When do you want to start making the change?

Exercise 2: Hierarchy of My Values

Divide the sheet of paper into two columns – in the left column, create a hierarchy of values from the most important to the least important in your life. In the right column, place the values that actually occupy the most space in your life – include values corresponding to the time you dedicate to them.

If you only devote 2 hours a week to health, place this value at the very end. The differences between the columns will allow you to observe the hierarchy of declared values versus implemented values and the differences between them. It’s up to you what you do with this discovery.

The Key Four Steps to Change

Self-coaching is a personal training we undertake based on our own observations regarding ourselves and our current needs. Ultimately, this training aims to facilitate achieving changes we need to improve the quality of our lives. Sometimes it may involve learning time management at work or changing unhealthy habits related to addiction, and other times it may involve learning relaxation techniques.

However, regardless of the area of work, the result of self-coaching is often a qualitative change in life. The self-coaching process itself can be divided into several stages: becoming aware of the problem or need, planning the change, implementing it, and monitoring it.

1. Awareness of the problem or need

The process of awareness can begin by asking ourselves four fundamental coaching questions:

  • What do I want to change and what is the source of my discomfort?
  • What do I need to change to reduce the discomfort?
  • Why is this important to me?
  • What do I have control over in this matter and what is within my influence?

By knowing the answers to these questions, we can accurately determine what we want to address, why it is important to us, and what our actual influence is in this situation. This is a crucial starting point. Each of these answers allows us to achieve something different, so let’s not skip this work. Clearly delineating the area for change will help us plan the change area well and set realistic goals.

Awareness of the reasons will enable us to take care of waning motivation over time, while delineating the area of influence will help us discover those tools and methods that we can actually use effectively. When setting goals, make sure they are:

Realistic – meaning possible to implement in life;
Specific – meaning measurable. When we set ourselves a goal that is too general, such as taking care of our health, it is not specific enough to monitor its achievement. However, when we rephrase it into a specific and measurable goal, such as exercising 3 times a week, we have a chance to monitor our progress and modify the goal, taking our capabilities into account;
Positive – when setting goals, let’s focus on what we want to achieve. For example, instead of a goal like “not being tired”, let’s try to rephrase it into “resting in nature 4 times a week”. Positive goals encourage action.
A tool that can strengthen motivation for making changes may be a brief overview of the gains and losses resulting from the planned change.

Gains and Losses

This tool allows you to examine your motivation, goals, and competing motives from four perspectives. It involves considering the gains from implementing the planned change, as well as the losses it will entail. Additionally, by working through this process, you will become aware of the gains from not implementing the change and the losses associated with that decision.

Each of these perspectives will help you realize what you expect to gain and what you will lose, which may reveal hidden motives that undermine your plan. Answer the following questions:

  • What will I gain from the planned change?
  • What will I lose from the planned change?
  • What will I lose from not making the change?
  • What will I gain from not making the change?

The stage known as change planning requires focusing attention on seeking tools that we will be able to use to a large extent. If we want to change our eating habits but don’t know how to cook, then learning how to cook is the way to achieve that goal. If we don’t take into account the lack of this skill and plan to eat homemade meals every day, maintaining that resolution will certainly be very difficult.

Tools and short-term goals should be appropriate to our current capabilities. Sometimes, to implement a meaningful change, we need to acquire certain new skills that will enable it. Let’s consider what we need to achieve the goal we set for ourselves. Tools, skills, knowledge, people, and other things we need to achieve the goal:

  • What do I need?
  • How can I obtain it?

2. Planning steps and actions

Once we know what we need and how to obtain it, we can begin the next stage – planning steps and actions. Nothing mobilizes or demobilizes like an action plan. It must take into account not only the goal but also the capabilities of the person trying to achieve it.

One of the better tools for achieving set goals is daily planning. It allows us to take control of our own activities and adapt them to the needs associated with the change we desire. When using this technique, it is important to also remember to review the day. It is through this activity that we can assess how realistic our plan is, what our personal rhythm of change is, what we need to achieve it, and what hinders us in this.

Sometimes it turns out that implementing change is difficult for a simple reason, such as a lack of knowledge about our own life rhythm. Each of us has it, so changes must take it into account. We need to know when we are most effective – in the morning or in the evening.

How can we ensure that the change does not take away what we like and want to continue in our lives? When planning, we also consider hidden costs of change. Introducing regular physical activity before work, for example, requires us to consider getting to bed earlier, which may involve giving up daily movie-watching.

