A Coach’s Mind: Inside Out
Updated: Oct 12
We learned from the Oscar-winning Pixar movie, Inside Out , that multiplicity of mind is natural and normal. In my 2013 paper: COACHING THE MULTIPLICITY OF MIND, A STRENGTHS-BASED APPROACH, I proposed a new model of the human psyche that is an adult version of Inside Out , positing that the human psyche has nine internal life forces, speaking as our inner “voices,” with distinct agendas including needs, values, and capacities. Our emotions then operate as a sensory system signaling whether the agendas of each life force are being served (generating positive emotions) or not served (generating negative emotions).
I am on a mission to organize my inner dialogue and emotions and then help others do the same. I arrived at this model via my own deep personal work as a student of internal family systems practice, a therapeutic approach that teaches one how to discern among and tune into unique inner voices. I’ve confirmed the presence of nine common voices with hundreds of clients and shared the model in the co-authored Harvard Health book, ORGANIZE YOUR EMOTIONS, OPTIMIZE YOUR LIFE . Every morning, I do a roll call tuning into each of the nine voices and decoding the mixed emotional weather report served up before breakfast. I then start the day fresh with new insights, and more peace, calm, and equanimity.
What I want to share with you today is a next iteration of this work, which is to suggest that there are healthy, counterbalancing, Yang (controlling) and Yin (letting go) states of each of the nine life forces. It’s important that coaches tap into the optimal state of each “subpersonality” during coaching sessions. This is what I mean by this blog’s title: A Coach’s Mind: Inside Out . Let’s take a spin and see how this might work.
1. Let’s start with the voice of Autonomy. This life force is the captain of the proverbial human ship. It is concerned most about marching to our own drummers, being authentic and free to make the choices which best serve our values and interests, and control our destiny. As Sammy Davis Jr. sang beautifully, “I gotta be me.” Autonomy is the master of self-interest first, prone to rebelling when others, particularly those who do not “get us” or share our values, tell us what to do. Decades of research led by psychologists Ed Deci and Rich Ryan has identified autonomy as the primary, organismic drive of humans.
Coach’s Mind: A Yin state of Autonomy. Put self-interests aside and support another’s autonomy.
A Yang state of Autonomy : Be in control, be right, have things go our way.
2. Let’s tune into the Relational voice who exists to serve others and puts others first, showing genuine empathy and concern. The Relational helps others thrive and perform at their best. Having high social and emotional intelligence, the Relational is a team-player and knows how to build win-win relationships, collaborations, and partnerships. Being loyal and trustworthy are high priorities.
Coach’s Mind: A Yang state of Relational: to serve others, put others first, tune completely into others’ interests and states.
A Yin state of Relational: Let go of putting others first, pleasing or avoiding conflict with others.
3. The next voice is the Standard Setter, is responsible for internal standards of performance and achievement, setting ambitious goals and meeting them. It is concerned with self-worth. It also tracks external standards to make sure we are valued, get respect and validation, and we are treated fairly . It can be a hard taskmaster, a tough (inner) critic. It makes us persist through ups and downs to accomplish big things. It cares about what others think, concerned with social comparison, and wears whatever mask is needed to get social validation and approval.
Coach’s Mind: A Yin state of the Standard Setter. Let go of personal achieving or winning. Let go of judging and criticizing ourselves and others. Tune into humility.
A Yang state of the Standard Setter: Set ambitious goals, compete, perform, persevere, and win.
Criticize and judge performance, ours and others.
4. Now onto the voice of Confidence, dedicated to being strong, competent and confident. It is the lion on the team, showing off its knowledge and skill. Hope and optimism spring from confidence in oneself and others relative to the challenges ahead. Confidence (or lack of), which can result from a too-high performance standard be next up, the Standard Setter, can lead us to procrastinate and suffer from self-doubt.
Coach’s Mind: A Yin state of Confidence. Let go of demonstrating competence and power. Support building of competence and confidence of others.
A Yang State of Confidence: Show competence, prove knowledge and skills. Show how strong and powerful we are.
5. Enter the voice of the Adventurer, the fearless explorer, tuning into opportunities, realities, and surprises in the internal and external world with an open and curious mind. Enjoying novelty, the Adventurer is deeply inquisitive, welcoming and embracing change and risk. It’s ever-ready supply of curious energy is a big source of resilience when things don’t go well, helping us recover and adapt quickly.
Coach’s Mind: A Yang state of the Adventurer, open-minded and curious, in wide open receive mode and not active send mode. Exploring, taking risks, pursuing change. A Yin state of the Adventurer: Let go of curiosity, novelty, risk taking, and pursuit of change.
6. Let’s check in with the Creative voice which loves to play, to generate, to create and invent. It functions well in chaos and enjoys spontaneity, finding brilliant ideas just in time. The Creative life force delivers out-of-the-box approaches and innovations, with a good dose of creative humor, to help address enormous challenges.
Coach’s Mind: The Yang state of the Creative . Foster emergent and collaborative spontaneity, nonlinear thinking, and creativity.
The Yin state of the Creative: Switch off or turn down creative impulses.
7. The Executive Manager is the voice of your inner organizer, planner, analyst and strategist. Juggling many balls in parallel, the Executive Manager can stay clear and calm in the face of an overwhelming volume of demands. It can synthesize massive amounts of data into an integrated solution. Getting to the bottom line, it can distil a situation into its bullet points, bringing order to chaos over and over and over.
Coach’s Mind: A Yang state of the Executive Manager. Help others discover more clarity and order.
A Yin state of the Executive Manager: Switch off or turn down need for clarity and order.
8. Second to last is the voice of the Body Regulator, focused on safety, stability, and balance, including physical and mental health. The Body Regulator is down-to-earth and grounded. It values sustainability, for self, others, and our planet.
A Coach’s Mind: A Yin state of the Body Regulator. Let go of stability and homeostasis. Embrace imbalance.
A Yang state of the Body Regulator: Stability, homeostasis, and balance.
9. Last is the voice of the Meaning Maker, which stands back and tunes into meaning and purpose, zooming in to consider the import of a small moment or zooming out to find patterns and make sense of large moments. It channels the greater good, the transcendent or spiritual dimension, asking “what is the larger lesson of this situation?” The Meaning Maker is the wise mentor, mature sage, and inner coach, offering gratitude and awe, nudging us to consider all perspectives. Then it offers the wisdom hiding behind agitation, just what is needed for this moment.
A Coach’s Mind: A Yang state of Meaning Maker: seek higher purpose, a transcendent perspective, awe and gratitude.
A Yin state of Meaning Maker: Switch off or turn down making of meaning and seeking or purpose.
As you will have noted, I am suggesting that the Coach’s Mind draws on the “Yang” states of the Relational, Adventurer, Creative, Executive Manager, and Meaning-Maker, and the “Yin” states of Autonomy, Standard Setter, Confidence, and Body Regulator.
Originally published by the Institute of Coaching: HTTP://WWW.INSTITUTEOFCOACHING.ORG/BLOGS/COACHS-MIND-INSIDE-OUT