ctedu logo
Open Menu

Goal Setting - Why Self-Awareness is Key to Goal Setting

December 22, 2021 by Amanda Reill

Goal Setting - Why Self-Awareness is Key to Goal Setting

Why Self-Awareness is Key to Goal Setting

“Rowing harder doesn’t help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction.” ~ Kenichi Ohma

Whether they are about doing something or becoming something, dreams form a fundamental part of our lives. They are hard to build, however, and don’t come true simply because we’ve envisioned them. Dreams require work, commitment, and dedication. Setting goals to achieve them is the primary way to bring them to life. 

When we set goals, we set ourselves up for success by improving our efficiency and performance. Without a clearly defined action plan, it can feel like sitting on a raft at sea with no sail or compass.

The goal-setting process is rooted in breaking your dreams down into manageable chunks. But we need to know that we’ve selected the right goals for ourselves first. Understanding the big picture of both who you are and what you’re setting out to achieve is foundational to establishing basic steps so that your dreams can come true.

How Self-awareness Impacts Goal-setting


Self-awareness can be defined as the ability to see yourself clearly and objectively through reflection and introspection. To cultivate this skill of self-awareness, emotional intelligence (EQ) is required. A person’s EQ is their capacity to identify, understand, and manage their emotions.

Many psychologists believe that the first stage of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. The more emotionally intelligent a person is, the better prepared they are to recognize, understand, and manage the emotions of others, as well as manage the inevitable challenges that will come as they pursue their dream. 

A genuine sense of self is helpful in every facet of life, and in this scenario, it helps develop goals that are tailored to your client’s unique skill set, bearing in mind their strengths and weaknesses. As your client takes steps toward setting their goals, it is vital to encourage them to do some soul-searching to become better acquainted with themselves and come to terms with who they are, warts and all. This will empower them to accurately determine what they want and where they need to go next. 

Armed with solid self-awareness, your client will be able to forestall and mitigate the many challenges that will come their way by leveraging their capabilities. 

Types of Self-awareness

Executive coach and organizational psychologist Dr. Tasha Eurich suggests that self-awareness has two components: internal self-awareness and external self-awareness. The former has to do with how well you know yourself, which the exercises below encourage, but the latter has to do with a good understanding of how others experience you. 

A person with a strong sense of external self-awareness tends to be more empathetic to the needs of others around them. As you help your client through the process of effective goal setting, considering this concept of external self-awareness can be beneficial in ensuring that the right goals are set. 

Tapping into others as a resource can help us identify our blind spots — we may be working hard toward a goal without realizing that there are skills or capacities we need to develop before we’re ready to head in that direction. Or better yet — the input of others may help your client realize strengths they didn’t see in themselves before, opening up doors to new opportunities.

Exercises in Self-Awareness

The following is a list of sample exercises that garner a greater sense of self-awareness:


  1. Journaling. Journaling helps us to dive deeper into ourselves. Honest conversations with ourselves or with the help of a coach help us identify self-limiting beliefs that we need to work on to broaden our horizons and aim for more.
  2. Meditation. Meditation is often used for relaxation, reducing stress, and finding inner peace. Your client might benefit from meditation as it will bring them clarity in their thought process, increased imagination and creativity, and greater patience and tolerance. Practicing mindfulness is another way to bring yourself into the present moment and distance yourself from your doubts.
  3. Personality assessments. Consider advising your client to take personality assessments like the Myers-Briggs and Core Motivation. This will reveal any underlying behavior or personality traits they can leverage to help them achieve their goals.  
  4. Reacting vs. responding. Helping your client understand the difference between these two concepts can be critical in identifying  roadblocks. When a situation goes poorly, evaluate which technique they employed. The client will likely learn that when they are reactive to a situation, they may be allowing only their instinct to lead them, which may not always lead to a positive outcome. However, if they can choose to respond to a situation, they are using their emotional intelligence and could produce a better outcome.
  5. The “Why” Exercise. When your client begins the goal-setting process, encourage a reflective exercise of “why.” This exercise encourages your client to ask themselves “why” a few times until they’ve identified the core reason behind their goal. For example, if your client wants to write a book in the New Year, ask them, “Why?” If their answer feels like it’s only scraping the surface, continue to ask them “Why?” until they’ve identified the core reason they want to write a book. Knowing the internal motivation behind why you want to achieve a goal can help you determine whether it’s a goal worth pursuing in the first place. 

Being self-aware can help remind you that your success lies within. It leads us to identify where we are getting in our own way. When we assess ourselves, we walk away with the gift of knowledge: a newfound grasp on our strengths and weaknesses. As a coach, you hold in your hand one of the greatest gifts of all: the keys to helping your client to unlock their potential.

Developing the big picture

Once your client understands what they bring to the table, they can more effectively develop goals that shape the bigger picture of their life. With this knowledge, you will be able to help your clients break down these goals into manageable building blocks so they can achieve the vision they have for their life. 

The benefit of these bite-sized goals is that they will make their vision easier to accomplish while building their confidence. It will also help keep them motivated and ensure that they are not overwhelmed by the larger vision.

Re-assessing your self-awareness

If your client is feeling discouraged about their lack of goal achievement, even after they’ve participated in self-assessment exercises, there is still hope. Take them back to the drawing board and help them reassess themselves and improve their emotional intelligence. Guide them through drawing up a new plan with their strengths and weaknesses in mind. Create contingency plans for when they face difficulties, leveraging their strengths and unique abilities to overcome the obstacles.

It is very challenging to set achievable goals without knowing who you are. Many social scientists contend that there is a direct relationship between emotional intelligence, self-awareness, and success. Help your client become an expert about themselves, freeing them up to pave their own trails into the future.

Transform your journey with
Coach Training EDU