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Being a Student of Myself

Updated: Aug 23, 2020

In the NPA Certificate in Professional Coaching, one of the qualities of good coach is described as, “Being a student of yourself.”


A new coach in training often describes themselves as embarking upon a journey. There is sometimes the assumption that this journey describes the training itself. Anyone who has taken that path will know that, in reality, this is the start of a personal journey of continuous self-discovery and while training to become a coach, we gain both the skills and we also become more self-aware in the process.

During the North Point Academy coaching certification, we describe the qualities of an NPA coach and one of the qualities we draw people’s attention to is that of being a “student of oneself”. This quality stands out because many of the others on that list are able to be developed when we are willing to be a student of oneself. Being a student of oneself is a decision we make to continually commit to our own development and learning, both as a coach and even more so, as a person and this goes hand-in-hand with our belief at North Point that all people are “objects of greatness”

What does it look like for a coach to be a “student of oneself”?

Having enrolled many coaches onto our coaching programmes, we at North Point feel qualified to say that most people who come to coach training do so with a genuine desire to help others to move forwards in areas of struggle and to create meaningful change in others’ lives. What many do not expect is the personal transformation they go through themselves as a result of attending the course.

In wanting to be able to help others to have transformation, we need to also be willing to go through a transformation of our own and from our worldview perspective, this cannot happen when working purely on the internal or the external alone. Deep transformation happens when we are willing to do the work on the inside and then bring it out into the external world.

At a simple level, this means as a coach we need to be also receiving coaching (as well as providing coaching) and working on our own goals and limiting beliefs and our definition of being a student of oneself goes much deeper.

Based on our worldview, being a student of oneself looks like:

  • Working on ourselves from the “inside-out” as coaches

  • Shining the light of our attention on the less considered parts of our internal world

  • Be willing to show other people our internal world, building trust and empathy

  • Entering our client’s internal world with them

  • By doing this, we empower our clients to do the same.

Working on ourselves from the “inside-out” as coaches and as people

As coaches we have powerful tools that can help us to become more self-aware and in turn to be more resilient and adaptable to the circumstances around us. To have the impact that we want to have on others as a coach, we need to do our internal “work” and to be able to express that work externally through our actions and impact. Only when we are able to do this can we coach from a place of authenticity, through demonstrating genuine warmth, empathy and vulnerability that gives space for transformation in others through coaching.

Shining the light of our attention on the less considered parts of our internal world

At North Point we talk about recognising and walking out of our “cave(s)”. Often we see things differently from the way reality truly is. Being able to walk out of our cave and see things as they truly are is not always pleasant. It means challenging previously held beliefs and can lead to difficult emotions arising. As we shine the light of attention on those more difficult areas, we can hold onto the thought that suffering is a way to emotional truth, and as the poet Robert Frost penned, “the best way out is always through”

Be willing to show other people our internal world, building trust and empathy

In the coaching world, we tend to focus on being non-directive much of the time and certainly our aim as coaches, is to not share our own content in a way that might influence our clients. That said, a coach needs to be able create a safe space for their client to feel that they can trust and open up to their coach. That requires us to share something of ourselves with our coachees and be willing to be vulnerable in order that our client might feel more comfortable to walk into their own vulnerability. Ways to do that could be to give feedback to our client on their impact on us, to share stories or demonstrate processes, all with the intention of modelling vulnerability.

Entering our client’s internal world with them

If we can recognise that the coaching journey is not always an easy one, then it follows that there will be times when our coachees will experience discomfort along the way. Our job as a coach is to be able to hold that space for them even when the road is long and difficult to navigate. This means being able to sit with them in their emotional hotspots when they might become overwhelmed or stuck and work with their thoughts, feeling and beliefs. It also means being okay with both them and you not knowing the answer or having a way forward and recognising this with them. And only when we have worked our own selves and created a safe space for our client can we relate to our clients on an emotional level and help them to walk out of their own caves.

By doing this, we empower our clients to do the same.

Only when we can relate to our clients through our own emotional journey can we then help them to do the same for themselves. As they do this, they become awake to themselves and who they truly are and are can go on to have a greater impact in their own communities.

How does this apply when coaching in an intercultural context?

The marriage of KnowledgeWorkx and North Point Academy’s work arose through a realization that there are many coaches operating into intercultural situations that they don’t have the resources and skills to work with effectively and that they want to learn to be able to apply the intercultural skills they learn into their coaching context.

When we are operating as an intercultural coaches, being a student of oneself is as relevant as ever:

  1. We need to recognize that we cannot NOT bring ourselves to a coaching engagements. That means that we need be aware of our own cultural make-up and understand how it might impact others.

  2. Be aware of where you notice intercultural situations at play in your life and the world around you and learn from them, be curious about how you can use this work in your personal and professional life.

  3. Engage in cultural learner behaviors and notice when our cultural critic raises its head so that you can learn from these behaviors.

  4. Note that while you will be working with your client around their specific intercultural issues and experiences, the coaching relationship may also throw up differences that may need to be explored. Be willing to recognize this openly and work on creating a safe space that allows your coachee to explore their own intercultural profile without judgement.

Although being a student of oneself might not always be easy, it does allow for great rewards through personal transformation and the ability to enable others to do the same.

Enjoy the journey of self-discovery and exploration!


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