The Tyranny of Self-Knowledge

Phrases that set off my coaching radar:

“I’m the type of person who…”

“I’ve always been someone who…”

“That’s just the way I do things.”

Once someone has drawn that conclusion about himself/herself, the doors of possibility are getting closed, and his/her potential paths forward are being limited.

The distinction I’d make here is between knowledge and awareness. We treat knowledge as fixed and unchangeable. If I know I’m an introvert, then I predict that I will need to go to great lengths for the rest of my life to hoard my energy. If I am aware of my energy level, though, I’m able to react in the moment and do what I need, regardless of whether I know my MBTI type, or enneagram type, or what my boss said on my last performance evaluation. (Of course, I still am a fan of all three – MBTI, enneagram, and performance evals!)

Rather than draw conclusions about who we are and how we act, I work with my clients to heighten their awareness: their awareness of what they are feeling, what they are choosing, and what is important to them in the near-term, the short-term, and the long-term.

Let’s not be so quick to decide who we are. Let’s keep the doors open. What self-knowledge do you have that you’d like to let go of? What limiting beliefs are you hanging on to?


Laura McGrath, CPCC, is a Toronto-based co-active life coach who helps smart people to live from their hearts. Let's talk! You can subscribe to Ready for Change news to receive thoughtful notes on personal growth, and you can contact Laura to find out if coaching is right for you.


  1. […] Posted in Words and Language by Laura on April 28, 2010 I posted last year about the Tyranny of Self-Knowledge: the more we know about ourselves, the less room we leave for possibilities and discovery. But who […]