Life Coaching – The Questions for Self Development

Self development begins with the acquisition of self knowledge and a good place to start is by asking the right questions. Only then can you hope to get the right answers. And then if you are calm enough, you will hear the answers that really count for psychological self help and perhaps reinvent yourself.

Remember the Mulla story? Mulla was looking under the light in his street for his keys even though he knew he lost them in the yard. “But this is where the light is” he says in explanation. On this page, the right questions are posed – so that you will be looking in the right place for self development.

Understanding your human needs

So, to begin to take meaningful, directed and consistent action to your personal development plan or for psychological self help – which are to be found within the three great motivations of all human endeavour.

    1. The imperative for basic empowerment, security and control for self development.

This is the starting point for the right questions – as without being empowered and having a degree of control over both our environment and our emotions and thoughts, we will not even reach first base.

    1. The work/activity we do for self development.

How satisfying and stretching is it and how well does it accord with our talents, values and aspirations?

    1. The relationships we seek and retain for self development.

These will range from intimate relationships, to close family and friends and all the way to groups, clubs and associations that we can connect to.

There are nine specific questions to ask around these.

Around self

  1. Do you feel safe?
  2. Do you have a sense of autonomy and control?
  3. Do you have space and time to recharge?

Around relationships

    1. Do you have wider connections?
    2. How healthily are your attention needs being met?
    3. Are there people who are important to you and to whom you are important?

Around work and meaning

  1. Are you comfortable with your status in society?
  2. Have you a sense of competence and achievement?
  3. Have you aims & ambitions – projects that stretch you?

Self development around these three sets of needs is the theme of the rest of this page.

Where is control lacking or abundant?

The needs list just above has control as one of nine (no 2) and as a simple way of viewing needs, this works. But on a more profound level it pays to see control as the core, primary need to facilitate self development. For, with appropriate and balanced control of emotions, motivation and the environment, all needs can be met and emotional health will therefore follow. It is for this reason that empowerment is at the heart of Feelbetter Counselling.

And before you carry on, I must offer you the link to my Needs Pagoda, which provides a nice representation of where control fits in.

So look at the questionnaire below and see how well you are healthily in control of your self development.

How much personal control do you have over situations – at work, your important relationships, finance and health?

    • Are you able to change your viewpoint or circumstances to establish sufficient control?   Do you bring the best out of other people in your family and/or workplace? If there is something or somebody that can’t/won’t change, then can you change your own response?

Are your emotions controlling you more often than not? 

    • What of your self talk/introspections? Are you challenging negative thoughts and preventing them acting as self-fulfilling prophecies? Are you forgetting your strengths and concentrating on weaknesses? Are you being excessively pessimistic? Or spending too much time in the past?

Do you manage the stress in your life or does it manage you?

    • How often are you emotionally aroused and what is your reaction? Do you know how to relax? Can you anticipate situations and circumstances which will be stressful and do something about it ahead of time?

Are you mindful – able to self observe and if necessary self regulate?

      • Are you aware when your emotional life is becoming unbalanced – when needs are not being well met? Are you honest with yourself?

Are you prepared for change and indeed welcome it?

    Mentally healthy people know that we live a transient life. They regard change as a constant and are not threatened by it most of the time.

Are you aware of your addictive tendencies and can you control them? 

    It is normal to move toward pleasurable experiences. But do you find it difficult to resist them at times, when you know deep down that the activity is becoming unbalanced and too dominant – that it is more than normal fun and pleasure.

Can you distinguish between needs and wants? 

    • Can you separate what you actually need from what you want? Are your needs being met? Can the wants wait?

The activities and careers we engage in … or we would be inspired to engage in

See this in terms of eight spikes – in the image below.
Imagine yourself standing in the centre and you can look and move in any direction you choose towards the self development you desire. Pursue this exercise for as long as is helpful. In what direction are you attracted to go? What are your inspirations, role models and good memories that attract you?

