Coaching Tools 101: 5 Coaching Tools to Boost Authenticity (with examples)

5 Coaching Tools for Authenticity

People these days are tired and stressed - much of the time. But it's not just from their busy lives and multiple competing priorities. It's also from keeping up a mask, a pretense of who we think we should be - rather than who we are. It takes effort NOT to be ourselves!

But what does it mean to be authentic? And how can we help our clients be more authentic? Well, if authenticity is about being yourself - and being true to yourself in your actions, we can help our clients get to know themselves by exploring and so they can see their true self underneath the protective layers. And we can help our clients BE themselves by holding them accountable - asking questions that help them express who they are in their actions and choices.

As our clients gain confidence in being who they are and increasingly express that in the world, they have more energy and confidence to handle life's challenges. It becomes a virtuous circle: The more they express who they truly are in the world the more success they have, the more confidence they gain and they're happier too!

"Authenticity is a sensitizing and blessed power. It comes with feeling at home with oneself, and therefore at home in the universe. It is the greatest power in the world the power to be ourselves." Ardis Whitman

So, here are 5 Coaching Exercises and Tools to Help Boost Authenticity

Please Note: Client names and details used in examples have been tweaked/altered to ensure anonymity.

1.  Troll Travels: Who am I?

Self-Discovery Exercise using Troll Page 1The Exercise: Through a fun process of elimination using bridges and a troll, your client identifies the 5 qualities they MOST value about themselves - what makes them UNIQUE. And it's often not what they expect - it's likely they will value one or two qualities that surprise even them!

Example: As a result of this exercise, Jamie realised she had been concealing her "wackiness" (as she called it). She decided to embrace her wackiness and began wearing more colourful and interesting clothes to work and on dates. Whilst she said it was scary to reveal herself like this, she felt more vibrant and alive. A few months later she felt happier and more confident and believed her relationships with two of the quieter kids in her class (she was a teacher) improved enormously as a direct result. And while some of her dates were a bit surprised by her outfits, she realised that if someone couldn't accept her wacky clothes they probably wouldn't be able to accept her either.

How this exercise helps us be more authentic: Your client gets insight into which qualities they value most about themselves. When 'push comes to shove' what unique qualities will they NOT let go of? Then as coaches we can ask questions to help them embrace and express more of their uniqueness in the world.

2.  Reflections of You:  Turn Annoying People into a Learning Opportunity!

manMH900178805cropWhen your client next notices they're irritated or annoyed by someone, instead of focusing on the other person, they can use it as a learning opportunity and look within.

The Exercise: What does how they feel say about them? Next time someone irritates them they can ask (or you can ask them!) these 3 questions:

  1. What value of mine is NOT being met? What beliefs do I have that are not being honoured?"
  2. Where am I taking this belief or value TOO seriously? Where am I being too rigid?
  3. What am I seeing in the other that I might be afraid of, or repressing within, myself?

Example: Derek would see someone being rude and it really bothered him. Through looking within he learned that 1) He believed politeness helps the world be more harmonious, and compassion was a key value for him. But 2) Often he was over-polite, rather than standing up for himself and what he believed. And 3) He recognized he was capable of unreasonable and rude thoughts, but he would never say them out loud! It therefore annoys him when someone else doesn't make the effort to do the same. Interestingly he realised that when he got annoyed with someone for being impolite or rude, he  disconnected from his own value of compassion (for the person being rude!).

How this exercise helps us be more authentic: The self-knowledge we gain from introspection like this allows us to grow. We identify important values and beliefs, recognize and process our own difficult feelings (instead of blaming others) and see when we have cut off from ourselves. It allows us to be a whole, flawed - and therefore authentic person - rather than being how we think we should be. This awareness also allows us to choose to act differently next time.

3.  The What Makes My Heart Sing? Exercise

What Makes My Heart Sing Coaching ExerciseWhat we think makes us happy, is not necessarily what ACTUALLY makes us happy. We admire or envy our neighbour, friend, colleague, sibling as they go on a holiday to Hawaii, get a new car, snazzy watch or go to see the new experimental theatre in town - but what someone else does is not necessarily right for us! So what makes us truly happy?

The Exercise: Make a list of what makes your heart sing! This is unique to us - and it's also usually much easier and cheaper(!) than the things we think we should be doing.

Example: Arlene, bored at work, has been pressured into going to an exercise class at the gym by colleagues to cheer her up. She hated it, but felt guilty - she should enjoy it! After this exercise she decided to go for a regular strenuous hike with a friend instead - what makes her heart sing is the outdoors, the challenge, companionship. After a few months she has gained a 'following' of people from work who join her for the weekly hike - and she is considering setting up as a trail guide!

