“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ― Søren Kierkegaard
If we are to grow ourselves, we must first know ourselves. Self-reflection is a powerful tool for human development, personally and collectively.
In coaching, reflection begins with the Welcome Packet, inviting clients to reflect on areas of their lives that are working well and those that aren’t, as well as where he or she would like to be. Each session’s Prep Form provides an opportunity for the client to reflect on what was gained in the previous session, what was accomplished in the interim period, and where the client would like to go in the next session.
Reflection continues throughout the coaching engagement. Reflection questions prompt the client to pause and become aware of what is happening at a deeper level. It helps reveal habitual patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting, and the results those patterns bring. Self- awareness becomes the foundation for life transformation.
The ability for deep self-reflection is part of the stages of human development. Authors Patrick Williams and Diane Menendez assert, “Only 25% of adults in our culture complete this transformational process,” which allows them to be honest about who they really are in their souls, and who they want to be.
Clients may also experience pain as they reflect back on who they have been in the past. People working through this transition, learning to listen to the call of their souls, are often the ones willing to seek out coaching.
However, clients vary widely in their ability to reach deep inside themselves. Some answers may appear superficial. Coaches need to be attuned to this struggle and the client’s emotions. By respecting the client’s boundaries, we, as coaches, move forward at a pace defined by the client, but always with the goal of helping him or her discover what is really true and important within themselves.
Sometimes, simple reflection questions can actually be very powerful, such as:
- What are you learning about yourself in this situation?
- What did that mean to you?
- What is going on right now under the surface?
- What is your normal habit in dealing with this? How has that worked?
- How would you like your life to be different?
- What emotions are you experiencing in this situation?
- What did you learn from that?
- How are unspoken expectations influencing you?
Peter Drucker said, “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” As coaches, we want our clients to achieve their fullest potential.
Clients may be focused on a specific project or goal that represents just a small portion of their lives, but a good coach will present opportunities to connect that small portion to the whole of the person’s life. Asking clients to reflect on small wins can increase their capacity to transform more significant areas of life.
“Anytime a client makes a major breakthrough, help them get extra mileage out of the event by reflecting about how it happened. Important insights about change and how to succeed in other areas of life come by tuning into what makes change work in this area. A second important reflection task is to make the change or insight stick. Helping the client reflect on how to make the change permanent can make a big difference in your overall coaching effectiveness” (Tony Stoltzfus, Coaching Questions, 2008, pg. 80).
The most impactful transformations in a person’s life come from within, especially when prompted by the Holy Spirit to apply the Word of God to the situation. “Anyone who listens to the Word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” (James 1:23-24, New International Version).
May we and our clients be willing to look in the “mirror” and have the courage to take action on what we see there.
Williams, P. & Menendez, D., Becoming a Professional Life Coach, (2007), W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. NY, NY.
Stoltzfus, T., Coaching Questions – A Coach’s Guide to Powerful Asking Skills, 2008.