There are two main approaches to creating change. The
first and most popular is the problem-focused approach. This involves
identifying what is wrong with the current situation (ie, identifying
the problem), analysing the current situation, exploring possible solutions,
and then taking action. Whilst this approach can be effective, all too
often not only does it fail to solve the problem but it actually sustains
it - energy and attention get focused on what isn't working and the problem
has to be maintained so that the focus on solving it can continue!
The second and rarer approach to creating change is to
be solution-focused. Instead of looking at what isn't working, we search
out examples of where the change has already happened. If we can't find
any, we imagine instances of the changes we want to have happen. We focus
on these, encourage people to enact them, promote their occurrence, value
and appreciate the behaviours we want and so on. In practical terms we
shift from prohibition ("Don't do that" or, as Basil Fawlty so ineffectively
said "Don't mention the war") to encouragement ("Do more of this").
One way to use this solution-focused approach in working with individuals
is through the Miracle Question.
So say something like this to the mentee. Suppose that whilst you are
asleep tonight a miracle occurs and you have all the changes you wanted
to get from mentoring. Because you are asleep, you don't know that the
miracle has happened. What would be the first sign for you after you
wake up which will tell you that the miracle has happened?
The key to using this successfully is to help the person you are working
with to be extremely precise about the specific changes they will notice
in their feelings, thoughts, internal images, sensations, and so on.
Do this by asking them questions about the details of their experience.
To answer these questions they will have to create for themselves the
experience of already having made the changes they are seeking - and
so the "miracle" occurs!