How this exercise helps us be more authentic: Your clients get unique and AUTHENTIC ideas on what really makes them happy, instead of what they think SHOULD make them happy. AND the more they do these things, the happier they are and the more connected to their real selves they become, which spills over into making more authentic choices and life decisions.

4.  Life Values

Values Identification WorkbookOur values influence what we do, how we think and how we feel about the world around us. When we do or see things that go against our values we feel sad, bad or get mad! And when we live life in a way that aligns with our values we feel good - we're authentic, fulfilled and happy!

The Exercise: Find out what matters most to your clients! Brainstorm, then narrow down to their Top 10 values before prioritising them. The biggest learning actually comes from the prioritisation - where our clients might realise that happiness or love is ultimately more important than almost anything else...

Example: Doug felt stuck in his relationship and career. His top 3 values turned out to be Freedom, Love and Honesty. This helped him see that although he felt trapped, he had been self-sacrificing and not being honest with his partner or boss - or himself! After a few months of actively practicing truth-telling in support of his (current top) value of freedom, he felt reinvigorated in his relationship (although there was still a way to go!). He was also now in line for a sideways move at work into something more fulfilling.

How this exercise helps us be more authentic: This is pretty straightforward: Once we know our values we can consciously make choices and take action that align with who we truly are - and what matters most to us. Probably the most essential tool for developing authenticity!

5.  Intuition, Gut-Feelings, Inner Wisdom

womanj0437392Whatever you call it, listening to and following our intuition is a key tool to help us be more authentic. I believe intuition is 1) a combination of all our experience, knowledge and what we sense - that hasn't yet coalesced into a tangible thought and/or 2) when we know the answer but it's inconvenient/difficult/embarrassing/awkward and not what we want to see/hear/feel - so we block ourselves from seeing the truth!

Exercise: Ask your clients to practice paying attention to bodily sensations and/or to be silent for a few moments while they look within and allow answers to arise. It can be as simple as asking, "What do I REALLY think and feel about this?" If your client needs help to draw out the messages from within - asking questions around the 5 senses or what they feel in their bodies and then chunk down into the detail of what their senses are trying to convey to them.

Example: Raff was torn. He couldn't decide whether to move to Iowa for a new job or not. It was a big decision with multiple factors - an ex-wife, a new girlfriend, nephews, aging parents, a pay increase if he stayed, and big "what ifs?". We practiced looking within (listening to intuition) on small things - what to have for dinner, where to go on the weekend, which route to take for work. Gradually as he learned to listen to small signs and paid attention to his body and gut-feelings, he came to a decision - and it felt right. Years later he is very happy and successfully settled in Iowa! There had been some pretty tumultuous ups and downs after moving, but at each stage he looked within as he had learned to do, before deciding what to do next.

How this exercise helps us be more authentic: If we have hidden who we are, or blocked our authentic needs and common sense beneath fears and layers of shoulds - our intuition provides a path home to our "selves". Our bodies find a way of sending us a signal when we need to pay attention - we just need to notice and act!

 Self-Discovery Toolkit

Click to see The Self-Discovery Toolkit

Want to Help Your Clients Connect with their Authentic Self?

  • Check out: Our Self-Discovery Toolkit here >> (on special in June)
  • This Toolkit is one of my favourites, with 7 great exercises for your clients (including the powerful Troll Travels tool plus the Personal Values Workbook and What Makes My Heart Sing? outlined above).
  • Toolkit also includes a Step-by-Step User Guide with "How to" use each tool with your clients!

An authentic person is happier and has more energy to plough into life. And because authentic people feel relaxed and at home in themselves they tend to be more likeable - and successful too!

Help your clients deeply answer questions like, "Who am I?", "What matters most to me?", "When am I not myself?", "What makes me happy?", "What do I really think?" and "How can I be more me?" Your clients will grow,  feel more fulfilled - and rave about you and your coaching!

Finally, if you're curious about Coaching Tools and how they help read our Complete Guide to Coaching Tools here >>

If you liked this article about coaching tools for authenticity, you may also like:

Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools, resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

Image of Client Completing Coaching Exercise in Park by Vanatchanan via Shutterstock


  1. Lalitha Brahma

    Excellent article. In fact I took extra time to read it aloud and listen to myself. It makes so much sense. Thank you so much!

    • Emma-Louise

      Dear Monique! First, thank-you for taking the time to comment. And so glad you liked the article 🙂 Warmly, Emma-Louise

  2. Kristina Karlsson

    I was just setting up a workshop -Dare to be you- when this came up in the email Love synchronicities .. and this was inspiring me even more, Thank you for this!


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