Can you see any possibilities of movement or inspiration and motivation?

  • In one direction at the top, there is activity and business, building and running things. There is money and bureaucracy and power.
  • Then moving down on the left side find teaching, learning, researching and discovering – being curious and entranced.
  • Now moving around and going up on the right hand side, there is caring and healing and protecting. You might say that here you have an opportunity to share practically what you know.
  • And then up again (before you return back to the top) there is creativity – painting, composing writing, exploring and engineering – making a statement and metaphor for who you are and how you see things.

Getting your relationships to work better – for work, control, intimacy and learning

Relationships for self development go to heart of what it is to be human – as we work together, build homes and security together and often with a significant other we will make a family and (perhaps) enjoy intimate relations. Or as psychologists would put it – attachment, care giving and sex.

It is also true that the human capacity for empathy is a key human resource. And empathy can be cultivated or faked or learnt for those who perhaps feel they lack it – by the pacing and mirroring of actions, tones and gestures of others and by reflective listening.

We can also cultivate positivity towards others by being calm enough to ut ourselves in others shoes and then acting generously.

Focus differently – on the attention to give and receive

Attention is one of the essential human needs identified by the human givens and tends not to be attended to by many psychologists and others. But it is crucial. Just look at the canaries – recognise what they are doing in yourself?

Attention is a form of nutrition and it is how we learn and socialize and adapt beginning from being a tiny baby. Those who lack this will be attention seeking and we all know people like this.

Indries Shah speaks of attention at length in his wonderful book of self development, Learning how to Learn – psychology and spirituality in the Sufi way. Here are some of his most noteworthy attention quotations:

Anyone can verify that many instances, generally supposed to be important or useful human transactions on the subject are in fact disguised attention situations.

  • We must realise that the attention factor is operating in virtually all transactions
  • That the apparent motivation of transactions may be other than it really is and that it is often generated by the desire for attention activity (giving, receiving, exchanging).
  • That attention activity, like any other demand for food, warmth etc, when placed under volitional control, must result in increased scope for the human being who would not then be at the mercy of random sources of attention.
  • Attention may be hostile or friendly and still fulfil the appetite for attention.
  • Beliefs have often been inculcated at the time and under circumstances connected with attention demand and not arrived at by the method commonly attributed to them.
  • People are almost always stimulated by an offer of attention since most people are frequently attention deprived this is one reason why new friends or circumstances may be preferred to old ones.
  • The adult human being is often deprived of any method of handling his desire to attention and so continues to be confused by it – it usually remains primitive throughout life.
  • The interchange between two human beings always has an attention factor.
  • The object of attention may be a person, cults, an object, an idea or interest etc. Because the foci of attention can be so diverse, people in general have not yet identified the common factor – the desire for attention.
  • The inability to feel when attention is extended and also to encourage or to prevent its being called for, makes man almost uniquely vulnerable to being influenced, especially in having ideas implanted in his brain and being indoctrinated.
    Raising the emotional pitch is the most primitive method of increasing attention towards the instrument which increased the emotion. It is the prelude to, or accompaniment of almost every form of indoctrination.

We have layers of relationships from the closest (intimates) to family and close friends, to colleagues at work or with the clubs, associations and looser gatherings we make, to acquaintances and then to the many we do not know but rely on for the food we eat, the energy we consume and those that defend us and keep us safe.

With all these circles of relationships we can develop our attention – giving, receiving and exchanging – to get/give more of what we need for real self development and psychological self help.

So audit attention amongst and within these layers.

You can do this best by noticing how you are. What are you learning and how much more could you learn? Practically, emotionally and in other ways too. And how are you doing this? By giving attention and perhaps by receiving attention

The Emotional Competency website is a fantastic resource – albeit mainly academic in terms of inspiration and sources.


  • A guide to how academics mainly have defined the variety of human emotions click here – with many links from this page to much academic wisdom (if that is not an oxymoron!)
  • An additional resource linking through to many definitions and concepts click here