A Reflection of Our Minds

By Natalie Irons, Associate Director, Instructional Coaching, UCLA Center X

“Since everything is a reflection of our minds, everything can be changed by our minds.” Buddha

Reflecting on another school year ending, and another year of living through and with Covid, and the continued racist violence and injustice, it seems there might be a lot in the world to keep us focused on what is not working, and where our pain and suffering keeps getting injured. Yet, having a “Pollyanna” perspective that blindly purports that “things are so much better than they were” has the potential for toxic positivity leaving a sense that a positive mindset will be enough to create change. I wonder if there is another way to reconcile our past with our current state.

So, what might this have to do with coaching, you ask? Coaches have the unique position to view their systems from a vantage some might refer to as the “balcony view,” or to hear perspectives that other people in their system may not hear. A coach might be best positioned to be a listener and reflector of what sits below the surface of someone’s thinking, or even of the system as a whole.

Here are some questions I might ask myself before I jump into any conversation, especially when the topic is a challenging one:

  • What are some of the patterns of behavior with _____? What mental models or beliefs might be shaping that behavior?
  • What assumptions might I be making about this behavior? What might this say about my own beliefs and mental models?
  • How might my identity and actions maintain the dignity of the person(s) I am coaching? 

What questions might you be asking yourself before you decide to coach?