I am often asked about executive coaching—about how it works and why someone would engage an executive coach. There are a number of good reasons why business leaders work with a trusted advisor who maintains an objective, but supportive, third-party perspective in providing clarity around a leader’s strengths, potential areas of growth and barriers to breaking their less-desirable patterns professionally and personally. Usually, the reasons come down to wanting a more balanced, fulfilling career and life— with more joy and less stress—and to be accepted simply for who they are.

So, there is some work involved here—it does not just magically happen. At the foundation of it all is for leaders to begin, perhaps for the first time, the journey of self-mastery. And it is a journey, not a destination. It begins with building true self-awareness, of acceptance of who they are. This work is often about understanding behaviors that stem from their personalities, or egos. Next, it requires being open and responsive to feedback about themselves as leaders and people. This can lead to leaders discovering what really motivates them internally and learning how to tap into that energy to become more self-managing and self-propelled.

Over time, leaders see more clearly their place at work and in the world. The platform of self-awareness and acceptance enables them to develop a personal vision, supported by understanding their core values and purpose. This goes beyond the question “what do I want to accomplish?”—an important question, certainly—to asking “why am I on the planet, what’s my role here?”. The latter is a much bigger question, but one my coach asked me six years ago that I’m still working on via my personal journey of self-mastery.

The practice required to stay on the self-mastery path as a leader is to be a life-long learner, to be consistently curious about all manner of things and people. To be and remain engaged and connected, to not lose that child-like sense of wonder and yet remain grounded becuase sometimes you’re the one who has to make the tough decisions. In my judgment it’s a courageous choice because it’s a challenge to become an explorer in your own life—you may not be comfortable with everything you learn. However, you may grow beyond your wildest dreams.