Three Exercises for Self-Awareness (part 1)

People who choose to work with a coach are yearning for more self-awareness. One of my favourite things about working with these clients is being able to design individual, customized exercises for self-awareness for each client.

Although the exercises/quizzes below aren’t individualized, here are some of my favourite self-awareness exercises or quizzes around the internet.

The Enneagram

The Enneagram is a psychological-spiritual personality system. What I like most about it is that it doesn’t just describe your personality, but also gives you clues about where your type often gets tripped up, what your areas of growth are, and tips for growing in that direction. I’ll often ask my clients to complete the Enneagram test and then we’ll use the description of their type to help understand how they are reacting to what’s going on in their life, and how they can choose a direction of growth.

Here’s a link where you can complete a few sampler Enneagram quizzes, and learn so much more about your Enneagram type.

Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

I use the MBTI less often — my sense is that it provides a helpful description of one’s personality preferences, but provides less in the way of understanding how to grow. Still, it’s a neat introduction to thinking about how you might show up in the world, and what that might mean for how you interact with others.

A quick MBTI google will turn up a number of free versions of the MBTI assessment, although – as always – those freebies come with the caveat that the most accurate results will come from taking the official MBTI assessment and reviewing the results with a certified MBTI practitioner.

(And if you’d like to go the official route, I know a most talented woman, Sandy McMullen, who literally “painted the book” on the MBTI, and who offers MBTI assessments and coaching).

The Via Survey of Signature Strengths

Particularly when I’m working with a client who struggles to see his or her own strengths, and who is blinded by, perhaps, an overly acute awareness of his/her weaknesses, I like to invite the client to complete the Via Survey of signature strengths. The survey helps you identify your strongest character strengths, building an appreciation for what you bring, rather than a focus on what you may believe you lack.

In a future post, I’ll describe a few other self-awareness exercises that I believe are particularly helpful. Enjoy exploring what you discover!


Laura McGrath is an Ottawa-based life coach and therapist who works with clients all over the world. She’s an Enneagram Type 5 (with a 4 wing), has trouble deciding if she’s an INTJ or an INFJ, and her top five signature strengths are judgment/critical thinking/open-mindedness, caution/prudence/discretion, honesty/authenticity/genuineness, leadership, and modesty/humility.

If you’d like to talk more about self-awareness exercises designed just for you, Laura is more than happy to pick up the phone and have a conversation. Get in touch.


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?