Sometimes the hidden costs of the desired change outweigh the benefits in our assessment. Then it is worth seeking a way to change that does not force us to incur unwanted costs. Change planning should fundamentally help us answer questions about:

  • What do I want to achieve? How?
  • In which areas will the change manifest?
  • When will I start and when will I finish implementing the change?

3. Implementing Change

When implementing the planned change, let’s focus on setting aside time to make an attempt. It’s important to give ourselves time to experience the effects of the changes being introduced. This means that in order to decide whether we want to continue the introduced behavior or abandon it, we need to agree with ourselves on a period during which we do not make judgments but focus on executing the plan.

We specify the review period in a specific manner, preferably by marking a specific date in the calendar. During the execution of the designated plan, you can keep an observation journal. This will allow us to summarize realistically, taking into account our current observations.

Observation Journal

In the observation journal, let’s try to assess on an ongoing basis what is happening to us, referring to indicators of change. Change indicators answer the question of how we will know that something is changing. How will we know that we are moving in the right direction? For example, we will wake up on time in the morning, sleep through the whole night, willingly go to work, etc.

If we do not want to set change indicators, we can create a very intuitive observation journal where we assess our physical and mental well-being each day. Answer the questions:

  • How does my body feel today?
  • What emotions am I experiencing today?
  • How would I rate my level of life energy on a scale of 1 to 10?

4. Monitoring

The last but equally important point leading to change is monitoring. It takes place on three levels. One concerns monitoring the changes being introduced, progress, and ongoing adjustment of the plan. The second concerns summarizing the results of work, in accordance with the previous agreement regarding the time during which we adhere to the plan. The third concerns monitoring the effects, with simultaneous attention to tendencies to return to old habits, behaviors, and well-being. Each of these stages is equally important.

Ask, Plan, Act

In addition to implementing specific changes, we can utilize self-coaching methods daily, learning greater sensitivity to ourselves and our needs. The exercise of meta-position, observing ourselves and our lives to better understand and choose ways of acting, can have a very positive impact on our everyday lives.

When we ask ourselves questions about who we are, what we feel, what we need, and where we are heading, we are updating the “self.” We learn about ourselves while also stimulating reflection and enabling ourselves to broaden our perspective. I encourage you to practice this.

Questions can be formulated based on the popular GROW model method – a structure that helps establish goals and set initial steps. The name of the model is an acronym derived from four words representing four stages of asking questions. When working with the GROW method, it is important not to skip individual steps. I encourage you to engage in such a brief self-examination whenever you need to clarify where you are heading and how you can get there.

Pitfalls and Lessons to Catch Up On

Sometimes we feel that independent planning of changes and setting goals is difficult for us. For various reasons, this may be the case – unfortunately, for some of us, self-focus is still seen as a manifestation of shameful selfishness.

Sometimes we are so firmly rooted in our beliefs, internal criticism, our map of the world, or the fear we experience, that it is difficult for us to independently see different solutions. In such situations, I encourage inviting another person into the process, someone who can help us broaden our own perspective on life.

Sometimes a small suggestion from an outsider can change our entire outlook. And that’s what coaching is all about, changing perspectives, expanding the field of view, sometimes enriching the language with which we can describe our reality. That’s why every question, even one that seems off, changes. Questions that we don’t have answers to or that simply don’t have answers also change us.

The adventure of independent work is worth starting with small changes and goals. To learn to ask ourselves questions, respond, and listen to ourselves. Each of these skills requires practice. Most of us have a few lessons to catch up on in this area. Asking, speaking, and listening, while maintaining the most open attitude, is an ability that simply allows us to be closer to ourselves.

By introducing small changes, we gain knowledge about ourselves and the belief that we can manage ourselves and our behavior. This is an important conviction and often the gateway to strengthening our self-control and motivation to take care of ourselves.

In my opinion, self-coaching is one way of making oneself the subject of one’s own interests. It teaches us openness to ourselves and trust in our own abilities. For those who are just learning how to take care of themselves and their well-being, it can be a good warm-up for a more conscious and satisfying life.

Thank you for reading this article about how to coach yourself effectively and I really hope that you take action my advice.

I wish you good luck and I hope its contents have been a good help to you.

Przemkas Mosky
Przemkas Mosky started Perfect 24 Hours in 2017. He is a Personal Productivity Specialist, blogger and entrepreneur. He also works as a coach assisting people to increase their motivation, social skills or leadership abilities. Read more here