Self Understanding

an article by Barb McEwen

In their book, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Don R. Riso and Russ Hudson, tell us that, “We are driven by a deep inner restlessness. We may feel this restlessness as a sense that something is missing in us, although it is usually difficult to define exactly what it is.

We have all sorts of notions about what we think we need or want – a better relationship, a better job, a better physique, a better car, and on and on.

We believe that if we acquire that perfect relationship or job or the new “toy,” the restlessness will go away, and we will feel satisfied and complete. But experience teaches us that the new car makes us feel better for only a short time. The new relationship may be wonderful, but it never quite fulfills us in the way we thought it would. So what are we really looking for?

If we reflect for a moment, we may realize that what our hearts yearn for is to know who we are and why we are here. But little in our culture encourages us to look for answers to these important questions.”

If you are interested in exploring this topic further, please take the FREE Enneagram Assessment. It will only take you a few minutes to complete and the results are immediate. It is a good starting point.

This is but one of the tools we use as part of the executive coaching experience which helps our clients gain insight into themselves and explore what they believe to be ‘true’ about their personal situation. Understanding about how our sense of self comes from our assumptions and beliefs, our values, our visions and our guiding principles help us discern what makes up our unique identity. These are the primary factors that affect and control our actions.

Writing down your unique identity elements will help you better understand why you do the things you do. Here are the definitions of the 'intangible identity elements' that form the foundation of your identity-driven behavior. By being aware of your unique identity gives you the ability to focus on your strengths and choose how you wish to act in your personal and professional lives (even when it is hard to see the frame when you are part of the picture):

PowerPoint images
by Profound Backgrounds

Personal Strengths
One of the secrets to a fulfilling career is to have the opportunity to do what you do best every day. In his book, Strength Finder (2.0) Tom Rath tells us that those who do not get to focus on their strengths – the cost is staggering. However, knowing what you do best has little benefit in isolation. By creating a Personal Development Plan -- with or without the assistance of a coach -- your chances of finding yourself in a much more positive and productive environment dramatically increase.

We each have a mental model or reality map formed through reinforced experience. It is from these assumptions and beliefs that we interpret the world around us whether it is our personal or business lives.

Personal Vision
All too often our clients neglect to write down their personal and organizational aspirations for both the short and long term. Although it takes effort those who take the time it to create personal road map for the future find that it energizes and keeps them focused on what is important. People who want to make a difference need to take this seriously.

Core Values
Leaders must establish set of clear standards. They will want to be known for these values but also will want to behave in ways that are expected of them based on these values. Values do make a difference and people will not commit to someone whose values do not fit for them personally.

Guiding Principles
Successful leaders have high expectations, both of themselves and others. Guiding principles are the beacon or rules that align people. They put everyone on the same page. Energy is not sapped up in the politics of the organization because there aren't different rules for everybody at each given moment. There is both consistency and trust.

Our thoughts and beliefs, although intangible, have an enormous impact on those around us. Exemplary leaders know this and know how to purposefully hold themselves and others accountable.

If you would like to learn more about Executive Coaching and how to be viewed as a skilled leadership, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


You are welcome to reprint these articles as long as the following quotation is printed at the conclusion of each reprinted article. Hyperlinks as below must be included in the quotation.

Barb McEwen is a Master Executive Coach and Organizational Strategist who works with corporations and individuals worldwide. As founder of 20/20 Executive Coaching and 20/20 Executive Women she has spent the past twelve years working with high potential individuals to help them hone their leadership and management skills. Contact Barb at