"The intellectual life of man consists almost wholly in his substituting a conceptual order for the perceptual order in which his experience originally comes." William James
James biographer Robert Richardson has described the pioneering psychologist as mounting "a lifelong protest on behalf of experience," and James' emphasis on the importance of our immediate sensory perceptions has a parallel in the self-coaching process. While a key step in effective self-coaching is an attitude (and an ongoing process) of self-engagement, this isn't an end in itself; the intended result is an increased sense of self-awareness. I use this term to mean both a heightened in-the-moment perception of our physiological and emotional responses to a situation and a developing understanding of who we are and how we operate as individuals based on those responses...
...Note that our physiological and emotional responses are deeply intertwined. An emotion often generates a set of physiological responses that we may perceive before we're even aware that we're having an emotional experience, and what we feel physically often provides important clues to what we're feeling emotionally. When working with someone who's having difficulty naming the emotions they're feeling in the moment, I may ask them to do a mental scan of their body--literally, what do they feel?--and the physical can often be a helpful avenue into the emotional.
But whether we're scanning our physiological responses or naming our emotions, the goal is a heightened ability to sense ourselves in the moment and then to make sense of those perceptions.
Self-coaching is a form of experiential learning, and if perceiving ourselves more acutely in the moment is a form of reflecting on our experiences, then the act of understanding ourselves more fully as a result of those perceptions is a form of conceptualizing those experiences and distilling them into generalizable principles.
Arriving at this understanding--a set of conceptions about ourselves as individuals that we believe in and can act upon--is a subtle, iterative and complex process. We need to hold this understanding provisionally and modify it repeatedly based on new data. We can't jump to conclusions, get locked into an unhelpful mindset, or cling too tightly to our mental models about ourselves.
...One final note: My work with coaching clients and students almost always involves increasing their self-awareness in both of the dimensions described above--perception and understanding--and it's not unusual for them to express some frustration that their newfound awareness doesn't immediately translate into change. In my experience as a coach, awareness is insufficient to motivate change on its own, but change rarely occurs without it.